It was commotion yesterday afternoon in the city centre as cab drivers in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, embarked on a mass protest against executive extortion.
Decrying the prolonged frequent and consistent harassment and extortion of their members by the Joint Task Force on transportation made up of the Police, Navy, Civil Defence, Prisons Officers, Traffic Wardens, Department of Road Transport popularly called VIO, and men of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, the cab drivers said it has gotten to a head and that they can no longer cope especially with the harsh economic situation in the country.
“It has become too much. They keep harassing us every day. Once you are arrested, you pay a fine of N25,000; no apologies. The fact is that they go round every day and harass transporters. They are only interested in making money.
“There are very few designated bus stops within the city centre in Abuja, so almost anywhere you stop, it is an offence. We complained to them and they created designated parks for us in Wuse and other places, yet they would still come to those places and arrest us.
“Funny enough, even at the officially designated bus stops in the town, they still come to arrest us. They have become monsters that no one can stand up to,” a taxi driver who gave his name as Chucks and who, expressing himself in fluent English, claimed he is a graduate of Public Administration told Nigerian Pilot Saturday.
“Everyone knows that there are only very few designated bus stops in Abuja. From Berger to Area 1 for instance, we have only about five officially designated bus stops. But the problem is that even at those bus stops they arrest us, and take our N25,000. How much do we make in a day, especially now?” another cab driver lamented.
For Yusuf who was so furious he took off his shirt and along with others, with freshly cut green leaves in their hands were coercing others to join the protest, “The police and all these VIO people are all thieves. Which kain Task Force be that?” he queried in Pidgin English.
He claimed it was only a way of people in power to extort money from cab drivers in the FCT who only eke out a living through that trade.
He claimed that they were now finding it rather difficult to do business and make profit as all they seem to do is work for the police and other uniform personnel including the navy.
Meanwhile, commuters who found themselves in the middle of it all had a hard time getting to their respective destinations.
“I don’t know when we will ever find peace in this country. People are struggling to survive on their own without any support from government and yet the same people in authority are frustrating them. Look at me now, I have an appointment I’m rushing to meet up with in Area 10, but I’m almost stranded now,” Moses John, a commuter who was stranded lamented.
When contacted, the FCT Police PRO,ASP Anjuguri Manzah said he was not aware of the protest and that the police was also not aware of the protest. He however advised that men of the Joint Task Force would be in a better position to respond.
Meanwhile, analysts are of the opinion the last may not have been heard as this they say is a brewing crisis that will eventually snowball into a huge resistance.