Commuters stranded as commercial drivers withdraw services in Cross River

Kidnappers seem to have set their sights on Calabar metropolis, as gunmen are reported to have abducted for ransom six people in ten days.

Commercial drivers in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, on Monday withdrew their services to protest alleged illegal taxation by some thugs and local government officials in the state.

Newsmen report that due to the protest a lot of commuters were stranded at bus stops in Calabar while many trekked to their different destinations.

The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as “stop harassing us”, “illegal taxation is a crime in Cross River” among others.

The protesters alleged that some people were often harassing drivers in the metropolis to pay some taxes and levies against the tax exemption law of the state.

Governor Ben Ayade had constituted the Cross River Anti-Tax Agency to ensure that all low income earners in the state including taxi and tricycles operators were exempted from paying all forms of taxes and levies.

Speaking to newsmen, the representative of the protesting drivers, Edem Asuquo, said drivers were caught on a daily basis for dropping and picking passengers at different spots in the city.

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“They take you to their Centres and collect N25,000 or N15,000 from you, which is the least.

“So we decided to march to the governor’s office to protest and hear from him directly and know if he is the one sending these people to harass us or not.

“This is why we withdrew our services today,” he said.

In his response, Emmah Isong, a clergyman and Chairman, State Anti-Tax Agency, said the protest was good and a welcome development.

“The governor exempted these classes of people from taxation and, then, some politicians and local government officials kept taxing them.

“We, the Anti-Tax Agency, have tried everything to tell the local government authorities not to tax them.

“So the people should take their destinies in their hand by protesting for their right, it is good for the state, so long as they are peaceful and do not destroy any property.

“They have been using security agencies to harass the drivers, security agencies that refused to cooperate with the Anti-Tax Agency are cooperating with politicians to harass and exploit the poor,” he said.

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He advised residents of the state to know their tax exemption rights and pursue them vigorously, adding that it must not be the job of the Ant-Tax Agency alone.

Newsmen report that due to the protest, a lot of commuters were stranded at bus stops in Calabar while many trekked to their different destinations.

When contacted on telephone, Nkese Emeyo, the media officer, Calabar South Local Government Area, said the council had nothing to do with the extortion.

“My Chairman placed a revocation notice to all contractors collecting taxes for the LGA. So, there is nothing like tax from our council.

“We are not getting anything from anybody and we have not sent anybody to get tax from drivers,’’ she said.

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