Ticket palliative granted minibus drivers in Akwa Ibom State as a result of the COVID-19 economic crunch has turned out round to a problem to both the drivers and the commuters in the state.
This is sequel to some surreptitious attempts by members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and some touts to impose a new levy regime on the minibus operators, who equally have resisted the move.
Consequently, the minibus drivers on Tuesday took to the streets of Uyo protesting the the return of the daily ticket toll and thereby plunged the city economic paralys.
But Daily Sun learned that the state government has however reversed its decision so that the drivers could pay half of the daily levy they used to pay before the palliative.
It was also learnt that many of the drivers were allegedly arrested by the police who equally blocked some major roads such as Ikot Ekpene , Oron, Wellington Bassey Way, Ikpa roads and adjoining streets leading to the city centre popularly known as Ibom Plaza to prevent violent escalation of the protest.
Commuters heading to the Plaza area were subjected to trekking long distances since the drivers had withdrawn their services pending resolution of the problem and release of their members allegedly arrested.
A driver, one John Akparawa speaking with Planet FM, a radio station in Uyo, said the drivers were protesting the sales of tickets by NURTW and a task force because the state government has already given them a tax holiday.
According to him, some policemen accompanied by members of Task Force were seen arresting some protesting drivers while others fled the scene.
The state Commissioner for Transport, Mr Uno Etim Uno is yet to respond to the protest.
Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Fredrick Nnudam in a telephone interview said the state Poice Command was aware of the protest by some mini-bus drivers, though he could not confirm any arrest of protesting drivers.
Nnudam however, said, “if they are protesting peacefully, there would be no need to arrest them, but if they were protesting violently to the extent of such affecting public peace, then police have to effect arrest to restore order and sanity in the society.”
The PPRO further stated that more policemen have been mobilized to the plaza area and other parts of the town to forestall a possible hijack of the protest by hoodlums.