By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
Few days after the Unified Taxi Drivers Association in Calabar, the Cross River capital, embarked on a peaceful protest over extortions allegedly by some government agencies, the state government has said it has stopped all enforcement teams from harassing cab drivers with illegal levies, saying it was introducing security numbers for all cabs operating in the state for identification purposes.
The State commissioner for transport, Hon Oqua Oqua, who made this known, Friday, during a chat with our reporter, said all illegal motor parks across the metropolis has also been shut, and that every measure would be put in place to ensure a smooth transport operation in the state especially with the tourism drive of government.
Hon Oqua noted that although the agency accused of extortion was a creation of the House of Assembly with penalties and fine for offenders clearly spelt out and therefore a legal entity, its activities was being regulated to fall in line with the Tax Exemption Law of government which exempts low income earners, including cab drivers, tricycle operators, artisans, shop owners and others, from every form of levy and taxation.
He said: “We had stakeholders meeting and we all agreed that there is a need to stabilize the transportation subsector in the state. It is not all about the transporter but also the safety of his passengers. Some motorists are associated with some criminal activities like robbery and kidnappings. Intelligence reports available to us indicated that minibuses, cabs and even keke are used to perpetrate all types of criminalities.
“We have agreed that for every taxi, buses and even keke (tricycle), there must be security numbers boldly marked on such vehicles for easy identification. This is in collaboration with the office of the state security adviser. We will do proper documentation. This documentation will have a database in the ministry of transport.
“The taxi unions and other critical stakeholders will also have the data of all transport business operators in case of any incident. All vehicles involved in commercial business in Cross River would also be branded.
“All illegal motor parks have also been closed down. Some of these parks are located in filling stations; some are located close to banks and other security areas. All types of nefarious activities go on around these illegal parks, and so we cannot allow them to exist anymore.”
On the outcry over illegal levies/ticketing, the Commissioner said since governments all over the world do not operate at cross purposes, anything about levies on low income earners in the State has been brought to an end, adding that some ticket sellers and levies enforcement teams had been arrested.
“Together with the leadership of the taxi union, the Commissioner of Police and other stakeholders, every issue raised about extortion has been sorted out. All enforcement teams have ceased to operate and if anybody goes ahead to do anything sinister, such a one is on his own.
“However, we hereby call on those who have been so exempted from taxes and levies to reciprocate the Governor’s magnanimity by remaining law abiding. We will not allow hoodlums to hide behind the exemption policy of the government to commit atrocities and endanger the lives of ordinary residents in Cross River,” the Commissioner stated.