‘Why Tipper Drivers Must Respect Govt Decisions In Anambra’

Raymond Ozoji, Awka
A recent protest of a section of the Tipper industry in Anambra state known as All Tipper Drivers Association of Nigeria Anambra state branch has prompted the state government to make a declaration that players in the industry must begin to respect its policies and programmes intended to sanitize the sector for more revenue generation as well as have different associations in the sector under one umbrella body to enable government deal with them as an organized group. The dissident tipper drivers had carried out series of protests in the past agitating for an unwarranted and undeserved autonomy to collect government revenues in different locations where they operate across the state.
In the most recent fallout with the state government, the defunct Great Tipper Drivers Association, now All Tipper Drivers Association of Nigeria Anambra state branch headed by one Chukwuebuka Unekwe, barricaded the entrance gate of the Government House along the Enugu-Awka expressway with placards of various inscriptions accusing the Commissioner for Transport Mr. Afam Mbanefo of using the Anambra State Transport Management Code (ATMC) to syphone revenues accruing to government coffers. They also alleged that one Stanley Nkwoka is the architect of the confusion and rancour in the tipper industry in Anambra state. They said should government refuse to grant them total independence to operate on their own, they would disrupt public peace and cause more troubles in their next protest.
National president of Anambra and Imo Tipper Drivers Association (ANIMO) Comrade Emmanuel Ezeokafor recalled that on 14th june, 2018 they got a judgement against the Anambra State Government not to collect revenues on lartrite, sand, stone and some others as they are in the exclusive list of the federal government. Ezeokafor claimed that in spite of the court order, the state government still collected the said revenues. He also said that tipper operators are currently being compelled to be captured in the Anambra Transport Management Code (ATMC).  On the other hand, Comrade Jerry Ifejika stated that the bone of contention was their refusal to bow to the whims and caprices of the Anambra State Tippers  Association set up by the state government and headed by prince Augustine Akaigwe. Ifejika maintained that there was need for the governor to beam his searchlights on the Ministry of Transport for peace to reign amongst tipper drivers in the state.
Nze Chukwuebuka Unekwe, the new president of All Tipper Drivers Association of Nigeria Anambra state branch also corroborated what his colleague said alleging that the transport commissioner was creating confusion in the industry. Unekwe further alleged that a certain group of persons he described as political contractors were empowered to be collecting revenues from tipper drivers on every trip of sand. He said he was pretty sure that the said revenues did not reflect in the government coffers and that the governor might not be aware of it. He said they were law-abiding citizens and they have utmost respect for the governor but the truth of the matter remained that tipper drivers are suffering and gnashing their teeth.
But Mr. Stanley Nkwoka, a member of the Anambra State Tippers Association gave a contrary opinion regarding revenue collection amongst tipper drivers. Nkwoka explained that he was not aware of the allegations levelled against him by the protesting tipper drivers. He said that the tipper union in Anambra state has been operating without uniformity for many long years and that for the state government to bring them together under one association was not too much of a task for them to obey. He maintained that the idea of some persons to deliberately decide to contravene the law through their actions and words was most unbecoming and certainly not in the best interest of operators in the tipper industry. Nkwoka recalled how efforts were made to unite the tipper industry in 2018 and in 2019, at the point of swearing in state executives for tipper drivers union, a court order from another party thwarted the move during the tenure of the former transport commissioner Mr. Christian Madubuko.
Nkwoka also disclosed that the protesting tipper drivers were all bonafide members of the Anambra State Tippers Association as at 2019 as Comrade Emmanuel Ezeokafor was the president, Nze Chukwuebuka Unekwe was the commander taskforce and Jerry Ifejika was the treasurer respectively but when an election was conducted again and they failed, they decided to become outlaws, causing commotion in the tipper business. He said it is on record that on the day of the election and inauguration of the executives of the Anambra State Tippers Association, a peace accord was signed by each of the unions in the tipper industry but the dissident tipper drivers blatantly refused to sign the peace accord and they were not part of the election. Again, Nkwoka pointed out that part of the reasons the protesting tipper drivers did not sign the peace agreement was because they already had a frivolous pact with sand miners to be collecting money from tipper drivers and be sharing the proceeds amongst themselves, stressing that the tipper industry can not continue in illegalities because administration is involved.
