From Nweke Nweke, Awka
Tipper Owners and Drivers Association of Anambra State, today took to the streets of Onitsha in protest against what they described as arbitrary increase of Sand Beach Tolls/ Environmental counteractive Fees they are forced to pay to the government of Anambra State.
The association, it was gathered, had secretly withdrawn their services to her numerous patronizes in the state since Monday, this, according to them was to express their grievances against the increase on Sand Beach Tolls/ Environmental counteractive Fees and in pressing home that the right thing be done, they took to the streets of Onitsha yesterday following the alleged attack on five of their members and destruction of over ten of their vehicles by the agents of the consultant to the contract of collecting the tolls in the state was given to by the state government.
The withdrawal of their service and subsequent protest had grounded building and construction activities in the state since Monday, and they threatened that they will never render their service to the people of the state until government and their agents reverts to the N200 per trip sand stone and other minerals they evacuate, instead of N1400 and N1000 respectively they are being forced to pay per trip.
Wielding placards with inscriptions as “We say no to N600, N1000, and N1400. Per trip”, “We stand on N200 per trip“, “Governor Obiano save us from the hands of greedy consultants and agents” “ Tipper drivers will not render service in Anambra until government reverts to N200 per trip” “States in South East and South –South does not pay more than N200 Per trip or N500 per day” “In Asaba they pay N200 per trip, in Imo state they pay N500 per day ,in Enugu they pay N200 per trip, why must we pay N1,000 and N1,400 per trip” “We voted for APGA government and this is not the way to pay us back” Ogechukwu Nnadozie and Lawrence Onyejiekwe cannot speak for Tipper Owners and drivers” “We say no to selfish individuals who use the name of association to enrich themselves”.
Addressing newsmen at the Ogbe Ijaw Sand Beach near Ose Okwodu Market Onitsha, spokesman of the protesting members of TODAS Mr. Hycenth Okafor said that they were paying N100 to the past government but after mush pressure from the new government of the state and its predicament over revenue, they agreed on August 14, 2014 to be paying N200 per trip of sand or stone, and some of them cover up to thirty trips a day.
“We were surprised when they asked us through one Mr. Emeka Igwe, the consultants to the government, came up with the idea of paying N600 per trip and we were still contemplating meeting with the government to agree on an amount lower than N600, a letter from Anambra State Ministry Science, Technology and Mineral Resources, Revenue Consultant /Monitoring Unit, signed by Emeka Igwe the Supervisory Head, directing that we will be paying N1,000.00 per trip for single Axel truck and N1,400.00 per trip for double Axel truck, for all types of sand, lattrite and clay with effect from last Monday.
“We were not consulted before each of these increments from N600 to N1,400.00 before imposing it on us, they did not consider what we make and the cost of filling the sand and stones into our vehicles, and we decided to withdraw our services.
“We reconvened at our sits to have a meeting today being Wednesday and what we saw, were people who claimed to be agents to the consultants with dangerous weapons like machetes, bottles, and shovels and they started attacking our members, and even destroying our vehicles, they did not even ask why were meeting” he said.
He said that the attack left five of their members wounded and are currently hospitalized, and over ten vehicles of our members were destroyed and their windscreens smashed by the alleged invading agents of the consultant.
“Anambra State government has lost over N10 million from this our strike since Monday we withdrew our services, some of our members are now going to Asaba Delta state and Imo State for sand excavation and we are not happy that our state is losing the money to other states because of some selfish people.
“We are therefore appealing to the Governor to intervene in his matter as further attacks on us may lead to bloodshed; we are equally ready to pay N200 into the governments accounts, instead of these consultants who are deceiving the government that we can pay any amount.
“We are also appealing to the Governor to give us audience because some people may be deceiving him with amounts that are not achievable because of selfish interest, and such people may be our members who wants to get beaches that are in strategic positions” he said.
Also speaking on the matter lawyer to the protesting tipper owners and drivers association, Mr. Chidi Onwuelo said that the problem was aggravated by some association members who decided on their own to connive with some individuals in government with an intention to make money for their selves.
“We suddenly started getting information of some of the association members who have intentions, before we knew what was happening, they have already got involved with some people in government and they made some moves which created some taxations and that was N600 and the association was not comfortable with the N200 they reluctantly agreed to pay per a trip.
He called on the government to “ignore some of the members of the association whose interest is to have juicy part of the beaches, they went and had an understanding with some people who are in the system for the singular purpose of getting their own money, so, instead of working for the association they now worked for themselves when they projected the name of the association in the beginning”.