Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
There was tension Onitsha, Anambra State, following protest by the transport tricycle (locally known as ‘Keke’) operators over an alleged increase in levy and police intimidation.
The protesters caused serious gridlock for hours at DMGS and Upper New Market roundabouts, where they used their tricycles to block the roads.
Daily Sun observed Keke passengers dismounting from the rickshaws and walking to their destinations after being stuck in the gridlock.
The Keke operators bore protest placards inscribed with messages such as “No more police intimidation”, “No, more increase in levy”, “Ticket sellers should stop forcing to us to pay levies, Governor Obiano should call ticket sellers to order”, Ban on sale of ticket not lifted”, “We cannot feed our families”, etc.
The transport protesters also moved in a motorcade to some police stations and media houses in the city to express their grievances. At the Upper New Market junction, the Onitsha Police Area Commander addressed the protesters, condemning the allegations against some policemen on the road and gave out his phone contact in case of any harassment.
Protest spokesman Victor Nwazue alleged that though the state government had suspended the sale of tickets to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, since Monday some men had begun to forcefully collect ticket money from them totalling N1,150 per head.
‘We are doing peaceful protest because of an increase in the levy. Governor Obiano suspended collection of all levies due to COVID-19. We are carrying two passengers due to the directive but this week some boys came out on the road and started collecting levies. Since Monday, after paying for the levies we will return home empty-handed,’ the protest leader complained.
‘Some of us who carried three passengers were arrested by police and they paid between N5,000 and N10,000 for flouting the government directive. Some of us are driving high-purchase, we cannot pay our daily or weekly money to the owners. Since they are collecting ticket money, they should allow us to carry the full load to make up our money.
‘When you calculate the total money we pay in a day is amounting to over N1,000. We are appealing to Governor Obiano to call the police and ticket sellers to order to stop disturbing us since he suspended the sale of ticket due to COVID-19,’ he pleaded.