Hundreds of tricycle operators on Wednesday besieged the Ebonyi State Government House, Abakaliki, to protest what they called excessive taxation by the government task force.
The protest which halted human and vehicular movement along the busy Ogoja Road lasted for over one hour.
The operators said members of the task force of the state Ministry of Works and Transport were robbing them of their tricycles.
Festus Nkwuda, one of the operators who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, said some task force members take away tricycles that they impound, instead of taking them to the Ministry.
“Many of our members when they go there to pay fines and retrieve their tricycles, they won’t find them again. Some lucky ones will see the keke but in a vandalized state. Some, the battery or one or two tires will be missing.”
He said a new battery costs “at least N20,000, while a new tyre is about N15,000”.
“These people are criminals and we want government to look into it”.
They also accused the task force of collecting illegal and multiple levies from them ranging from N3,500 to N10,000.
The operators further accused the leadership of their union of colluding with the members of the task force to defraud them.
They called for the scrapping of the union.
Contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor David Umahi on Security, Kenneth Ugbala, refused to comment on the allegations by the drivers against the task force.
He said it is not under his jurisdiction.
He, however, announced the dissolution of the Tricycle Operators Union’s leadership which he said had been factionalised.
“We have been trying to mediate in the crisis in the union but it seems both factions don’t want to make peace. So, we have dissolved them, and we shall meet with the operators soon to plan ways to elect a new and credible leadership that will be accepted by the members”.
The Commissioner for Works and Transport, Fidelis Njeze, could not be reached to react to the allegations. He did not take calls to his phone or respond to text messages.
As the protest was going on, the operators spotted a man they identified as one of the task force members responsible for their ordeals and attacked him, tearing his clothes in the process.
The man was however saved from being lynched by Mr. Ugbala and some police officers who whisked him into the Police Headquarters nearby for safety.