Godwin Ajom |Calabar
Commercial Vehicle operators in Calabar are on a mourning season as extortions continue on daily basis. In our interaction with some of them, they expressed sadness, frustration and disappointment as they keep giving out their hard earned sweet to their fellow citizens on daily basis without benefits in return.
“My name is Bassey Eta, I am a mini-bus driver, I have been doing this business for five years now. The driving business is good at least now that I don’t have any other job yet, it is helping me to take care of my family and myself.
“I will not deceive you my main point of worry and discouragement in this job has been these people that sell tickets, these boys you see standing in front there, sincerely sometimes they frustrate my hustle, I wish the government can help us, because, I may have to relocate to somewhere else with my family if this driving business must continue or will change business. I cannot be suffering for another man to eat it,” he said.
At Ekpo-Abasi, a middle aged man Mr. Effiom, was caught in tears by this reporter on the 12th of December, 2021 at about 8:15 pm, after unexpected expenses gripped him. During an enquiry, he told this reporter his sad story.
“I don’t know what I will do, I am tired. This buss am driving, I Will settle the owner by weekend, I Cary 10 passengers from Watt to Ekpo Abasi, I collect N50 naira per head, if you calculate it you will see that I earn N500 naira from each trip.
“But for each trip I spend about N200 to N300 Naira . I give the money to those young boys on the road those boys at the pay point, the person that loss the vehicle will collect N50 or N100, the pay point guys will collect N100 or N50, now if you go to Mayn Avenue, you will see Police, you will still pay N50 or sometimes N100 naira, so at the end how much are you making?
“I am weeping because this is not how our state county was when I WS a boy, things were not like this, I have spent almost everything I got from this trip, all I have left now is N250 naira from this Trip.
“My children have not eaten today, and I just come to work around 5:00pm my car was at the mechanic place, I have spent all I saved last week on this bus, so how do I go home now because everything is finished”,he explained.
The narrative from the perspective of the passengers seem different as some passengers see the collection of money by touts as weakness on the part of the drivers.
“My opinion in this issue is that the taxi drivers should stop giving those boys money, somebody cannot come and ask me for N100, when he or she did not work for me and then I begin to give them my hard earned sweat, it cannot happened,” Mr Chikezie said.
Another passenger, Miss Dorathy, a tailor said, “if the police cannot stop these boys, then the drivers Union should stop them because for me I just feel the drivers are just being weak. If I say I nogo pay, you go force me?,” she said.
Meanwhile, The chairman, Cross River State Anti-Tax Agency, Dr. Emmah Isong, has said in an interview, that, the main sponsors of those who collect these monies illegally, are politicians.
“We have come to discover that it is Mr Otu’s goat that ate Mr Otu’s yam. The touts on the streets oppressing and beating up old market women because of collecting levies are people’s workers.
“They are being sent to those revenue points by people, particularly politicians. The agents are placed in those places as rewards for electoral victories. That explains why activities of illegal taxes and levies surge immediately after elections.
“Gov Ayade has also come to discover the political timber and calibre behind illegal taxation in the state. The narrative is that those guys on the streets perpetrating this act are chips off the old block,”the chairman said.
He added that, “since we started arresting those violators of anti-tax law, we have been receiving calls from the big and mighty for us to soft-pedal. What we are going to do is that we will hold unto the cubs until the mother lion comes out, but we do hope they’ll repent.
” I appeal to those sponsoring those illegal tax agents to cooperate with the state government and stop such acts for the interest of the economy of the state.”
“There has been a mass exodus of people, I mean businessmen from the state and the reasons are connected to illegal taxation and unfriendly business environment.”
“Our concern is that our people should go about their businesses without fear of molestation from tax touts in consonance with His Excellency’s executive fiat which released them from all forms of tax responsibilities and in line with Cross River state Tax Exemption law,” he said.