By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
A strike by bus drivers slowed down business activities in Port Harcourt on Thursday, 17th October, 2019 and left passengers stranded for over six hours in different parts of the Garden City, between 12 noon and 6 p.m.
The 6-hour strike by commercial bus drivers took residents by surprise and disorganized many passengers, especially civil servants, private workers, traders and school children who all relied on commercial buses to get to their destinations after the day’s activities.
TPCN went round the city of Port Harcourt to have a first-hand observation of the development, reports that the worst hit area was the ever-busy Rumuokoro-Ikwerre Road-Lagos-Borokiri route where many passengers were stranded.
The few buses that were seen refused to carry passengers. The buses were only parading round Ikwerre Road with angry-looking, plank and stick-wielding and sagging trousers-wearing boys who either chanted war songs or shouted gutter-like slangs to scare people. The boys were standing on the back bumpers of the buses.
TPCN investigation revealed that the bus drivers were protesting the killing of one of their colleagues by the police last week.
A member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Rivers State chapter who spoke to TPCN at Mile 3, Diobu, said the bus drivers embarked on the temporary strike to express their anger over the killing of one of their members by a trigger-happy police man.
Explaining further, the NURTW member, who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned, said the bus driver was shot by the policeman during a face-off between him and members of the anti-street trading task force.
According to the NURTW official, the bus driver was trying to prove a point during an argument with the task force members when one of the police men who accompanied them waded into the matter and started harassing him.
The NURTW member added: “The policeman was trying to intimidate the driver but the driver was not ready to succumb and the policeman became angry and cocked his gun and shot him. He died there. We are not happy about this and that’s why we are doing this strike this afternoon. This is not the first time that police will kill bus drivers. The other time it was at Rumuokoro. The driver refused to give the policeman N50 and he just shot him like that, because of N50. Uptill now I don’t know if they have arrested him. This nonsense has to stop.
“This one is just a warning strike. If the government does not call the police to order and punish the killers of these drivers, we will do another strike that will last for one or two weeks. This is just to show them that we are not happy.”
On why they decided to do the strike on Thursday, few days after the incident, the NURTW official said: “You know we have association. Since that time we have not met to agree on the date of the strike apart from today. But like I said, this is a warning strike. A major one is coming.”