1347 views | Kenechukwu Ofomah | March 31, 2021
Awka – Anambra State Government has been urged to urgently resolve the Keke Union revenue collection issue in Awka North and South, so as to end the incessant killings experienced in the area.
Over the weekend, about four persons were shot and killed in what was said to be a cult war.
But TNC investigation has established a link between the killings and the tussle as to who collects Keke revenue in the state capital territory.
It was gathered that following the shootings, the Keke operators in the capital territory have been free to do their businesses, without any single revenue collector on the roads, who usually harass them and collect all manner of tolls from them.
Efforts to get the operators to speak up on the incident proved abortive as they were too afraid to speak.
However, an operator who confided in TNC correspondent Kenechukwu Ofomah, alleged that the Keke revenue business in the Capital Territory, has been taken over by cultists.
“As a Keke operator, if you ever try to challenge the outrageous tickets they sell to us, they will come after you. Many of our members have been maimed and some killed. Some of their cult members have also infiltrated our business such that when we agree on steps to take to tackle them, the insiders will leak the information to them and they will come after you. This is what we have been suffering for long in Awka North and South,” the source said.
He further revealed that as a result of the intimidation, some Keke operators have opted to join the various cult groups, to either fight their oppressors or gain their sympathy.
“Those of us who have remained neutral bear the brunt of the whole exploitation as we hardly go home with anything meaningful after the days’ work. They will collect toll upon toll. Even when the government said it has banned every collection outside the parks, they still operate without any fear and this has created more fear in our members,” he said.
The Convener, Recover Nigeria Project, Comrade Osita Obi, who spoke on the development, revealed that the cause of the cult killings in the state capital was because the various groups were fighting over who will be handling the keke revenue collection in the territory.
He accused officials of Anambra State government in charge, of not considering the interest of the operators in taking decisions concerning them, noting that the agents imposed on the Keke operators to collect their revenue are the cultists and not the actual Keke operators.
“The amount of money in question is humongous. The Keke operators in Awka register their keke before operation with the sum of 40,000 naira that is not receipted. They pay membership dues of 800 naira every month. They renew their Identity Cards for 2,500 naira annually. There is another one the state government introduced for them for identification of the tricycles called Anambra Transport Management Code (ATMC). According to the state government, the code is to help check the use of Keke napep in criminal activities and government said the cost is 2,000 naira. Today, these collectors take as much as 5,000 from these Keke operators for ATMC and issue receipt of 1,500 naira to them. So you see, the fight is for keke people’s money and not actually a cult war. The governor of the state, Chief Wille Obiano, may not be aware of this illegality but it is some officials of the state government who are direct beneficiaries that are fueling all these. They know these criminals because they are getting returns from them,” Obi said.
The rights activist expressed worry that the killings may not end because the persons behind them are untouchable.
However when contacted, the Anambra State Chairman of Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN), Mr Sylvester Obiora said he is not aware that the killings have a connection with the Keke revenue business, but said Keke operators had raised the matter and he is discussing with the State Transport Ministry to address the issues.
He however regretted that victims of alleged exploitation by the revenue gang, are not willing to speak up, which he said, has made it difficult for the Union to take up the matter.
“I don’t know what else to do because the Keke operators have not helped the Association. They only call on phone to report these issues but when you want them to come out and provide evidence with which the association can go after these oppressors of theirs, they will run away. It is a major problem the association has encountered in sanitizing the system,” he lamented.
TNC correspondent further made efforts to reach the State Commissioner for Transport, Afam Mbanefo who was fingered in the revenue saga but he neither returned the calls placed across nor replied message sent to him.