Taxi drivers in Calabar took to the streets to protest against what they described as illegal ticket collection.

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The Taxi Drivers’ Union manager in Calabar, Emmanuel Chukwu, disclosed that the group was also protesting against a group that had been extorting money from drivers.

He said, “Once you park your vehicle, they will double-cross you. I have experienced it several times in my unit. One of my drivers paid more than N70,000 at their office at Cultural Centre; we have been going, but we don’t know who they are.

“As the state chairman, I have met the commissioners for transport and the environment, and they said they did not know them.

“They have been giving us sleepless nights. They can impound your vehicle and ask you to pay N10,000, or whatever they want.

“Our grievance is that these people are not trained like the Department of Public Transportation, who we work with. And whatever they get from drivers, enters their pockets. We are suffering every day and most of us are driving hire purchase vehicles; we are not happy. We want this to stop.”

A driver, who identified himself only as Akpobi, said, “We have been law-abiding. It is only when we come out like this that the government will say they will take measures. We urge them to live up to their responsibilities. Nigerians are not happy; we are dying.”

The Chairman of the Cross River State Anti-Tax Agency, Bishop Emmah Isong, told the protesters that they were exempted from all forms of taxation and levies in the state.

He commended their peaceful conduct, adding that they were within their constitutional rights.

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Isong said, “The anti-tax agency has done all in its powers to enforce the governor’s tax exemption policies, which have been widely celebrated by Cross Riverians.

“Despite these efforts and a lot of sensitisation, certain persons and group of persons still continue to extort and oppress the people.”

The Secretary of the anti-tax agency, Julius Ada, said the agency would liaise with the local government authorities.

He said, “Very soon, we will have a town hall meeting where all the local government chairmen will be called to have a briefing and we will all let them know that you are free from taxation so we can encourage you to do your best.

“The governor is sad about the number of illegal checkpoints and illegal ticketing in the state. The governor outright said no to ticketing. He established the anti-tax agency to stop illegal tax collection and ticketing.

“He decided to take men and women of God to see how they can ameliorate the plights of the downtrodden. We are not politicians; we are out to protect you. We are doing the right thing and can assure you that you are protected.”

The Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of Calabar South Local Government Area, Mrs Esther Bassey, said the chairman was not aware of the collection of levies from drivers by the council task force.