By Steve Oko
Ambulance/hearse drivers and mortuary attendants in Abia State, Tuesday, staged a peaceful protest to register their displeasure over extortion of their members by touts operating as revenue task force.
The protesters, who gathered on the platform of Hearse, Ambulance, Casket, Mortuary Decorators Union, drove through major roads in Umuahia the state capital, causing heavy traffic snarl around the metropolis.
They blared sirens and put on their vehicle headlamps as they drove around in snail speed, drawing the ire of other road users.
Addressing newsmen in front of Gity Gate Mortuary Umuahia from where they took off, Chairman of the union, Comrade Uche Kalu, said touts operating as revenue taskforce had not given their members any breathing space in the state as they kept extorting money from them.
According to him, the touts subject their members to all sorts of payments ranging from N2,000 to N10,000 without receipts.
He said that the revenue collectors even break their vehicles windscreen, side mirrors and lights in some instances in their bid to extort money from them.
The Chairman argued that their members “are not commercial drivers but are into humanitarian services”, and should not be subjected to extortion in the name of revenue.
He called on the State Government to order the touts to steer clear their members to enable them operate without hitches.
The union members threatened to embark on one month strike should the harassment of their members persist after the peaceful protest.
” We want Government to stop these touts from disturbing us. They break our vehicles and delay our movements not minding whether we are carrying sick people or dead bodies.
” What we are doing is humanitarian services and should not be treated as commercial drivers. Five minutes delay of ambulance on the way is dangerous. This madness has to stop! Government must call these touts to order”.
Asked if they had formally notified the State Government, he said the union had in 2007 during the administration of ex-Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, written to the Governor but no action was taken.
He, therefore, appealed to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to come to their rescue.