NO fewer than 2000 Tricycle operators, yesterday, protested illegal collection of levies from them by the state government through the Ministry of Works and Transport.
The keke riders, who converged at the new market junction in Abakaliki, said they were protesting the sudden rise in their usual levy of N50 to N200, which according to them was illegal, unnecessary and unfair.
The action which forced most passengers to start trekking to their various destinations under the sun also caused a major go slow along Ogoja and some major streets in Abakaliki.
According to them, the government should not impose any extra levy of them considering the harsh economic situation in the state and the condition under which most of them purchased the keke.
Spokesman for the group, Mr. Isaiah Ogbaga, appealed to the state government to revert to old levy as most of them were still finding it difficult to take care of the needs of their family.
He said: “99 per cent of us riding this keke bought it on hire purchase. The government increased the money we use to pay from N50 to N200. We are also hearing that they want us to repaint our keke to Ebonyi state colour and this is not possible. They say we should start paying for emblem which is N1500.
“We are suffering so much. You pay for house rent, your wife’s need, NEPA bill, after all these payments at the end of the year we go empty handed. We are not enjoying it. If government can reduce the amount we will be happy about it. We are all human beings. Let them bring factories or companies into the state. We are suffering too much in this state”
Reacting to the development, Commissioner for Works and Transport, Mr. Chukwuma Nwandugo denied any form levy being collected by the state government adding that the government was putting modalities in place to ensure that the operation and activities of keke riders in the state were properly managed to avoid any form crisis.
“Keke riders have been having crisis in the state, so government went into matter to resolve the crisis. Government is to manage the keke operators in the state.
The matter is still at the proposal stage so they probably they got information. Yes, government is taking over keke operation and activities in the state so as to manage their affairs more conveniently in order to know those who are operating legally or illegally.”