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A peaceful demonstration by commercial tricycle (Keke) operators in Owerri, the Imo State capital spiralled out of control yesterday. The operators unleashed their frustration and anger on some overzealous government task force officials who were harassing their members in an attempt to disperse the protesters
The Keke operators had besieged the Government House to entreat Governor Rochas Okorocha to extend the date for the ban of the operations in the municipality. Some of the operators, who spoke with our correspondent, averred that they had planned a mass action for Monday, which was the day of the inauguration of the governor’s new executives but the governor had directed them instead to go to the Trade and Investment Centre at New Owerri and wait for him to come and address them.

“We waited from 9a.m. to 5p.m. for the governor to come and address us as promised but we did not see anybody. Unfortunately, same yesterday while swearing in his new commissioners, he gave express directive to his new Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Lasbrey Okafor-Anyanwu, to ensure that Keke operation ends in Owerri today. That is why we came here today to plead with him and implore him to have a rethink,” one of them, who gave his name simply as Ekekwe, said. However, trouble started when some overzealous task force officials with the Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO) stormed the Government House roundabout where the Keke operators gathered to protest their plight and started impounding and confiscating the tricycles for flouting the ban order.

 The angry operators attacked the ENTRACO officials who fled the scene. The now enraged Keke operators marched through the major roads of the city in search of the task force officials.

 Around Wetheral by Mbonu Ojike Street, the angry operators caught up with task force members and attacked them. The vandalised their operational vehicles. By this time all the different task force members operating in the state capital had disappeared to avert the fury of the operators.

 However, it was learnt that the December 1 deadline for Keke operations in Owerri was chosen by the operators themselves during an earlier negotiation with the governor.


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