By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR—THE restriction of the activities of commercial tricycle operators, popularly known as Keke NAPEP riders at Calabar South and parts of Calabar municipality, Cross River State, from 7.00 am to 5.00 pm by the State Government has caused untold hardship to traders, commuters and riders.
The state government, penultimate Monday, issued a notice making it crime for Keke NAPEP riders to operate beyond 5.00 pm , vowing to apply the full weight of the law on any operator caught working after the stipulate time. It was learned that government’s action was to checkmate the spate of crimes, including, armed robbery, cult killing and kidnapping in the affected areas.
Investigations revealed that most times, cultists and other unscrupulous element use tricycle to carry out their nefarious activities, though they could not meander and manoeuvre very easily, many said they also use cars and other vehicles and other means of transportation. NDV reported recently that tricycle operators were migrating from Cross River to neighbouring states because of double taxation, harassment by transport agencies and insecurity, but the latest in the saga is a ceiling in their operations.
One of the traders, Mr. John Ita, who spoke with our reporter, lamented the level of hardship the embargo has caused him and other colleagues at Watt Market, Calabar, saying: “We know that the government is trying to salvage the insecurity situation in Calabar, but banning Keke from operating beyond 5:00 pm is not the right approach. Does it mean that the people who commit these crimes do not use taxis, they do, and sometimes, they use motorcycles that had been banned long ago.
“The suffering is just too much, a lot of our customers use Keke to transport their goods after purchase from us, and they like coming in from 4.00 pm, it is killing our business, my major sales are made in the evening, but I can painfully tell you that since last week Monday that they placed the ban, my customers do not come to my shop, they buy from the road side because they do not want to be caught up in the mix.”
Ban causing more troubles
An affected commuter, Mrs. Affiong Edem: “From Nelson Mandela to Ekpo Abasi, people have to wait for hours before getting taxis because there are no more Keke after 5.00 pm, people are really suffering, a lot of people now trek long distances to get to their homes, there so many routes that taxis do not ply and are only covered by keke, unless you take a drop which is N500, how many people can afford that.
”Governor Ben Ayade should beef up security using other apparatus, this ban is just unacceptable, and it is causing the poor people more pains, many of the cultists that have been shot in recent times, how many of them were killed using Keke as a means of transportation. The truth is that the people are bereaved of ideas on how to handle the security problem in the state, they should please increase surveillance, I thought they also have Homeland Security in place, what are they doing? The ban should be rescinded, the poor people are the ones suffering the brunt,” she appealed.
I lost my 8-month pregnant wife to restriction—Nkanta
A commuter, Mr. Lawrence Nkanta, who claimed he lost his wife due to the ban, complained: “We got to UJIMCO filling station and I had just N300 on me because I told my brother to get some cash at the ATM, while I rush her down, she was eight months pregnant and needed to be rushed to UCTH on that faithful Tuesday evening because from UJIMCO filling station, we could not find a keke to take us to Teaching Hospital, but before we got a drop it was already too late. She could not make it, she died on arrival at the hospital because of a meaningless ban.
“I lost my wife because of a stupid ban ,do they think the ban will solve the problem of insecurity in Calabar ,all those people who kidnap, do they use keke, why do they not also ban speed boats and private cars, it so unfortunate,” he bemoaned.
Tricycle union boss
decries ban: Chairman, Tricycle Operators and Riders in Cross River state, Dr Joseph Ewa, said it was really unfortunate that keke has to be banned from operating beyond 5.00 pm. Ewa told NDV that before now, they used to work up to 9.00 pm, but during the Sen. Liyel Imoke- led administration, their operation was brought down to 7.00 pm and now, Governor Ben Ayade has further reduced it to 5.00 pm, which he said was a death blow to the sector.
His words: “We know that a handful of some devilish elements use unregistered tricycles to carry out their dastardly act, but there are thousands of operators, who this ban has crippled and it is affecting the economy of the state too when you look at it critically.”
Govt shouldrescind decision
The chairman added: ”I told you before that a lot of our members (operators) were moving en mass to Uyo, Owerri, Aba, Umuahia, Yenagoa, but I am afraid, with this 5: 00 pm restriction, what do you think will happen, more operators will definitely leave the city and this is not a good thing. It is not as if we do not understand that the measure by government is for the good of the people, we really do, but they should rescind their action on this particular one because it is affecting not only a section of the economy, both commuters and traders are suffering, people are already going through hardship and now a 5, 00 pm ban, it would kill a lot of small- scale business, provision stores and so on
“How many people can afford to take a taxi drop, things are very difficult, the ban is like adding salt to injury, we are appealing to our amiable governor, Prof Ben Ayade to help us, we are sending him an SOS to please have a rethink on the ban, it is killing the economy of the state capital there are other measure the check the security challenges the metropolis is going through” Ewa said.
On the impounded Keke NAPEP, he said findings showed that it was registered with the union, has no union tag or number on it.