By Ogar Monday
Taxi drivers in Calabar were yesterday threatened with the “beating of their lives” by a special team of security men constituted by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State (Operation Scolombo) as they took to the streets to protest the hike in ticket fee.
Operation Scolombo which is a combined team of men from different forces and para-military organization were on five Hilux vans heavily armed when they ordered the drivers to go back or “receive the beating of your lives” as the aggrieved taxi drivers marched towards the governor’s office.
The drivers numbering over fifty, carried placards with different inscriptions like “overtaxing is killing taxi drivers”, “peaceful agitation: no to N400”, etc.
Speaking to our reporter, the Secretary of the Taxi Drivers Union, Mr. Sunday Dennis revealed that, “We had a meeting with the government and we reached an agreement on how much should be collected as ticket fee. We had suggested we carry three persons at the back and one on the front while we pay 250 for the ticket and the government’ representative proposed we carry four at the back and one at the front and pay 300.
“We told him how that was against his own laws and we all agreed on that. He said he was going to scrap the DOPT tickets, so that we can have one single ticket. But in total reversal to this agreement we are being forced to buy ticket at four hundred naira notwithstanding the economic situation”, he cried out.
Furthermore, he said, “We are here to register our complaints to the governor and as you can see they have drafted this heavily armed security men to stop us as if we are criminals, they are saying the State has lots of visitors and our actions won’t go well with the image the current administration is building”.
The protest started from IBB by Rabanna through Stadium to the Peregrino House before it was stopped.
None of the police operatives accepted to talk to CrossRiverWatch.
It will be recalled that the governor in a media parley on the 18th of August in his office announced the abolition of taxes for low income earners in the state in. The governor said a bill to that effect was already before the state House of Assembly and posited that the poor could not continue to suffer while the rich keep amassing wealth without giving back, describing the bill as people-oriented.
In his words: “Let our desperation for taxation not allow us to heap the burden on the poor. This must stop. Definitely, God has a purpose of bringing me here as a governor and I must not disappoint my creator.”
Those affected by the governor’s tax exemption policy include civil servants on minimum wage, petty traders, commercial motorcycle riders, popularly known as Okada, recharge card vendors among others.
It was not particularly clear whether taxi drivers fall within the bracket of those exempted.
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