Nkwoka stated that government wants to organise tipper driving in Anambra state and it is liaising with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to educate tipper drivers on the dangers of taking hard substances before using the roads. In the same vein, he said the state government through the Ministry of Transport is collaborating with the Federal Road Safety Corps to impart and instill road safety ideals in tipper drivers, adding that tipper driving must be orderly and organised in Anambra state. According to him, the personal interest of the protesting tipper drivers should not override the interest of the government and that what the government wants to achieve with the Anambra Transport Management Code (ATMC) was to register all drivers operating within Anambra state for easy identification and for security purposes. He said the state government charged N4,500 for capturing into the ATMC platform but the rebelling tipper drivers exaggerated the said amount claiming that government collected N14, 000.00 and mobilised tipper drivers from Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi to come and protest in the state; that such was an act of felony and they should be tried for it.
Furthermore, Nkwoka emphasized that the Anambra State Tippers Association does not use touts for revenue collection instead they use drivers that are applicants; that instead of sitting in the garage and waiting for other drivers to give them token, they engage them. That anyone who referred to his fellow driver as a tout is equally a tout. He however stated that he envisaged a much more organised tipper industry in Anambra state where a driver would meet his financial obligations to the government and also have money to take home to his family. That it is no longer the era of touting and hooliganism in the tipper driving sector. Meanwhile, prince Augustine Akaigwe, the state president Anambra Tippers Association, opined that the protests and agitations carried out by some individuals in the tipper industry were done out of personal greed because the rebelling tipper drivers connived with sand miners to be extorting money from tipper drivers which they stopped and it triggered off incessant protests. Akaigwe was however optimistic of a tipper industry in Anambra state that would be emulated by other states.  He said he wants drivers to have their respect and do their work with dignity. That he was not surprised that they were being referred to as political contractors in the tipper industry but according to him, any driver who referred to a colleague as a contractor is also a contractor.
Mr. Afam Mbanefo, state commissioner for transport, whose name was mentioned severally during the protest of the dissident tipper drivers explained that government effort was geared towards organising the transport sector and that government has no intentions whatsoever to frustrate anyone with its policies and programmes. Mbanefo also explained that the Anambra Transport Management Code (ATMC) application is designed for public check, report offender as well as personnel check. The transport commissioner said when a driver is registered in the ATMC platform, a 6 digit code is generated for him which will help provide intelligence in the event of any eventualities. He said tipper drivers oftentimes indulged in one-way driving thereby causing serious havoc on the roads; that it therefore becomes very pertinent for them to be captured into the ATMC platform to trace offenders and what have you, adding that government did nothing wrong in taking such decision and that government decisions must be respected by tipper drivers and other players in the transport sector.  The commissioner disclosed that government has got information that Ebuka Unekwe and his cohorts entered into an agreement with one of the associations to be collecting money illegally which he said was what they were fighting for. The commissioner also said that Ebuka and his group of outlaws lied that government collected N14,000 for registration into ATMC platform whereas operators in the transport sector unanimously agreed they would pay N4,500. He said they were not above the law because out of 18 associations in the tipper industry in Anambra state, only one association rebelled against the state government. Mbanefo maintained that government has made noticeable efforts to bring all tipper operators in Anambra under one umbrella organisation called Anambra State Tippers Association; that the protesting group of tipper drivers are not above the law and as such they should retrace their steps and pitch tent with the government approved tipper drivers’ body.
Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, who addressed them during the protest, said protest was allowed in a democratic setting but all issues would be resolved. The SSG said everything about revenue collection resided within the purview of the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service. He said there was need for all of them to come together as one body so that government could deal with them as an entity not as individual associations. Chukwulobelu said the state government retained the right to raise revenue in the tipper industry; that it would be proper and most befitting if operators  in the tipper driving sector were united and more organised for a harmonious working relationship with the state government.

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