By ABDULLAHI YAKUBU, Kano
On Monday, February 22, 2021 tricycle (Keke) operators in Kano State (popularly known as Adai daita Sahu) went on a three-day warning strike over the payment of a N100 daily levy by the state government.
They had threatened to begin the strike two weeks earlier, although they started the protest mildly and after that, took to the streets of Kano City, but the police dispersed them.
They then strategised for the big one that took place on February 22, despite assurances by security agencies that the strike might not hold due to security implications.
Early that Monday, the operators stopped work and converged on the streets, making residents to trek long distances to markets, schools, offices and other places of work as a result of lack of easy means of transportation.
According to Salmanu Mohammad, a student of Rumfa College Kano, who spoke to our reporter, the operators were protesting against the imposition of a N100 daily levy on each of them.
Some secondary school students embarked on a peaceful procession along the airport road to express displeasure over the hardship caused by the protest.
They too were later dispersed by a team of policemen who asked them to suspend the procession as it could be taken over by hoodlums to cause chaos.
The Kano State House of Assembly urged the state government to order the Kano-Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA) to stop further registration of tricycle operators in the state because they were becoming too many.
The House made the call following a motion of urgent public importance presented by the member representing (APC Kunchi/Tsanyawa constituency) Garba Ya’u Gwarmai.
According to Hon. Ya’u Gwarmai, the attitude of many tricycle operators was becoming an issue of concern as most of them violate traffic laws.
Gwarmai said the strike was not genuine because operators in other states like Kaduna and Lagos pay more than N100 per day and what the Kano operators might not know was that the government would use it for the development of the state.
“As you are aware, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the development programmes of the state government still continued non-stop due to the revenue collection strategies adopted throughout the period,” he said.
Gwarmai said the state government should ensure the control and regulation of tricycle operation in the state, including the operators’ mode of dressing.
“The operators’ dressing should be looked into because most of them dress indecently, most are underage and operate under the influence of drugs which is dangerous in a highly religious and civilised society like ours.
“They should also be stopped from operating on the highways to avoid loss of lives as experienced in the past,” he said.
After several contributions were made by the lawmakers, the motion was adopted and a call was made on the state government to urgently look into the matter with a view to sanitising tricycle business throughout the state.
The managing director of KAROTA, Baffa Dan’agundi, said no fewer than 65,000 operators had registered with the agency, while a large number of them had not.
He said that was part of the problem and the matter would not be dropped until they were prepared to register with Remitter so that the government could capture their data and whoever refuses to comply would be forced to stop operation in the interest of the general public.
During the protest security operatives ensured that it did not degenerate into chaos.
The commissioner of police, Sama’ila Shu’iabu Dikko, warned hoodlums, especially those trying to hijack the strike, to desist or face the consequences.
He said the command would arrest anyone trying to undermine public peace, adding that security operatives had been deployed all over the state to deter criminals.
He said: “I was deployed from Adamawa State, and my coming to this state is solely to ensure that the ultimate vision of the Nigeria Police Force under the leadership of IGP Mohammed Abubakar Adamu is to make Nigeria a safer and more secure place for everyone to live in.”
Before the strike, the tricyclists had distributed flyers announcing their plan to suspend services on Monday after discussions with the government failed to yield any positive result in respect of the levy.
They complained that it was not convenient for them to pay the levy online, and preferred the old system of payment and collection of tickets on the spot, because it saves time and energy.
But government officials said the old system used to encourage corruption among revenue collectors, hence insisted on online payment.
On the second day, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Kano Civil Society Forum (KCSF) intervened, reaching a pact to call off the strike.
Briefing journalists at a joint-press conference, the state NLC chairman, Comrade Kabiru Ado Minjibir, said the two parties had agreed to make peace.
He said after extensive deliberations, the tricycle operators decided to call off the strike. He listed resolutions reached at the peace parley to include: “That all tricycle riders in the state are to pay a token tax of N100 daily as provided by the Kano state revenue administration law.
“That the first payment of N100 should be made through Remitter to enable data capturing at the Kano State Board of Internal Revenue/KAROTA Cyber which shall be done within two weeks February 23, 2021 after which KAROTA will commenced enforcement and the Cyber shutdown, so that nobody will access it to enable control.
“That the subsequent payment of N100 daily tax should be followed by the tricycle operators which can be done through their Android Phones or Post (Point Of Sale) Machine (POS) with an option of Daily, Monthly, Quarterly, or yearly payment at the Cafe (which is not Compulsory).
“That the hire purchase owners will assist the tricycle riders in the provision of additional Remitter points to enable members make payment with ease.
“That the leadership of organized labour and Kano Civil Society Forum will continue to engage the leadership of tricycle riders/owners association in the state for smooth conduct of their businesses through public enlightenment, awareness activities and training on professional conduct to ensure peaceful co-existence in the state and hitch-free business atmosphere.
“That all tricycle riders in the state should write their numbers boldly at the back of each tricycle for easy identification and security purposes.”
In their separate remarks, the managing director of KAROTA, Hon. Baffa Babba Danagundi and the chairman of Tricycle Owners/Riders Association, Malam Mansur Tanimu, commended the organized labour and civil society organizations for their timely intervention.
Women, children, people living with disabilities and patients trying to visit hospitals suffered most during the strike.
As suggested by the KAROTA managing director, the state government should have an alternative transportation means so that when next the operators embark on a similar action, government can quickly use the alternative means, as it did by releasing the Kano Line buses during the strike.