Tricycle riders popularly known as Keke operators in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State on Wednesday besieged the Ughelli Area Command of the Nigerian Police in protest of alleged extortion and arrest of some of their colleagues by men of the force.
The tricycle operators numbering over 1000 with their tricycles, alleged that the police were collecting between N5000 to N40,000 from alleged violators of a new directive by the state government which placed a ban on the operators from plying Federal roads in the state.
The Delta State Government, through the Ministry of Transport has barely announced the ban on Monday, July 27th when men of the Area Command started arresting and collecting money from the operators, some of whom claimed ignorance of the new directive.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters who also barricaded the East-West and Isoko road, causing gridlock for hours, Pastor Sunday Okorie, said the protest was over the challenges they faced with series of government directives that tends to hinder their operations.
According to him, “During this COVID 19 period we have been restricted to carry only two passengers, meanwhile some of us are balancing between N1.2 million to N1.5 million for the Keke, so it is already difficult for us to meet up with the new directive, but yet we are complying.
“Now the state government has come up again to say we should not ride on the federal highways. And these highways are the major roots of some of our colleagues. Secondly the police are already capitalizing on this new directive to arrest and extort money from our people. As soon as they sees a Keke rider on the road even though you just want to turn to the other side of the town, they arrest you.
“They are now telling us that we cannot crossover to other parts of the town with our Keke. Somebody from Afiesere or Upper Afiesere, for instance, cannot cross to Mission road and other parts of the town, they will just arrest you. You don’t just make laws suddenly and start prosecuting people without any prior notice or engagement.”
“We want the state government to first of all look into our plight and consider reversing the decision because inside the town is saturated with Keke and there is no way you can meet up if everyone is riding within the town alone. We want the government to properly define the directive because, Ughelli for instance is divided into two parts and it is separated by the highways.
When contacted, PPRO, Delta State Police Command, Onome Onowakpoyeya said she has not been briefed of the protest but promised to get back to our correspondent.