Simon Utebor, Yenagoa
Commercial activities in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, were on Tuesday disrupted as tricycle operators, popularly known as ‘Keke drivers’, protested the alleged death of their member Isaac Kosudi in the Tricycle Task Force office on Swali Road.
The protest followed the arrest and impoundment of the tricycle belonging to Kosudi over his failure to buy N100 tricycle ticket for the day’s operations.
It was learnt that the task force went to Tombia area of the state capital to check for those who did not buy the ticket regulated by the State Internal Revenue.
An executive of one the branches of the Tricycle Operators Association of Nigeria, Bayelsa State chapter, said when the task force got there, they apprehended Mike, impounded his tricycle and took them to their office in Swali.
The source, who spoke in confidence, said when they got to the task force office, they asked Kosudi, an indigene of Ogbia Local Government Area of the state, to go and buy the ticket and pay a certain fine.
He said Kosudi allegedly pleaded with the task force officials that he did not have the money they were demanding but they insisted he had to pay.
It was learnt that his alleged uncompromising attitude to pay the fine and buy the ticket angered some members of the task force who beat him to a pulp.
It was also gathered that when they discovered that he was vomiting, they brought a substance suspected to be a sniper and placed it beside him to make it seem as if the man took the sniper.
It was further learnt that he was rushed to a hospital in Yenagoa where he eventually died.
Angered by the death of the driver, some commercial tricycle operators staged a protest on Tuesday to demand justice for their slain member. They also alleged that commercial tricycle drivers were always treated as slaves in the state.
Some hoodlums, who joined the protest, were said to have capitalised on the demonstration to torch the office of the task force on Swali Road.
During the protest which began as early as 6.45 am, normalcy only returned to Yenagoa about 3: pm after the Commissioner for Transportation, Grace Ayakpo Ekiotenne, and Commissioner for Police, Mike Okoli, intervened.
The protesting tricycle operators locked down the streets of Yenagoa moving from Tombia/Etegwe roundabout, Onopa (Government House), Azikoro town, Hospital Junction and finally to former Water Board junction.
Ekiotenne later had a meeting with some riders and leaders of the Tricycle Operators of Nigeria, Bayelsa State chapter, where she advised everybody to remain calm and that government would ensure the incident was not swept under the carpet.
She also assured the tricycle drivers that justice would be done in the matter.
As of 4 pm, men of the state fire service and some policemen were still seen on the premises of the task force officers to maintain law and order.
The state Police Command says its operatives have arrested one Emomotimi Ogbe and one Israel Monday of the TTF over Kosudi’s death.
A spokesman for the command, Asinim Butswat, said preliminary findings revealed that the suspects, while on official duty for revenue collection on 14 September 2020, contravened a tricycle with MOT No. 0617 on Imiringi road, Yenagoa, for failure to obtain a unified sticker.
He said the tricyclist went to the task force office at Swali, Yenagoa, and thereafter started spitting out some substances, slumped and became unconscious.
He said the victim was rushed to the hospital for treatment where he eventually died.
Butswat said the CP Mike Okoli addressed the protesters and assured them of a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of their colleague.