By Archibong Jeremiah
Pastor Thomas Effiom Okon, Chairman of Taxi Drivers in Cross River State has described as “embarrassing” the constant harassment and intimidation of his colleagues by security agents, accusing them of trying to drive them out of the business so as to favor their uniform colleagues.
The Chairman who spoke to CrossRiverWatch in an exclusive interview said that while the taxi drivers are busy delivering service to the people of the State, security agents are making life unbearable for them and hampering the success of their businesses as full time drivers.
His words: These personnel on the road are sent there for a specific purpose which is security. But you see most of them say they cannot waste the whole day doing nothing, but they are on salary. They think they should get money from the drivers. Tip is not by force; you tip somebody because you want to but this one now, it has become mandatory that you tip, else your vehicle will be packed and they will look for one flimsy excuse to pack you.”
Furthermore, while expressing his bitterness, Effiom maintained that, “what they are doing now is to intimidate the real full-time drivers for their uniform colleagues. Because their colleagues have shifted into our business and they don’t pay for any of the things we pay like ticket. Their colleagues will come and say espirit de corps and they will pass, and the others will be tied behind. They are actually intimidating us and pushing us gradually out of the business.”
Pastor Okon further disclosed that, most of the uniform men, as a result of the weakness of taxi drivers, now collect money from drivers to cover them, so that when they are held they will say its officer so so and so that owns the car, then call him and he vouch for you, some charge one thousand naira daily.
On the hike of taxi prices, the Chairman argued that the taxi drivers were being fair as the hike in fuel prices has affected virtually everything in the market. “Saying that drivers benefit from the scarcity is not fair. Like the hub of my car I use to buy for N5000 was sold to me yesterday at N6000. What has caused that? Is it the drivers? No! The fuel hike has affected almost everything in the market. The price of transportation is really the cheapest, because yesterday fuel was sold at N500 in the black market and we are still carrying N100 per drop, we are being fair to our people and we are considerate,” he argued.
The State taxi drivers Chairman advised the current administration to setup a task force to monitor the distribution and selling of petrol as a short term plan to end fuel scarcity, accusing fuel station owners of hoarding and causing unnecessary havoc in the State.