Boats and Jetty owners operating at the popular Ogbe-Ijoh market in Warri waterfront, have cried out to the Delta State Government to come to their rescue from the continuous harassment and intimidation of its members by officials of the Delta State Ministry of Transport, who they claim use security operatives to impose illegal and arbitrary levies.
They have vowed to resist these ill-treatment by the Ministry officials and want the state government to wade into the matter.
They made this passionate appeal on Thursday, during a press conference which they held at the water front in Warri.
Speaking on the issue, Chief (Mrs) Oguwa Bebenimibo, aka, Madam Dolphin, a boat operator at the Gbaramatu jetty section, claimed that some individuals have suddenly imposed some heavy levies on the operators, which she claimed are unreasonable.
According to her, a 10-passenger boat are levied N1, 000 per trip. This is too heavy and can only lead to losses for the operators, as they have other expenses like fuel purchase and servicing of the engine and boats to contend with.
She added that in her twenty years of business at the jetty, she has never witnessed such harassment and highhandedness being inflicted on them by the state Ministry of Transport.
She speaks further; ”We, owners of boats and jetties here, have never benefited from any project from the Delta state government.
“Even the waterfront is out of shape and the routes are not safe for us and passengers. We bear the costs of the life vests and all the other equipment from our own pockets. All successive governments have continued to turn blind eye to our challenges.”
Corroborating her claims, Hon. Solomon Brossa and Mr. Johnbull Smooth, who are operators at the Ogulagha jetty echoed her sentiments.
Hon. Bossa said they do not recognise the group imposing the levy as there has been no document to back up their identity and that they cannot continue to be made to pay such levies whose origin and use they have no clue of.
He added that, they have also not heard of such sort of levies being imposed on road transporters, and wondered why water transporters are been singled out for such treatment, especially, since the trade is capital-intensive.
In the same vein, Mr. Johnbull lamented that security agents were used to intimidate them arbitrarily, a situation which he said is not healthy for their business.
The Operators called on the Delta state government to as a matter of urgency; wade into the issue in order to avoid it escalating into unhealthy confrontations, as they threatened not to succumb to pressures to pay the illegal levies, no matter any amount of intimidation and harassment from anybody.
They also noted that the imposition of such levy negates the Smart Agenda of the Okowa administration which is supposed to provide prosperity for all Deltans. To them, it will further plunge their business into losses, since they cannot afford to pass the additional costs on passengers who are already complaining of high fares.