A 28-year old female tricycle operator, Miss Angela Umeh, an NCE graduate is suffering an unusual form of oppression and harassment in Anambra State, and she is on the verge of losing her sole means of livelihood as a result of some shameless men who are insecure over her presence and scared of losing out in the quest for survival.
To survive this ugly trend of male machismo, Umeh is desprately seeking for the intervention of Anambra State Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo to regain her freedom from male shackles, retrieve her Keke, which has now been impounded for over two weeks by officers of State Traffic Management Agency (ARTMA) in connivance with some male operators in the quest to stop her from continuing her business in a male-dominated enterprise.
Umeh, a native of Okpuno, Awka South Local Government Area, plies Aroma junction to Anambra State Secretariat and Federal Government secretariat on daily basis until her Keke was confiscated by ARTMA team led by one Goodluck on January 30th, 2024, for allegedly violating traffic rules.
The young lady who is an NCE holder and the breadwinner of family of five, including a 70-year-old mother said she has been catering for her family since she could not get a paid job.
She said she had been out of job since her Keke was impounded by the ARTMA team at Aroma and her aged mother and others are finding it extremely difficult to feed.
According to her, the seizure of her Keke has worsened her health challenges and that of her aged mother.
“My mother cries everyday and pleading with me to take her to ARTMA’s office and I refused to do so because of her age and health condition. Now, that I am not working to feed her and take off other family needs, my mother is always talking about my Keke and how she could eat, it is endangering her health as an old woman.
The family now rely on the little cash sympathisers give to me daily while making case at ARTMA’S office to release my Keke. My stomach ulcer has worsened. I fear that acute appendicitis doctor told me to come for surgery may rupture anytime due to my current health condition,” I am struggling to make money to enable me undergo operation” she lamented.
According to investigation, Umeh is facing intimidation and harassment from her male colleagues in connivence with ARTMA people who felt threatened that most passengers in the route preferred her Keke to theirs, thereby depriving them some earnings.
We also gathered that the male tricyclists conspired with ARTMA’S men to push her out of the business because men preferred patronizing her as a lady for choosing the path of descent living instead of prostitution.
According to the young lady, who joined transport sector business due to joblessness and frustrations, this is the third time ARTMA officers led by Goodluck and Princewill would impound her Keke.
She said that they had accused her of having unusual courage and venturing into male dominated driving business.
“In 2022 some of my male colleagues insisted that I must leave the route for them. They even invited the police to arrest me but when we got to the station I won and they were held behind the counter instead of me. After they regained their freedom, they pitched with the ARTMA officers and barred me from driving through Aroma junction to state and federal government Secretariat.
“I told them it won’t be possible to leave that route because others (males) are still driving through that route. They demanded that we should be contributing N1000 each every two weeks and pay them as compensation for allowing us to ply through the route. We are complying to the directives as prompt as possible. But whenever they spot us on the route they will allow the men to pass and hold unto my tricycle,” she stated.
We learnt that the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, ARTMA, Mr Emeka Okonkwo (alias Konti) had ordered his officers to release her Keke since Saturday (February 3rd, 2024) but that instruction had not been carried out to date as the officers claimed to have misplaced the young lady’s key.
A team of journalists led by Comrade Osita Obi, the Coordinator, Anambra State Keke Drivers Forum (AKDF), who were at ARTMA’S headquarters in Awka on February 6th, were told by the officer in charge of operations that available records of Umeh’s “habitual arrest for violating safety rules” showed that her Keke has no ignition key.
However, after much arguments with the team, the ARTMA admitted that the Keke key which was adequately recorded and kept in their custody when Mr Princewill, who confiscated the Keke and drove it into the ARTMA office has suddenly disappeared.
“They told me they have released the Keke but I will pay N11,000 for the key because they don’t know where it is again. At first, a female officer who was in charge of keeping keys asked me to find out the cost of buying a new key. I made inquiry and discovered that the cheapest one will cost N10,500. She agreed they will pay for it. But immediately Goodluck heard about it they insisted they won’t pay anymore. I told them I don’t have money. Besides, I committed no offence,” she added.
Umeh, therefore, urged interventions of governor Soludo and Non-governmental organisations to secure complete release of her Keke which is even old and procured on hire purchase.
“My governor and all those who can help should come to my rescue. As I am talking to you now I have not been able to make my weekly commitment to the person who gave me the Keke on hire purchase.
He is disturbed too. Please, everyone should help me beg the ARTMA officers to stop intimidating me because I am a woman,” she pleaded. One of the shop owner st Aroma, Ngozi Chikodi , asked whether the girl is the only person loading passengers at Aroma?
She wondered why ARTMA team would allow other people to load at the point and signaled her out for disturbance.
If there is any person who should ply the road, the person should be Umeh. How can a young girl instead of being on fast lane chose to venture into Keke driving should be intimidated and harassed by theARTMA. The young lady will still pay government tax for the two week, she has not worked ” he lamented.