By Chimaobi Nwaiwu
Nnewi—No fewer than five persons were injured yesterday in Onitsha as revenue agents in Anambra State engaged tipper truck owners and their drivers in a brawl over increase in tolls and environmental remedial fees.
No fewer than 10 vehicles were damaged in the fracas that followed a protest by the tipper owners and drivers, who operate on the platform of Tipper Owners and Drivers Association of Anambra State, TODAS.
The association had withdrawn its services since Monday to express grievances of its members against the increase allegedly effected by the state government’s revenue consultant.
They took to the streets of Onitsha, following alleged attack of five of their members and destruction of over 10 vehicles by the agents of the consultant.
The withdrawal of their service and subsequent protest had grounded building and construction activities in the state and they threatened that the situation would not change until government and their agents reverted to the N200 per trip of sandstone and other minerals they evacuate, instead of N1,400 and N1,000, respectively, they were being forced to pay.
The protesters wielded placards with inscriptions such as “We say no to N600, N1000, and N1,400 per trip,” “We stand on N200 per trip,” “Governor Obiano save us from the hands of greedy consultants and agents,” “tipper drivers will not render service in Anambra until government reverts to N200 per trip,” among others.
Addressing newsmen at Ogbe Ijaw Sand Beach, near Ose Okwodu Market, Onitsha, spokesman of the protesting members, Mr. Hycenth Okafor, said they were paying N100 to the past government, but that after much pressure from the new government, they agreed on August 14, 2014, to pay N200 per trip.
He said: “We were surprised when they asked us through one Mr. Emeka Igwe, consultants to the government, to pay N600 per trip and we were still contemplating meeting with the government to agree on an amount lower than N600 when a letter from Anambra State Ministry of Science, Technology and Mineral Resources, Revenue Consultant/Monitoring Unit, stated that we will be paying N1,000 per trip for single-axel truck and N1,400 per trip for double-axel truck, for all types of sand, laterite and clay with effect from last Monday.
“We were not consulted before these increments were made. They did not consider what we make and the cost of filling the sand and stones into our vehicles. So we decided to withdraw our services.
“We reconvened at our sites to have a meeting and met people who claimed to be agents to the consultants with dangerous weapons like machetes, bottles, and shovels.
“They started attacking our members and even destroyed our vehicles without asking why we were meeting.”
I’m not aware of protest,
Contacted, Commissioner for Science, Technology and Mineral Resources Prince Chinedu Emeka, said he was not in Anambra State and did not know anything about the protest and attack.
However, Supervisory Head of Revenue Consultant/ Monitoring Unit of Ministry of Science, Technology and Mineral Resources, Mr. Emeka Igwe, who signed the letter for the new toll regime, refused to pick calls put through his phone and also failed to respond to text messages sent to the phone.
However, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Willie Obiano, Mr. James Eze, said people had always come up with all kinds of allegations when it concerned revenue collection.
He wondered why people could not accommodate increment in revenue that came to the state, more so when they were seeing the developments going on.