Tricycle operators protest against multiple levies, harassment in Anambra
Tricycle operators, popularly called keke riders, under the aegis of Awka North and South Keke Drivers Welfare Forum, yesterday, protested against multiple, obnoxious levies and harassment by officials of government task force and cult killings in Anambra State.
They drove round Aroma, through the Onitsha-Awka-Enugu Expressway to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) junction before they converged on the side of the Alex Ekwueme Square, chanting solidarity songs and carrying placards with different inscriptions.
The placards read: We Say No To Monthly Dues Quoted For Security Money, Government Can Not Continue To Play Ostrich To Our Plight; We Are Union Not Slaves To Tax Masters; We Say No To Cultist Leadership and No To Intimidation And Physical Abuse Of Keke Operators, among others.
Convener of the forum, Comrade Osita Obi, alleged that operators were made to pay various illegal dues, harassed and intimidated by self-acclaimed leadership of Keke agents approved by the state government, as well as being harassed by cultists, who had infiltrated the Keke operators business.
Obi, who frowned on governments’ refusal to grant them access to the Alex Ekwueme Square, however, listed alleged levies to include the membership registration fee of N45, 000; membership ID card yearly renewal fee of N2,500; bucket (N6,800); ATMC (N4,600); painting of gate colour (N5,500); re-registration of union (N5,000) and end of year levy of N4,500.
Others are: Hand over ID yearly renewal of N3,500; Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) inscription (N2,500); union logo (CTORWAS) N1,500 and N800 monthly due quoted for security, among others.
“We demand that Keke operators be allowed to organise themselves and conduct election to choose their leaders. We are working to restore sanity in Awka North and South councils. Many people have been killed, while cultists extort many operators.”
“If any thing happens to the keke operators, we will hold the government responsible. Keke operators are no longer ready to pay obnoxious levies,” Obi said.
He, however, commended security operatives who provided security for the event and the governor-elect, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, hoping that he would not encourage the kind of extortion being done by the current leadership of the keke operators.
A keke operator, Collins Ude Chidubem, said that they had complained severally to the state government, but have not received any response, adding that the present keke leadership recruited spies to monitor their activities, which had created fear among members.
Reacting to the development, the state government requested any member forced to pay levy in respect of end of year party to report to the state Ministry of Transportation.
In a statement issued by Dr. Emma Ude Akpeh, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry on behalf of the commissioner, it said: “The attention of the Ministry has been drawn to rising cases of alleged attempts by some persons claiming to be officials of the union to compel tricycle riders to pay end of year party and get together levy.”
It said members of registered transport unions, who elect not to participate in the party, should not be compelled to participate or pay any levy to that effect by anyone, whether or not they are union officials.
The statement was, however, silent on the other alleged levies, harassment and intimidation by leadership of keke agents said to be recognised by the state government.