Angry Members Of Nigerian Union Of Road Transport Workers Protest Alleged Extortion By Police Officers Barely One Week After Political Change Of Guard In Akwa Ibom State.
Iniobong Ekponta, Uyo
For several hours yesterday, the Government House, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State came under siege by angry members of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who took to the streets in protest over alleged extortion by the Police barely one week after political change of guard in the State.
The protesters with long line of branded taxis and buses cordoned off Barracks Road leading to the Government House, preventing visitors and workers from gaining access to the Hiltop Mansion, Ministry of Works, Government House Annex, the Prisons, Police Area ‘A’ Division and other adjoining business premises on the road. Our Correspondent gathered that angry anti-riot Policemen had to apply heavy force to clampdown on the protesters leading injury to over 10 NURTW officials.
Speaking to The Union, Etim Essien Akpan, a cab driver from Ibesikpo Asutan, lamented that “we have been working for the Police since the end of the old government of Governor Godswill Akpabio, last week”. He recalled that the regulatory mechanism in the transport sector in the State collapsed following the dissolution of the State Executive Council, explaining that the former Transport Commissioner, Prince Godwin Ntukudeh, had handed the system to the Police when his era as Commissioner in-charge of Transport ended with Akpabio’s regime.
“Since then, we have been heavily harassed by the Police”, he lamented, saying they have been made to pay N10, 000 for every stop they make to drop passengers at every locations in the State. “We paid N35, 000 to register and get taxi colour of orange and white”, he said, adding that the Police capitalized on the opportunity of the end of regime to exploit motorists. “When they (the Police) arrest you they would take you to the ‘A’ Division Police Station along Barracks Road and flatten the four tires of your vehicle until you pay N10, 000.
Not only that, you also pay additional N1, 000 for the parking space before they directed they their vulcanizer to pump the tires for you for a fee”, Ekong Akpan Ituen, another NURTW member from Uyo, lamented. Calling on the Governor to intervene, the protesters summed up their demands in their placards of various inscriptions: “we want our right; “release our vehicles in your custody”; “stop harassing and exploiting us”; “we are not criminals”; “we are parents, let us work to feed our children”; “face your security job, don’t rob us and add to your pay”.
When contacted on phone, the Police Public Relations Ofimage of those whose faces or names they do not like but were fortunate to become appointed or elected into public offices in the country. The UNION gathered that a group which called itself Abia for Good Democratic Governance (AGDG), had last month published a news item in a national daily condemning the appointment of Eze Eberechi Dick, as Pro Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State by the federal government, claiming that his appointment was irregular since the royal father does not have much academic education. ficer (PPRO), Cordelia Nwawe, who said she was yet to get details of the protest, was quick to deny the allegation, saying “our men do not extort monies from people”.