Abia State Government Denies Tax Increment Amidst Protests from Keke, Mini-Bus Commuters (Videos) | #NwokeukwuMascot


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Recent days have seen a surge in protests by commuters in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State. The demonstrations, initially peaceful, were sparked by what was perceived as a rise in taxes imposed by the state government during challenging economic times.

The source of contention stemmed from a circular dated 06/05/23, instructing agents to commence the collection of mandatory monthly and weekly payments. These payments, varying depending on the vehicle, were to replace the sale of single tickets for categories including bikes, keke passengers, mini-buses, and others.

The circular reads, “Good morning Agents, This is to officially inform you that Government has directed that from Monday 6th May 2024, sales of single tickets will be discontinued for the below ticket categories;

“Bike/Okada, Keke Passengers, Keke Goods, Mini Bus/Taxi, Bus/Sienna, Dyna/Pick Up, 911, Coaster, Big Tipper, Small Tipper and Trailer/Heavy Trucks.

“These categories from Monday will only accept compulsory weekly or monthly ticket sales. Recall that weekly is 6 days, monthly is 24 days. See attached rates.

“Kindly inform drivers, riders and colleagues. I am available for enquiries where necessary. Regards, HOD, ICT, [06/05, 09:03]”.

Subsequently, the drivers asked Why would a government be so insensitive to their plight, given the high cost of vehicle parts, pump price of fuel, and food? Also, what happens to the ticket if they are out of a job for a month or week due to ill-health or a faulty vehicle?

Speaking to newsmen two days ago during the protest,  Mr. Orji, a keke operator in Umuahia, expressed deep distress over the challenges faced under Governor Alex Otti's leadership, contrasting it with the previous administration of Governor Ikpeazu. Orji criticized Otti's handling of Abia workers' welfare, noting that civil servants comprised a significant portion of their clientele. 

He highlighted the adverse effects of Otti's governance on both workers and keke operators, attributing their daily earnings directly to workers' welfare. Rising fuel and keke parts costs compelled fare increases, further burdening Abia workers who struggled to afford the higher fares. Orji lamented Otti's policy shift from daily ticket payments to mandatory weekly or monthly payments, expressing concern over the financial strain it placed on operators living hand-to-mouth.

Mr Orji criticized Otti's administration for its perceived insensitivity to the plight of the poor and questioned the feasibility of advanced payments in case of illness or vehicle breakdown. Orji's comparison of fare prices under Ikpeazu and Otti revealed a significant increase, accompanied by a surge in touts harassing operators.

However, In response to these protests, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ferdinand Ekeoma, refuted claims of any tax increase or loading fee for operators, he stated this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of this week’s executive council meeting presided over by Governor Alex Otti . Ekeoma emphasized the government's commitment to investigating the allegations and urged tricycle operators to engage constructively with the government on matters affecting them.

Ekeoma clarified, “There is no increment of any kind. There is no loading fee. This is a new policy and I think the best thing would have been to engage the government in a discussion.

“It’s obvious they were in a hurry to go and protest. Because the government has treated them with so much compassion and kindness, it doesn’t mean that government is stupid.

“Don’t forget that when the governor came on board there was a tax holiday for them for months. Today, there is nothing like a loading fee. In the past, there was a loading fee. Most importantly, we will ensure that nobody is exploited.”


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