By Ime Silas
Commercial bus drivers operating within the Uyo metropolis, Akwa Ibom state have threatened to withdraw their services from the streets over what they described as excessive extortion by those who parade as agents of the local and state governments.
Addressing journalists in Uyo today after their emergency meeting, the drivers who acted under the auspices of Township Drivers Association also lamented alleged perennial harassment by some men who parade as task force, noting that they would also take to the streets to protest undue interference with their legitimate source of livelihood.
Speaking, one of the aggrieved drivers who identified himself as Mr. Victor Ekong told our Correspondent that their extortioners have also involved men of the Nigeria Police to haunt some key members of the group’s Executives.
He said “…we don’t know what they want us to do again. All the time, it’s one problem or the other. Some would come as agents of the state government. Some would come as agents of local government, while some will just stand on the road and be molesting us in the name of one ticket or the other”.
Blaming the Akwa Ibom state Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources for, according to him “… worsening the matter” due to the ministry’s alleged involvement in the illegal and multiple taxation, Mr. Victor continued “as I speak, we have written several letters to the state government through the Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources, yet no succor.
Instead, matters become worse because the ministry is involved in the exploitative taxation. For instance, the Compliance Unit of the ministry is going about seizing the vehicles of our members. They are demanding that we must come and do biometric registration that nearly all of us have done before”.
Meanwhile, our paper is in possession of a letter written by the Township Drivers to the ministry of Transport through their lawyer, Nsongurua Bassey, Esq.
Parts of the letter dated 27th September, 2022 reads “Our Clients brief us that sometime ago, about 2016, they were compelled by the Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources to undergo a Biometric Registration exercise before carrying on with their transportation business. This requirement is in addition to all legitimate registrations for commercial vehicle to be on the road.
“The complaint of our clients is that recently, they have been ordered by the said Ministry to undergo a new Biometric Registration exercise at an exorbitant rate of N4,000.00 (Four Thousand naira) per head. To make matters worse, the said Biometric Registration exercise is to be repeated every six months after which the vehicles of defaulters who fail, refuse and/or neglect to renew the said registration are seized to be released only after payment of N4,000.00 (Four Thousand naira) to the said Ministry.
“Taking into consideration other unconscionable levies and taxations such as purchase of “baskets” at N5,000.00 (Five Thousand naira), City Permit at N2,000.00 (Two Thousand naira) and Daily Tickets at N300.00 (Three Hundred naira), etc, our clients have been pushed to the wall but have cautioned themselves to use this medium to express their helpless position with the hope that wise counsel would prevail”
The Township Drivers, according to their letter are praying that “The Biometric Registration exercise should be restricted to persons who had not undergone the earlier Biometric Registration exercise and at a minimal cost as the current charge of N6,000.00 (Six Thousand naira) is unconscionable”.