Bamenda, Cameroon- Taxi drivers in the Northwest Regional capital, Bamenda, have complained that they are unable to respect set guidelines of not overloading their vehicles, because the little money they earn is extorted at the numerous military and police checkpoints littered around town.
Some drivers have lamented, stating that the fight against the spread of Covid-19 is weak on their side, because they must overload in order to make ends meet.
The drivers complained that if they were to respect set modalities and carry just a few passengers so as not spread the virus through over-crowding in cars, they will not be able to pay their daily fees to owners of the cabs, and feed, because all the money will be extorted at the numerous checkpoints where money is fleeced from them by law enforcement officers.
Prime Minister, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, on Wednesday, March 13, after confirming the initial COVID-19 cases in Cameroon, outlined 13 measures meant to stem the spread of the virus in Cameroon.
Concerning urban and inter-urban travel, the PM ordered that drivers should avoid overloading, so as not to facilitate the spread of Covid-19.
One of the taxi drivers who talked to The Post complained bitterly, saying that they basically work for military and police officers stationed all over the town.
“We spend not less than FCFA 90.000 as control ‘settlement’ monthly. If you are used to the Bambili stretch of road, you will realise that there are 5 permanent control points there, and in each of these controls, you pay FCFA 1.000 as control ‘settlement’ whether you have documents or not. If you don’t pay, you will remain there.
“There is a control post at Miss Ngeng Junction, another in front of Guinness Mile 3, Mile 5 Junction Nkwen, TASS Junction Mile 7 Nkwen and another at Tubah. The control points are too much, and the Government should do something about it. That is only for the Bambili stretch of road. But you should also know that there are controls almost everywhere in the town of Bamenda and they do not bother to check car documents. They are just interested in collecting money from us” he said.
To one of our interviewees, drivers can only avoid overloading if money is not extorted from them at the various checkpoints. He further complained that: “Petrol is very expensive and I don’t think if I can carry just three persons from City Chemist to Bambili; I will not be able to have ‘balance’ for my boss at the end of the day.”
The on-going Anglophone crisis led to the erection of many makeshift control points in the Northwest and Southwest regions. In Buea, chief town of the Southwest Region, taxi drivers staged a protest, grounding their taxis, halting most activities in town. To appease them, the local administrators reduced the number of control points, where money was usually swindled from drivers by officers.
With the many several checkpoints and extortion of drivers in the Northwest, taxi drivers have resorted to carrying about seven passengers at a time to enable them to make a living, pay their bosses, and ‘settle’ (bribe) law enforcement officers with FCFA 1000 at each of the several checkpoints.
Originally Published by The Post Newspaper, Cameroon.