Shuttle Bus Operators Lament Extortion, Harassment by Touts

Shuttle bus drivers in Anambra State now groan under the yoke of extortion and harassment by touts.

In addition to the illegal collections by touts, tricycle riders and bus drivers in the state are made to pay between N15,000 to N25,000 monthly to the state government.

The commercial transport workers have lamented that they are daily extorted and harassed by touts, popularly known as ‘agberos’.

The touts operate in cities across the state, despite claims by Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s administration that their operation had been banned. The government had also promised to rid the state of illegal tax collectors.

The drivers said that they were being harassed and extorted on daily basis by illegal tax collectors.

The Secretary of Anambra State Shuttle Bus Drivers Forum (ASRBDF), Mr Akubilo Ifeanyi, told journalists in Awka, the state capital, that despite the ban on illegal tax collection in the state, touts still extorted money from them everywhere in the state.

Ifeanyi alleged that the people engaging in the illegal tax collection operations and their sponsors in the state were well known to the authorities.

He said, “We are suffering from multiple taxations as a result of the operation of touts in the state.

“In Onitsha, the Agberos (touts) collect N700, N3,000 in Ifite Awka and the same amount at Unizik and Eke Awka axis on a daily basis”, he claimed.

Ifeanyi expressed sadness about how they paid the state government stipulated levies, adding the payments did not reflect as “most of those who have paid the stipulated levies into government accounts are detained by the government task force teams allegedly made up of touts”.

He said drivers were detained and their vehicles impounded for days, adding that when they were released, they were forced to pay for the days they and their vehicles were “illegally” detained.

Ifeanyi said: “We are not happy that when our shuttle buses are with mechanics for three months, we will still pay. We are not happy that when a driver goes for an examination, he will still pay.

“We are not happy that when our buses are detained by the Agberos or enforcement team, we will be forced to pay again.

”He, however, said that they were ready to support and cooperate with the government, saying but the government must help them with the challenges of Agbero harassing them.

“We are confused about the enforcement teams; there are lots of them. Some wear green uniforms, others wear red. We don’t know the one to follow. Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AIRS) should help us with the right enforcement team and account to pay into,” he added.

The ASRBDF Secretary further noted that the shuttle bus drivers had appealed to Governor Soludo to build public parks for them to carry passengers and that the governor promised to provide parks for them.

According to him, anytime they carried passengers from existing parks, they were forced to pay huge amounts of money as the operators of the parks usually claimex that the parks were not public parks.

He, therefore, appealed to the governor to provide public parks for them and ensure total eradication of touts in the state.