Members of Hearse/Ambulance and Undertakers Union, Umuahia, Abia State branch on Tuesday staged a peaceful protest over the alleged extortion of its members by Abia State revenue task force teams.
The union members, who gathered in front of the City Gate Mortuary, Umuahia, causing traffic dreadlock in the vicinity, alleged that touts pose as government agents as they harass and extort various amounts from them every time they are on assignments of conveying corpses to their final resting places.
Fielding questions from journalists, the chairman of the union, Uche Kalu, lamented that ambulances conveying corpses driven by their members were frequently damaged by the tasks force teams if the drivers refuse to give them money before proceeding to their destinations.
According to him, the amount they collect range from N5,000 to N5,000 on any trip.
Kalu explained that the members of the union ordinary have no business with revenue task forces due the emergency services they render to the public, adding that before leaving any mortuary, every available fees that they needed to be paid are paid .
“We render essential service to the public. It should be known that that the Hearse/Ambulances driven by our members are owned by various private hospitals and mortuaries and therefore all necessary taxes, levies and rates are compulsorily paid before we leave the hospital, clinics or morgue.
“Therefore asking us to pay extra money on the road when we have settled all our bills at our take off point amounts to double taxation”, he stressed.
He therefore called on the state government to prevail on the revenue task force teams to stop harassing their members, saying that failure to do so will lead their members to embark on a one month strike.
His word, “We are rendering essential service to the society, if the tasks force team delays our members from taking a sick person under emergency to the hospital, a life could be lost.
“On the under hand, if a hearse conveying the remains of a deceased person for burial is stopped on way, it may cause undue tension because of the mood of the people involved.
“All we are saying is that the revenue tasks force team should allow our members to serve the public without stress caused by undue harassment. If the harassment continues, we will have no option than to embark on a one month strike”.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.