Hundreds of truck drivers on Tuesday blocked the Onitsha -Enugu expressway to protest alleged imposition of taxes, intimidation and violation of court judgement by the agents of Anambra State government.
The situation made commuters to suffer hectic time at Onitsha as security agencies battled in vain to appease the protesters.
They protested under the aegis of Animo Tipper Drivers’ Association of Nigeria, God’s Own Tipper Owners, Drivers’ Association, and the Ihiala LGA Tipper Workers Association and drivers.
They carried placards bearing various inscriptions like “Governor Obiano rescue us from the hands of illegal agents of government”, “We are not slaves”, ” We want to take care of our business without interference” and “Respect Court judgements.”
The protesters said the government was yet to address their grievances despite various appeals, correspondences and visitations to decision-makers.
They claimed that drivers with six cubic tippers and 12 cubic tippers were respectively taxed N100 and N200 daily during the tenure of former Governor Peter Obi but the current administration allegedly taxed them N700 and N1400 per trip of laterite, gravel, sands or stones.
As a result, they approached a Federal High court sitting in Awka in a suit number FHC/AWK/CS/104/2017.
The court held that the Anambra state government, officials of the state ministry of environment, their agents and privies and other persons acting by or through them, had no right to make laws or rules, formulate policies, impose taxes or levies and or charge and collect dues or revenue on sand, stones, laterite, gravel and the like.
However, addressing reporters during the protest, Emmanuel Ezeokafor, the Coordinator, Anambra Tipper Drivers Association, alleged that the state government neither obeyed nor appealed the judgment since 2018.
Rather, it was employing the services of law enforcement agents in intimidating and harassing his members to be paying the ‘obnoxious’ tax, he said.
Mr Ezeokafor said the drivers had on several occasions sought audience with the governor but all was in vain.
He added that they had written petitions where they requested to be allowed as a union to tax their members as they (the drivers would agree to pay) and remit same to the government monthly as other transporters do but their plea fell on deaf ears.
An activist and coordinator, Recover Nigeria Project (RNP), Osita Obi, who joined the protest, condemned the alleged intimidation, harassment and collection of levies from tipper drivers
“It negates section 4(2), section 4(3) and item 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List in the second schedule (part) of the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999,” he said.
“Section 1 and section 164 of the Nigeria Mining ACT 2007; section 1 and section 2 of the Taxes and levies (approved list for collection) CAP T2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria; and could also lead the drivers into banditry, kidnapping, among other crimes.”
The President General, Great Tippers Association, Anambra state chapter, Ebuka Orakwe, said the protest which was the eighth, had been held across major towns in the state.
He said it would continue until the state government hearkened to their demands as the obnoxious taxation had caused most of its members to relocate from Anambra to other states in the South-East geopolitical zone.
When the State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C Don Adinuba, was called for reaction, his line was not available.
But one senior aide to Mr Obiano said the government would look into it
The aide, who did not want to be quoted, said Mr Obiano had not instructed anyone to be collecting such taxes from the tipper drivers, adding that some people were just dropping the governor’s name to tarnish his reputation.