About 1,000 tipper drivers in Anambra state, protesting the imposition of taxes and alleged violation of court judgement and intimidation by Anambra state government agents blocked the Onitsha -Enugu expressway, early Tuesday morning.
The situation made commuters to suffer hectic time at Onitsha as security agencies battled in vain to appease the protesters .
The protesters, under various groups notably, Animo Tipper Drivers’ Association of Nigeria, the God’s own Tipper owners, Drivers’ Association, and the Ihiala LGA Tipper workers Association and drivers, came with placards bearing different inscriptions like “Governor Obiano rescue us from the hands of illegal agents of government”, “we are not slaves”, ” we want to take care of our business without interference” and “respect Court judgements” among others.
The drivers said they decided to adopt a peaceful demonstration since the government was yet to address their grievances in spite of various appeals, correspondences and visits to decision-makers.
According to them, drivers with six cubic tippers and 12 cubic tippers were taxed N100 and N200 daily during the tenure of former Governor Peter Obi, but the current administration allegedly taxes them N700 and N1400 per a trip of laterite, gravel, sands or stones.
Consequently, the Tipper drivers union approached a Federal High court sitting in Awka in a suit number FHC/AWK/CS/104/2017 and the case was decided.
The Court held that the Anambra state government, officials of the state ministry of environment, their agents and privies and other persons acting by or through them, had no right to make laws or rules, formulate policies, impose taxes or levies and or charge and collect dues or revenue on sand, stones, laterite, gravel and the like.
However, the Coordinator, Anambra Tipper Drivers Association, Emmanuel Ezeokafor, alleged that the state government neither obeyed nor appeal the judgment since 2018.
”Rather, it was employing the services of law enforcement agents in intimidating and harassing his members to be paying the ‘obnoxious’ tax”, he said.
Ezeokafor, who explained that the drivers had on several occasions, sought audience with the governor to no avail added that they had written petitions and memorandum of understanding where they requested to be allowed as a union to tax their members as they (the drivers would agree to pay) and remit same to the government monthly as other transporters do but their plea failed on deaf ears.
The coordinator, Recover Nigeria Project (RNP), Mr. Osita Obi, who joined the protest, condemned the alleged intimidation, harassment and collection of levies from the tipper drivers, saying “it negates section 4(2), section 4(3) and item 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List in the second schedule (part) of the constitution of federal republic of Nigeria 1999.
Section 1 and section 164 of the Nigeria Mining ACT 2007; section 1 and section 2 of the Taxes and levies (approved list for collection) CAP T2 Laws of the federation of Nigeria; and could also lead the drivers into banditry, kidnapping, among other crimes”
The President General, Great Tippers Association, Anambra state chapter, Chief Ebuka Davidson Orakwe, said the protest which was 8th, had been held across major towns in the state.
He said it would continue until the state government hearkens to their demands as the obnoxious taxation had caused most members to relocate from Anambra to other states in the South East geopolitical zone.
When the State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C Don Adinuba, was called for reaction, his line was not available.
But a senior aide to State Governor, Willie Obiano who pleaded anonymity assured that the government would look into the matter.
He said governor had not instructed anyone to collect such taxes from tipper drivers, adding that some people were just dropping the Governor’s name to tarnish his reputation.