Mini-bus drivers in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Tuesday, took to the streets protesting against the return of daily tickets, requesting for its reversal.
It can be recalled that ticket palliative was granted to mini-bus drivers by the state government due to the COVID-19 economic crunch.
Unfortunately, this has generated a serious issue when the drivers learned that there was an attempt by members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), and some touts to impose a new levy regime on the minibus operators.
The protesters expressed grief over the news and claimed it was unfair for the NURTW to sell tickets after the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel granted ticket relief to motorists to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the state residents.
Some of the protesters were allegedly arrested and this made the drivers withdraw their services. The drivers’ suspension of driving services in turn pinched a lot of commuters heading to the popular Ibom Plaza, who had no other option than to trek all the way there.
It was gathered that the Police 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.
The mini-bus protesters blocked some major streets in the metropolis and chanted solidarity songs, leaving many people stranded.
In an interview with a news agency that visited the area, one of the protesters, identified as John, said the drivers were protesting the sales of tickets by NURTW and task force because the state government had already given them tax relief.
He said the levy imposed by the NURTW was illegal, reminding the news agency that the State Governor, Mr. Emmanuel, out of his goodwill, had decided to grant tax relief to all motorists in the state to cushion the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
He believes that some of the officials were attempting to cheat the motorists. According to him, some policemen were accompanied by members of Task Force and were seen arresting some protesting motorists while others fled the scene.
The State Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Uno Etim Uno hasn’t responded to the protest yet. Also, Officials of the NURTW could not be reached for comments.
The 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, adding 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.
Nnudam 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 at the moment, he could not confirm any arrest of protesting drivers.