By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Commercial cyclists are the most popular means of transportation in Obudu local government in northern Cross River state. The town is mostly populated by a large number of students who attend the Federal College of Education FCE, located there. They form the bulk of the passengers who patronize the cyclists.
These cyclists even take the risk of climbing the Obudu mountains elevated at 1,716 m (5,630 ft), with an Area of, 40 km2 (15 sq mi). That is how serious the okada risk has been taken in the small town.
But the latest is that they have decided to hike their fare from N50 to N100 but the youths of the town and students who patronize them say they wont take any of that and are threatening a show down.
But the cyclists say they cannot rescind their decision because the Police who collect mandatory illegal tolls from them at check points have increased the number of check points and the levy from N50 to N100. They also complained about the rising cost of bikes and spare parts.
And then, the Policemen at the check points told CrossRiverWatch that their Divisional Police Officer DPO, has also increased their daily returns to N5000 from N2500.
But the government say they have intervened to find a solution to the impasse while the youths say government is not helping matters.
The President of the Obudu chapter of National Youth Council, Mr. Benedict Agba and students of the FCE had threatened to take to the streets in a show down with the cyclists arguing that things are already difficult for them and that the hike was going to make things worse.
But the Community Relations Officer to the Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Akwagiobe told CrossRiverWatch that his office has intervened and a meeting scheduled between the government, students, youths and the cyclists union to see how they can find a middle ground.
He assured that in the mean time, he has prevailed on all parties to hold their peace so that they can all explore other avenues of resolving the teething issue.
The Chairman of the Cyclist Union in Obudu, Mr. Akomaye Abang told CrossRiverWatch that he is trying his best to also control the cyclists and that any attempt to return the fare to N50 will not augur well.
He said: “The truth is that the matter is a very delicate matter that we all need to handle with care. As the chairman of the cyclists, I have tried to listen to my people and to find how we can resolve this matter amicably. But let me explain to you, Before now, we used to buy our bikes for between 80-90 thousand naira but now a bike costs N240 thousand naira. We used to buy tires for between 1800 naira or 2000 naira or 3000 naira depending on the quality, now we buy a tire for 8000 naira and the low quality for 6000 naira. Tube that we used to buy for 150 naira, we now buy for eight to nine hundred naira.
“Then the most painful one is the issue of police and their check points. If you are coming from Ukpe, you have a minimum of three police check points, you still have the VIOs and the Revenue people all on the road. This axis alone will cost you over N250 naira when you pass here because the police have increased their own levy from N50 too to N100. Some of our members borrow and pay if you don’t have at that time. If you are also approaching Sankwala axis, you also have three police check points and other revenue people and VIO where we are made to spend the same amount apart from the Tsar road. This makes it over N500 everyday and sometimes some members don’t even work up to that amount a day and the police will not listen to you. If you don’t pay them, they will cease your bike and take it to the station until you are made to pay higher amount.
“So these are the challenges that we are also grappling with as operators. If we have to remain in business, we must keep the fare at N100 unless the governemnt can make efforts to see how we can get our bikes and spare parts at cheaper rates as well as the police and revenue people should also reduce their levies and the number of police check points so that we can also pay and still have something to take home. But rather than helping us to solve the issue, the CRO went to church on Sunday and started announcing that the fare has been returned to N50 without the consent of the cyclists. The issue almost caused a breakdown of law and order yesterday and I had to call an emergency meeting to appeal to my people to keep calm but to maintain the fare at N100.” he said.
When our reporter called at the police station, the DPO Mr. Eyong Obeten was not around. In the police station, our reporter observed that there is a large notice on the wall that says ‘bail is free’.
But even the policemen on duty confirmed to our reporter that bail in the station is not free and that the notice was to ‘fulfill all righteouness’ with one asking ‘na bail is free we go take chop or carry pay our pikin fees?
As usual none of the policemen agreed to cooperate with our reporter. Some of the men reportedly became hostile and threatened to deal with the reporter if he does not leave.
But at the check points were these illegal tolls are collected, some of the policemen who were obviously very drunk, said they had doubled the levy because their DPO has increased their daily returns from N2500 to N5000.
The check points are located along Obudu Dam road branch, Ogoja road, Ukpe junction, Ranch road by meat processing factory, Tsar road, Kakum junction by St. Theresa and one that is not very busy along Ikwen Ogar street with very few people passing there especially Tiv women who sell food in town.
The policemen at the check point had no iota of shame nor remorse for collecting the monies. As a matter of fact, the brazen nature with which they ask for and forcefully received the monies will tell an onlooker that they are collecting legitimate levies.
Defaulters have their bikes seized and taken to the station to negotiate higher bribes. Some are beaten up or have their keys confiscated.
Our camera caught one of the policemen in the act. Collecting money from one of the bikers while keeping others in queue.
While these extortion continue, it is obvious that not much is being done to see how the brewing crises can be nipped in the bud.
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