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Alleged extortion: Commuters panic as Imo factional bus drivers declare two-day warning strike

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
02 August 2022   |   2:38 am
Imo State’s commuters are in panic, following plans by a faction of Imo bus drivers, under the aegis of the Imo Bus Drivers Association to commence a two-day warning strike and peaceful protest today

Uzodinma. Photo/FACEBOOK/govtofimostate

Imo govt dismisses the action, blames displaced drivers

Imo State’s commuters are in panic, following plans by a faction of Imo bus drivers, under the aegis of the Imo Bus Drivers Association to commence a two-day warning strike and peaceful protest today (Tuesday) in the state.

     
The drivers in an unsigned statement, issued via social media platforms, said they were protesting against alleged extortion by officials of the Imo Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO), noting that any defaulter would have himself to blame.
 
The statement read: “We Imo bus drivers association in all routes and franchises painted or not painted are going on two-day warning strike based on the maltreatment we go through from Imo ENTRACO. All drivers should park their buses on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 2 and 3, 2022. All routes are to organise themselves to maintain the strike.
 
“Note: It’s a peaceful strike: Time: 6:00a.m. Warning Note: Any driver, who violates the warning strike, has himself to blame for anything he comes across in the hands of our task force. Signed: Imo Bus Drivers Association.”
   
Some commuters, who spoke to The Guardian on the issue, urged the stakeholders in the transport system to avert the planned action since they would bear the bulk of the problem.
   
A commuter, John Nwosu, said: “If bus drivers are allowed to embark on the strike, socio-economic activities will be affected and grounded.”
  
On her part, Ngozi Okechukwu urged the state government to wade in and avert it.
 
“I am appealing to the state government to step in and settle whatever problem. I say so because if they are allowed, every commuter will suffer and this will trickle down to other activities in the state,” she said.
   
But, a group, which claims to be the umbrella/ amalgamated body of bus drivers’ associations, under the aegis of Imo City Transport, chaired by Anelechi Ukanwunne, has dissociated itself from the warning strike.
 
Speaking on a privately owned Owerri -based radio station, Hot FM, Ukanwunne said they did not approve such a strike, advising every bus owner in the state to disregard the statement.
 
He maintained that the body was the only one authorised to declare such action.
  
Ukanwunne admitted that he was aware of a group of physically challenged bus drivers, numbering about 300, whose offices were demolished by the state government, triggering their action to protest on Tuesday and Wednesday (today and tomorrow).
   
Reacting, the representative of Imo State Ministry of Transport, Chief Rex Anunobi, in a statement, yesterday,  urged law-abiding bus drivers to go about their businesses, guaranteeing safety. He stressed that the ministry had the statutory power to register and regulate buses, adding that the only recognised body is Imo City Transport.
 
Anunobi blamed those masterminding the action as the recently displaced drivers, who use unapproved areas on Douglas and Mbaise Road axis in Owerri capital city.
 
“Imo State Traffic Management Agency (ISTMA), and ENTRACO were authorised by law to work in partnership to ensure sanity in the traffic system and environment in the state,” he added.