Commercial tricycle operators, popularly called Keke drivers, on Tuesday grounded activities in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a protest on the killing of a member of their association, Isaac Kosudi.
The protesters marched to the Tricycle Task Force office on Swali Road.
They said the task force officials arrested Kosudi and seized his tricycle for his alleged failure to buy a N100 ticket for the day’s operations.
It was learnt that the officials went to Tombia area of the state capital in search of those who did not buy the ticket regulated by the State Internal Revenue.
An executive member of the state’s branch of Tricycle Operators Association of Nigeria said when the task force got to the area, they apprehended Kosudi, impounded his tricycle and took him to their office.
The source, who spoke in confidence, said when the officials got to their office, they asked Kosudi, an indigene of Ogbia Local Government Area, to buy the ticket and pay a certain fine.
He said Kosudi allegedly pleaded with the officials that he did not have the money they were asking for.
It was learnt that his stance, which showed that he would not pay the fine and buy the ticket, angered the task force officials who started beating him up.
When they reportedly discovered that he was vomiting, they brought a substance suspected to be sniper and placed it beside him to make it seem the man took the poison.
It was also learnt that Kosudi was conveyed to a hospital in Yenagoa, where he was confirmed dead.
The Keke operator’s death was said to have angered his colleague, who demand justice for their slain member.
The protesters said commercial tricycle drivers were always treated as slaves in the state.
Some hoodlums, who joined the protest, were said to have torched the office of the task force.
The protest, which began at 6.45 a.m, raged on till around 3 p.m, following the intervention of Transportation Commissioner Grace Ayakpo Ekiotenne and Police Commissioner Mike Okoli.
The protesters locked down the streets of Yenagoa as they moved from Tombia/Etegwe roundabout, Onopa (Government House), Azikoro town, Hospital Junction and finally to former Water Board junction.
Ekiotenne later met with some riders and leaders of the Tricycle Operators of Nigeria and advised everybody to remain calm.
The commissioner said the government would ensure justice in the matter.
As at 4 p.m, fire service officials and some policemen were at the task force office to maintain law and order.
The state police command said its operatives had arrested two suspects, Emomotimi Ogbe and Israel Monday, both members of the task force, over Kosudi’s death.
The command’s spokesman Asinim Butswat, a Superintendent of Police (SP), said preliminary findings revealed that the suspects, while on official duty for revenue collection on September 14, 2020, contravened a tricycle with MOT Number 0617 on Imiringi Road, Yenagoa, for failure to obtain a unified sticker.
He said the tricycle operator went to the task force office and thereafter started spitting out some substances, slumped and became unconscious.
The spokesman said Kosudi was taken to the hospital for treatment where he died.