By FESTUS AHON
HELL was yesterday, let loose in Ughelli, Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, following a violent protest by commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as ‘okada riders’ in the area against the alleged imposition of N20 daily tickets by the Caretaker Committee on Commercial Motorcycle Riders.
The protest against the levy which was the third in the area in less than a month saw the protesters smashing over 70 motorcycles belonging to their colleagues who were perceived to have defied their work-to-run order as part of the protest.
They also smashed the windscreen of a vehicle belonging to the PHCN and unleashed terror on a parent taking his child to school in the early hours at Aror Road.
The okada riders came out in their numbers as early as 5am besieging major streets in the metropolitan town in readiness for the showdown as they were seen brandishing dangerous weapons that ranged from battle axes, cutlasses, clubs among others.
Commercial activities in the area were paralyzed for several hours as the protesting ‘okada riders’ barricaded major junctions, causing workers, students, pupils and other users of their services to trek long distances to get to their destinations.
The aggrieved okada riders set up burn fires at strategic junctions, thereby causing heavy traffic jam particularly at the Afisere and Otovwodo junctions on the ever busy East/West road.
It however took the intervention of the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the Ughelli ‘A’ division, Mr Chris Sorgbara who addressed the protesters on the need to sustain the prevailing peace in the area for normalcy to be restored at about 12noon.
Alfred Ovwighoreho who had spoken to newsmen on Tuesday, said the levy was allegedly being collected by a Caretaker Committee on Commercial Motorcycle Riders.
Saying that the committee was not known to them, he said the levy was introduced during the administration of Chief James Ibori in the state.
According to Ovwighoreho, the levy was abolished in the area by the administration of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2007.
He insisted that they were not prepared to pay the #20 daily levy, decrying;“we are suffering; most of us are university graduates of over 10 years and our only means of survival is okada riding.”
Matthew Isini, a member of the committee in the area, who also spoke to newsmen, Tuesday, alleged that the committee was setup by the State government in 2009 to oversee the activities of commercial motorcyclists in the state.
He said the committee was charged with the responsibility of caring for the welfare of ‘okada riders when they are in difficulties.
He added; “no organization can function without money, hence the introduction of the levy. The operation has been successful in other parts of the state except Ughelli North, Isoko North and South Local Government Areas.”