Nigerian refugees in Diffa, Republic of Niger, have called on authorities in Nigeria and their host country to intervene in a new transport rule that has immobilized more than 200 Nigerian-registered taxis.
At least 20,000 Nigerians (men, women and children) are currently taking refuge in the Diffa region after fleeing Boko Haram attacks in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Malam Musa Abdullahi, the leader of Nigerian taxi owners in Diffa, a migrant from Abadam LGA in Borno state, said almost 100 vehicles had been seized by Niger police and customs in a week so far.
He said the new rule imposed the demand that any Nigerian refugee who wants to transport goods or people using a car with Nigerian registration must acquire a document that costs 600,000 CFA, which is equivalent to N700,000.
“Money is more than the value of many vehicles that we use to make our families self-sufficient.
“We call on the Nigerian government, specifically Governor Zulum, to have a bilateral discussion with the Governor of Diffa to release our vehicles and continue our legal business,” he said.
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Another resident, lawyer Aminu Abadam, charged that the new rule has put hundreds of households in a difficult situation.
“We call on the Nigerian government to step in so that our vehicles are handed over to us to resume our normal business,” he said.
Alhaji Modu Kachalla, a migrant from Nigeria and a taxi driver, said that despite the preferential treatment given to Nigerians in loading goods and passengers, none of the Nigerian drivers raised the alarm.
He praised the Niger government for supporting them with food and other social services, saying they have no reason to complain about that: “We all appreciate it, but we need additional income to take care of other family problems, such as medicines and other basic needs that we cannot depend on. your government to provide for us.”
He said he depends on his taxi to care for his parents, relatives and other members of his extended family who are in dire need.
In an audio clip, Diffa Transport Union President Alhaji Gali Mustapha reacted to his allegation that drivers must present ECOWAS insurance, an international driver’s license and a Laisser Passer before they can operate.
He said that only Nigerian carriers can load goods to Diffa if they have full and genuine documents, but they do not have the right to load from Niger to Nigeria.
However, his response received backlash from members of the Transport Union, when a certain Ibrahim Babalale accused him of causing confusion in Diffa.
Reached for comment via voicemail, the Diffa President’s Regional Council said he was in no condition to speak, but directed our reporter to contact the Niger Police Chief or Director of Transport in Diffa.