By Balogun Mabamije
The Chairman, Delta State Commercial Motorcycle Riders and Tricycle Operators Association, Ughelli North Chapter, Comrade Augustine Ayonuwe, has appealed to tricycle (keke) operators in Ughelli to remain calm, saying the issues affecting them will be resolved amicably.
Comrade Ayonuwe made the appeal yesterday in his office while speaking with our correspondent on the role he played to restore normalcy to the council area when tricycle riders embarked on a protest.
He said: “I was called yesterday that there was a protest in Ughelli by tricycle operators because government asked them to stay away from federal highways and the alleged arrest of their members by the police.”
He disclosed that the tricycle operators protested to his office and he told them that such law actually exists in the state but told them that through dialogue the matter could be resolved amicably, stressing that every law had a human face.
Comrade Ayonuwe said that to salvage the situation, he led the protesters to the Ughelli Divisional Police Officer, (DPO) Ughelli A Division where arrangement for the release of some tricycle operators previously arrested for various offences was made.
He sympathised with the tricycle operators, saying that most of them operate on a higher purchase basis, where they had to settle up to about N1.2 million, and that if consideration was not given, this could result to breakdown of law and social upheaval in the state.
“Some of them, as a matter of fact, carried the keke on a higher purchase and these people have to balance N1.2 to about 1.3 million as the case maybe and if you deprive them from operating in some of these routes it might spell doom for them,” he said.
Ayonuwe, while urging the keke operators to be law abiding, described the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as a man with listening ears and would do everything to see that no one was oppressed.
The chairman who subscribed to negotiation, assured keke operators in Ughelli that the association would engage the state government in a robust dialogue whereby both parties would be satisfied.
Some tricycle operators who spoke with our correspondent were of the opinion that the state government should have a rethink on the law, considering the economic situation of the country that is negatively affected by COVID-19.
They disclosed that most of the tricycle operators in Ughelli were from the surrounding villages where they had to come through the highway, adding that they could not operate in the villages where they reside.
Also, they argued that most of the communities were located on both sides of the highway and the taskforce and the police might take advantage of the law to arrest any tricycle operator driving through the highway to the other side.
According to Mr Freeborn Daniel, a keke operator, “The information got to us few days ago that no keke should ride on the federal highways.”
“Just today (July 30, 2020), police started arresting our members while keke are still operating between Agbarho and Warri, which is an highway.
“Most of us come from the surrounding villages such as Affiesere, Ofuoma, Agbarha-Otor and others which are located on the other side of the highway. Others come from places like Evwreni, Ewu and Edjekota. The question is how do we operate in Ughelli without going through the highway,'” he querried.
They appealed to Governor Okowa to see Ughelli as a peculiar case in the eyes of the law, stressing that keke was a major means of livelihood in and around Ughelli.
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