ROAD transporters in Abia State have appealed to the enforcers of the weekly sit-at-home order across the southeast geo-political zone to give them palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown which now take place on a weekly basis.
Following the arrest of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) leader Nnamdi Kanu and his arraignment before an Abuja court, his supporters have called for sit-at-home protests across the southeast geo-political zone. These sit-at-homes which now take place every Monday, are well policed by Ipob’s military wing the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
Despite calls for the protests to be limited to when Mr Kanu appears in court, they have now developed a life of their own with ESN operatives out on the streets every week to ensure compliance. Due to a combination of sympathy, fear and rigid enforcement, the protests have been very successful, leading some transport operatives in Umuahia, the Abia State capital to ask for a rethink.
They complained that the transport sector was the worst hit by the directive as their vehicles were usually attacked or vandalised, while passengers on the other hand, hardly come out of their homes for fear of attacks. Residents have expressed concern that the weekly exercise would cripple the socio-economic activities in the region which is known for commerce and trade.
Henry Okezie, the chairman of the Abia State Drivers’ Welfare Union, said: “This frequent sit-at-home is really affecting us because we can’t operate if we don’t see passengers. Most of our members have their vehicles on a hire purchase, which means that we must work every day to meet the target.
“We are appealing to the enforcers of this exercise to give us some palliatives in order to cushion the effect. We have over 200 members at Isigate Park in Umuahia whose buses are operating on Umuahia-Ikwuano and Umuahia-Ubakala routes and each of us makes a minimum of N10,000 daily, so any day we don’t work we lose over N2m.”
Mr Okezie added, however, that they would continue to comply with the directive because some of their vehicles got damaged while some passengers were injured the when drivers flouted it. Kingsley Chijindu, a driver on the Umuahia-Aba route, said passengers were still afraid to come out, in spite of the suspension of the Monday exercise.
He added: “The sit-at-home is even worse in Aba than Umuahia, so I have decided to take Monday as my day of rest till further notice. We really need help either from Ipob or the government to cover up the monetary loss because we cannot continue like this.”
Victor Rowland, a driver operating on Umuahia-Ohafia route said he was okay with the weekly exercise saying it afforded him the opportunity to stay with his family. He, however, urged the enforcers to consider an alternative in order not to destroy the people they claim they are trying to protect.
Mr Rowland added: “Initially, I was worried considering how much I was losing on a weekly basis. However, I’m okay with it now because I now have time to be with my children.”