Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Ambulance, hearse drivers and mortuary attendants in Abia State, have threatened to embark on one month strike over extortion by revenue taskforce.
The drivers gave the threat on Tuesday, during a peaceful protest in Umuahia to register their grievances over extortion of their members by touts operating as revenue taskforce.
Protesting under the aegis of Hearse, Ambulance, Casket, Mortuary Decorators Union, the irate protesters drove through major roads in Umuahia the state capital, causing heavy traffic snarl around the metropolis.
Other road users had hectic time navigating through the city because of traffic jam caused by the protesting drivers.
Addressing newsmen in front of City Gate Mortuary Umuahia from where they took off, Chairman of the union, Comrade Uche Kalu, said touts operating as revenue taskforce have not given their members any breathing space in the state as they kept extorting money from them.
According to him, the touts subject their members to all sorts of payments ranging from N2,000 to N10,000 without receipts.
He said that the revenue collectors even break their vehicles’ windscreens, side mirrors and lights in some instances in their bid to extort money from them.
The Chairman argued that their members “are not commercial drivers but are into humanitarian services,” and should not be subjected to extortion in the name of revenue.
He called on the State Government to order the touts to steer clear of their members to enable them operate without hitches.
The union members threatened to embark on one month strike should the harassment of their members persist after the peaceful protest.
“We want Government to stop these touts from disturbing us. They break our vehicles and delay our movements not minding whether we are carrying sick people or dead bodies.
“What we are doing is humanitarian services and should not be treated as commercial drivers. Five minutes delay of ambulance on the way is dangerous. This madness has to stop! Government must call these touts to order”.
Asked if they had formally notified the State Government, he said the union had in 2007 during the administration of ex-Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu, written to the Governor but no action was taken.
He, therefore, appealed to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to come to their rescue.
Uche argued that they were helping Government to avoid health hazards, and deserve encouragement and not harassment.