By Obinna Ogbonnaya
There was pandemonium today in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital as over 200 tricycle operators blocked the government house gate and disrupted vehicular and human movement to protest the leadership crisis rocking the union and harassment and intimidation they are face over alleged noncompliance to the payment of N3,400 fee by the State Ministry of Works.
The tricycle operators who besieged the government house gate said they were in the government to ascertain if the levy was actually imposed on them by the state government and to urge the state government to wade into the leadership crisis rocking the union.
The protest which lasted for more than one hour saw most passengers trekking long distance while others waited for the operators to commence operation.
One of the protesters, Mr. Ikpofu Collins who decried the continued harassment and intimation members of the union are currently facing in the hands of the taskforce members regretted that many of them have been forced to abandon the business because of the intimidation.
According to him: “it is regrettable and unfortunate that most cases, when they impound our tricycle and are asked to come to their office, when you get there, regrettably. Is either your keke would be missing or you won’t see the battery again”.
“Daily, we get reports of missing seized Keke, the tyres, radio sets among others. When we make inquiry on the way about of the missing Keke, we will not get positive answer. We decided to come to government house to peacefully protest to the government and for them to come to our aid”.
“The tricycle operators who besieged the government house, almost caused panic around government house gate as many members of the union who refused to join in the protest, were forced to drop the passengers they are carrying to join in the protest”.
Meanwhile, it took the quick intervention of senior special assistant, SSA to Governor Umahi on security, Mr. Kenneth Ugbala to calm the situation which was almost becoming uncontrollable.
Addressing the tricycle operators, Mr. Ugbala said that there has been leadership crisis in the union in the last one year adding that government had to dissolve the two factions to allow peace reign within the union.
He further stated that the state government would soon meet with the two factional leadership in a bid to resolving the crisis and commended then for their peaceful disposition despite the crisis.
On the alleged imposition of some unapproved levies on them, Mr. Ugbala stated that the state government also investigation the allegation and come out with its resolution and best suitable way to ensure peace in th state.
The protesters after they had been addressed by the SSA proceeded to the Ministry of Works and blocked the entrance thereby disrupting official work at the ministry.
On sighting the protesters, security men at the gate of the ministry immediately locked the gate to avoid invasion and destruction of properties of the ministry.
The protest took another dimension when the SSA came to the ministry and also assured them of government readiness to partner with them, the protesters immediately started chatting Governor Umahi’s solidarity song.