Commercial drivers in Anambra State have accused the Governor Charles Soludo administration of legalising the activities of louts (popularly known as agberos) in the state.
The commercial drivers, including bus and lorry operators, said the increasing activities of agberos in the state was becoming embarrassing.
The drivers under the umbrella of United Mini Truck Drivers Association, Anambra State chapter at a peaceful protest in Onitsha on Saturday said that thuggery was legalised in the state by clothing louts in government uniforms.
The head of the association, John Udoh, who spoke to journalists on behalf of the group, said that under Soludo, the activities of louts were becoming increasingly unbearable and embarrassing.
He said they were forced to pay several tolls on a daily basis.
“Under Soludo’s reign, the activities of agberos seemed to be legalized contrary to what the governor had stated that there would be no such class of people under his reign. Louts under Soludo’s Administration wear government official uniforms to perfect their dark deals,” he stated.
He lamented that the activities of revenue agents working for the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service were causing commercial drivers much pain.
Udoh called on the state government to harmonise the levies and investigate the issue raised.
“Firstly, there are so many of them with different uniforms on the roads claiming to be revenue agents. They collect money for goods and wares brought into Anambra markets, they call it ‘Ego Ibu’, meaning ‘money for load’. This is also affecting trading activities as prices of goods and services keep increasing because of this.
“They engage in unscrupulous activities in the name of collection of revenues from all motorists and vehicles conveying goods to the markets, including wheelbarrow pushers and pedestrians.
“We are being issued receipts that carry the logo of Anambra Internal Revenue Service. Apart from that, they also issue us receipts such as ‘Freedom fighters MASSOB’, ‘Obodo Adigomma’, ‘Onitsha Royal Kingdom’, ‘Onitsha Ado New Task Force’, ‘offloading and downloading tax’, among others, and these are levies we pay on a daily basis.
“These illegal receipts and payments seem to be the creation of high-level cabals working in association with some officials of the state government and it is crucial the state government investigates them.
“To perfect their evil motives, the revenue agents no longer use the PoS as agreed upon by the state government, rather they collect cash at both the borders and markets.
“We no longer make anything, as our daily income has been badly affected by their illegal activities and are preventing drivers from conveying goods into Anambra markets. It has also forced drivers conveying goods to stop at the markets in neighbouring states,” he stated.
Some aggrieved members of the group, who also spoke at different markets, warned the revenue agents to stop creating hardship through their nefarious activities, which they said had negatively impacted on the prices of goods and services.
“At the Ogbo Efere Market in Onitsha, the revenue agents collect N4,000, N6,000, N3,000, N1,000 from us for any goods loaded in that market, after paying the government agreed tax. This is killing business.
“The governor has always said Agberos should leave the road, but they seem to be increasing in number,” one of the members said.
The Chairman, Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, Dr Greg Ezeilo, said Anambra State had their haulage tax which was divided into two categories, upstream and downstream, noting that the government was not aware of “Ego Ibu” or “Offloading or loading tax.”
Ezeilo stated that vehicles coming from other states which offload their goods and wares were made to pay “downstream”, while vehicles passing through the state roads paid “upstream” and showed their receipt at the border to AiRS agents.
“Traders from Eke Awka Market in Awka can go to Onitsha and buy goods without paying any money to the revenue agents. Any agent who collects money for such a movement will be penalised.
“Take the pictures of such agents engaged in collections of illegal tolls such as ‘Ego Ibu’ and send it to my office and action will be taken immediately,” he said.
The Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Christian Aburime, described the allegation as untrue.
According to him, Governor Soludo has always condemned the activities of agberos in the state.
“At every occasion he had spoken against it and he will continue to condemn it,” he said. .