No fewer than 50 commercial tricycles were damaged in Bayelsa State on Wednesday as operatives of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigeria Police Force tried to stop a protest by the tricycle riders.
Newsmen gathered that some persons were also injured during the incident, which happened around the Imgbi Road junction in Yenagoa, the state capital.
The demonstrators complained that the FRSC officers target them for extortion of money and harassment under the guise of enforcing traffic laws.
According to the aggrieved Keke riders, the FRSC personnel were also infringing on their right to carry four passengers, including one person in the front seat.
One of the protesters, who gave his name as John Chukwu, said that the road safety officers allegedly collected as much N10,000 from tricycle riders for carrying four passengers.
He said the harassment and overzealousness of the FRSC operatives were unbecoming, adding that “we are tired, it is getting too much.”
The tricycle riders had blocked the junction along the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road in protest to express their anger over the activities of the FRSC personnel.
Trouble was said to have started when some FRSC officers mounted a checkpoint near the junction, impounding tricycles for alleged violation of traffic laws.
Many of the demonstrators were said to have become frustrated by the activities of the FRSC officials, saying they were subjected to all kinds of ill-treatment by the officers.
But after some hours, some policemen deployed in the scene violently dispersed the protesters, leading to confusion and damaging of about 50 tricycles.
The cops were said to have also fired gunshots into the air, teargas and whips to chase the Keke riders away, causing pandemonium.
Reacting to the protest, the Sector Commander of the FRSC in Bayelsa, Ibrahim Usman, said the command was committed to the enforcement of traffic regulations.
Debunking the allegation of extortion by officials of the command, he said that the corps had a mandate to ensure the safety of citizens on the road.