Residents of Jos the Plateau State capital had it rough recently when tricycle operators popularly called Keke NAPEP protested over exorbitant tax, ACHOR ABIMAJE, reports.
Resident of Jos/Bukuru metropolis will not forget in a hurry the day Tricycle operators popularly called Keke NAPEP vent their anger on officers and men of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and that of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) culminating to break down of law and order and destruction of properties worth millions of Naira in the state as they went berserk.
Indeed, school children and commuters of commercial tricycles operators popularly known as Keke NAPEP were stranded in Jos the Plateau State capital penultimate week following the suspension of their operation in Jos/ Bukuru metropolis by the Plateau State government.
Disturbed over what they termed as exorbitant tax imposed on by the government, the tricycle operators embarked on what could mildly be described as wild protest.
Speaking to our correspondent, Abdulahi Usman, one of the operators of the Keke NAPEP in Jos metropolis, said the protest was as a result of undue harassment by men of the state VIO and FRSC.
He pointed out that they are protesting exorbitant tax being levied on them which they said is unreasonably high considering the harsh economic realities in the nation and constant harassment on them by men of the Vehicle Inspection Office of the Plateau State Ministry of Works and Transport.
Indeed, the protest turned out to be bloody in some areas and consequently left many who patronise that means of transportation stranded for hours.
The Tricycle riders reportedly burnt down a patrol vehicle and injured six personnel of the Plateau State command of the FRSC in its Jos office.
Mr Andrew Bala, the command’s Public Education Officer, confirmed the incident to our reporter in Jos.
Bala said the tricycle riders occupied major streets of Jos as they protested over alleged extortion by officers and men of the commission and state Vehicle Inspection Office adding that the protesters visited the Bauchi ring road unit command where they beat up officers on duty and vandalised the building.
“They burnt one of our patrol vehicles, vandalised another and destroyed a lot of valuables at our office premises on Bauchi ring road,” Bala Said.
He further stressed, “They also vandalised eight other vehicles in the office premises and some at a mechanic workshop close to the office.
“In our bid to resist the act, six of our personnel were badly injured,” he added.
The protesters also went after the men of VIO in their office at Murtala Mohammed way where many of the officers and men were beating to stupor and some of their vehicle burnt down to ashes.
Disturbed by the protest and determined to restore normalcy, the Plateau State government suspended the operations of commercial tricycles transportation on the Jos/Bukuru metropolis till further notice.
In a statement signed by Cornelius Shoibail, the permanent secretary, Cabinet and Special Services and made available to newsmen in Jos, the state government chided the Keke NAPEP operators for taking the law into their hands.
In view of this development, government has suspended their operations in Jos Bukuru metropolis till further notice commencing from Monday 26th February 2018.
However, the chairman of the Amalgamated Commercial Tricycles Owners and Riders Assocation of Nigeria, Plateau State chapter Adullahi Sarki, regretted that their protest which was meant to be peaceful was hijacked by hoodlums on Monday .
Sarki who spoke to our Correspondent on phone lamented the incident that occurred on Monday, stressing that he is currently in talk with his members and the state government.
He said his members are peace makers, “Most of our members stayed at home on Monday, but it’s rather unfortunate that the protest which was meant to be peaceful turned out the way it is, I put it to you that the protest was hijacked by hoodlums. It is so unfortunate that the protest was hijacked,” he stated.
But barely few days after the state government declared total ban on
the activities of the tricycle operators obviously to forestall further breakdown of law and order, residents reacted angrily describing the move as an attempt impose hardship on commuters since the Tricycle remained the dominant means of transportation in the state.
Reacting to the ban, the Plateau State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Plateau said it was counterproductive.
In a statement issued in Jos and signed by John Akans, publicity secretary of the party, PDP said the ban “achieves nothing tangible but instead adds to the suffering of the people in the face of grinding and intolerably difficult economic downturn caused by the failed APC leadership at the federal and state levels”.
The statement reads in parts: “Rather than paying attention to how to lift the people from prolonged poverty, the Lalong administration is busy implementing a policy of collective punishment that adds to the poverty level in Plateau State and makes commercial transportation more difficult.”
PDP added that “What is really shameful in all of this is how a government can target very low income earners for exploitation in the name of revenue generation. The signs were there all this while that the tricycle operators were dissatisfied with government’s potentially over bearing initiative, but the government would not engage in any constructive dialogue. It waited instead to be reactive and highhanded.”
It further pointed out that the introduction of commercial tricycle on June 12, 2012 was a well thought out and deliberate policy of PDP administration to promote security, add to urban development and empower the teaming youths of Plateau State. This the party was indeed achieved through PDP’s people oriented policies and programmes. This policy the party added was well received and applauded by the people.
The PDP said the “least we expected was for the current administration to add value to this people oriented initiative.
“But painfully, the government is turning the youth back to joblessness and providing no other vibrant and policy option.
“It appear to us that the only policy known to the APC administration is ‘backward ever, Forward never’.
“On this note, the people must have realised that their votes for Governor Lalong in 2015 were all in vain. Or else how is it fatally injurious under democratic rule for an oppressed people to voice out their dislike of a policy?
“The Peoples Democratic Party condemns this suppression of the people’s right and the exploitative introduction of excess fees on the tricycle operators. It is a ruthless and pitiless method of suppressing the citizens.”
The party also condemns any action by hoodlums who may want to take advantage of a genuine expression of freedom for their selfish interest and sympathises with the operators of tricycles over “this unjust policy which has had a direct and adverse effect on their livelihood and curtailed the discharge of their responsibilities to their families.
Meanwhile following the outcry the ban generated from the members of the public, Plateau State government has rescind their earlier decision by lifting the earlier suspension of the operations of tricycles in Jos-Bukuru metropolis.
This was contained in a press release by the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Rufus Bature.
The release reads: “After careful re-appraisal and consideration of the plight of the public, the State Government is hereby lifting the earlier suspension on the operations of tricycles operators (KEKE NAPEP) with effect from 1st Match, 2018.”
It said after the ugly incident of Monday that warranted for the suspension, the government and union officials have met and deliberated on the issues raised.