In one of his major policy decisions, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Transport and Petroleum resources, Mr. Orman Esin has dislodged the Cabal which controlled the keke sector even after he had assumed duties as Commissioner.
At the Ministry’s annex along Ikot Ekpene road yesterday, Esin’s address to keke or tricycle operators which was interrupted with praises by his listeners only served as red card to the tax force established by his predecessors, Akparawa Godwin Ntukude. Keke riders had accused the task force of violently extorting money from them.
Esin who had been contending with the task force and other structures set up by Ntukude because they go about collecting levies not authorized by the present leadership of the ministry, ordered that all road levies on keke riders should not be collected, the whole of this week.
Explaining that the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel loves keke riders and wants them to progress in their trade, he added that the governor has put in place a new tax policy to ameliorate the suffering of keke riders
“Beginning from next week, keke operators will pay levies from Monday to Friday. The governor says keke riders will no longer pay levies on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Governor Udom is a God-fearing man and wants keke operators to enjoy their work and live well with their families.”
On the MOT levy paid directly to the Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources, Esin noted that since it has also became a subject of contention among keke riders, he was willing to dialogue with them, so that an agreement can be reached on how much they should pay.
Urging keke riders to go about their business conscious of their safety and other road users, he said the present administration will not tolerate hooligans in the name of task force in the transport sector. The Commissioner announced that a well cultured group of personnel known as Compliance and Monitoring unit has been established.
According to him, the Compliance and Monitoring unit is not to harass, beat and maim keke riders rather they are to educate them when they do anything wrong
“The Compliance and Monitoring unit is not authorized to beat any keke rider.
Their job is to tell you how to ride your keke safety and collect the authorized levies on the days already stated” he said.
Esin who noted that henceforth anyone not wearing the authorized uniform of the Compliance and Monitoring unit, but declares himself as a task force is a thief. He told the keke operators that the government will deal decisively with anyone who does anything against their welfare and interest of keke riders.
He also announced that bus emblem will be distributed free of charge to transporters.
Explaining that keke riders were as qualified as any other citizen of the state to meet with their governor concerning their welfare, he revealed that the governor will meet them today when the keke riders pay him a solidarity visit.
The Commissioner added that a similar visit will be paid on the same day to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and the keke riders will be received by the Speaker, Barr. Onofiok Luke.
The Commissioner who promised to resolve all pending issues between the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) and Akwa Ibom Professional Commercial Tricyclists and Motorclist Association *APTCOMA), said peace was a necessary factor for the enjoyment of all the good policies of the government in the transport sector.
Esin said it will be necessary for them to withdraw all court cases for easy settlement by all stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the keke riders who attended the event at the annex of the ministry yesterday chose to break the silence in their lingering war in a rather unorthodox manner by shouting down the representative of the leadership of transport unions who was to react to the address by the Commissioner for Transport and petroleum Resources. There was deafening shouting when the microphone was handed over to one time chairman of APTCOMA and Personal Assistant to former Governor Godswill Akpabio on Transportation matters, comrade Udo Johnson who was to speak on behalf of NURTW and other stakeholders.
The keke riders shouted Udo Johnson down and the Commissioner moved over to their with the microphone and they began to sing the labour solidarity song.
For the transport unions leadership, it was a shocking moment but for TOAN, it was a moment of victory.
Mr. Effiong Etim Effiong, TOAN Chairman in Akwa Ibom State received the microphone from the Commissioner and with a voice that reflected a hard earned recognition thanked the Commissioner and Governor Udom Emmanuel for sympathizing with keke operators and treating them for once as citizens of the state with rights.
Effiong said “The fair levies is what TOAN has been fighting for, for many years now. Thank you sir for liberating us.
Thank you for giving keke riders a sense of belonging. We will continue to support the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel. However, we want the ministry to suspend the MOT levy until we have met and agreed on what is fair and reasonable to all parties.”
The meeting came to an abrupt end at the annex while the Commissioner ordered all the stakeholders to meet him in his office for further deliberations.
It will be recalled that in the era of former Commissioners for Transport, Akparawa Godwin Ntukude, the Commissioner favoured the position of APTCOMA while TOAN remained outside the power structure of the transport sector, always seeking for government attention and not getting any.