adplus-dvertising
News

Anambra drivers lament alleged extortions, brutality

Some drivers in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State have cried out over alleged extortions, inhumane treatment and brutality in the hands of the Anambra State Road Traffic Management Agency and Anambra Special Anti-Touting Squad.

The drivers spoke to our correspondent in separate interviews in Onitsha on Monday, while displaying several injuries they sustained during the attacks allegedly carried out by the ARTMA and anti-touting operatives.

One of the victims, a 70-year-old man Aloy Obi, said the two government agencies had been attacking them at the TRACAS bus stop and other designated bus stops in Onitsha with dangerous weapons such as matchetes, pestles, sticks and iron rods, and seized their vehicles simply because they parked to drop off passengers.

Obi said, “I am a shuttle bus driver. We were at the TRACAS bus stop, Onitsha, loading passengers when suddenly the ARTMA and anti-touting operatives invaded the place with dangerous weapons such as matchetes, pestles and iron rods and started beating us. In the process, they impounded my vehicle, claiming we parked at a wrong place, but it is not true.

“Where we parked was a designated park approved by the authorities. They were just looking for excuses to extort us. They hit me on the chest and arms with a pestle and forcefully collected my car key and drove my vehicle away.”

Another victim, identified as Arinze Nwoyingbo, said, “I parked at a bus stop at Upper Iweka to drop off passengers, when suddenly the operatives rushed at me and started hitting me with weapons.

“They asked me to come down from the vehicle; when I refused, they flogged me with the back of their matchetes and forced me out of the vehicle. They also inflicted me with injuries. They eventually succeeded in collecting my car key, chased the passengers out and drove the vehicle away.

“They inflicted me with several injuries. This is not fair; we are begging the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, to look into the activities of these men. We are well registered and we pay our dues as and when due. If they continue harassing us, how do we make the money for the dues and our daily bread?”

“Other drivers were attacked too. They claimed that we were parking at a wrong place, but it is not true. Where we parked was a designated bus stop, just that they are looking for an avenue to extort us. This is barbaric. How can the ARTMA and anti-touting operatives be carrying dangerous weapons and using them to inflict injuries on the people? I have seen how LASTMA work in Lagos; they never carry any weapon against drivers. Why is Anambra different?

He, however, called on the governor to intervene and save them from intimidation from the anti-touting squad and ARTMA in the state, saying: “I don’t know why they will continue to beat us for committing no offence. My vehicle is registered to ply this route. I have been paying all my levies and taxes to government as and when due. We are unjustly suffering in the hands of ARTMA and anti-touting squad in this state.”

Another bus driver in Onitsha, an 80-year-old Ugo Okoro, begged the governor to look into the matter, saying it was unfair and unacceptable for the operatives to continue to brutalise them even in their old age, in the name of enforcing the law.

Okoro said, “One of the drivers beaten up by the officials is a 70-year-old man who drives a shuttle bus as a means of feeding his family. The ARTMA and anti-touting operatives should be arresting those who commit offence and not storming approved an park and arresting everybody just to extort money.

“ARTMA is colluding with the state anti-touting squad to brutalise and extort money from us. They inflicted injuries on my legs and I am in pains right now. When they arrest any driver, they will take him to their office and demand N50,000 against the governor’s directive of N5,000.

“The governor had promised us that he would establish a drivers’ management committee but until now, nothing has happened and we don’t know whom to turn to in this kind of situation.”

When PUNCH Metro contacted the Managing Director/CEO of ARTMA, Emeka Okonkwo, he absolved his men of any form of manhandling of the drivers on the road.

Okonkwo said, “The officers of the Anambra Road Traffic Management Agency have constantly kept their foot on the gas to ensure they play a part in the actualisation of sanity on the road. Sanity and orderliness, if achieved on our roads, would be a great step forward.

“Last week, when we met with the commercial bus drivers, we agreed they should pick and drop passengers only on the service lane as that is not just the standard practice, it is also the safe thing to do to prevent loss of lives. A few days later, we received a lot of calls on our customer care numbers about the challenges they had on the service lane.

 “The agency revisited Onitsha and assured the drivers that ‘No Parking Tow Zone’ signs would be placed on the service lane to stop private car users who park on the service lane. These private car owners park on both sides of the service lane, hence making it difficult for commercial drivers to access the service lane. We have designated car parks around Onitsha, so these private car owners should use them.

He said the agency installed a bus stop sign about 30metres away from the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway exit that connects the Onitsha-Awka Expressway, but the shuttle bus drivers preferred to cluster the exit junction hereby causing a lot of congestion.

“Inasmuch as we want you all to operate seamlessly in Anambra State, we also urge you to do the right things so other road users can have right of way too,” he said.

Similarly, the spokesman for the anti-touting squad, Nweke Nweke, insisted that those who inflicted injuries on the drivers were not its members.

Nweke said, “For the avoidance of doubt, the state anti-touting mandate is to rid all the nook and cranny of the state of touts.

The war against touting in the state as you are aware is gathering momentum and those touts have mobilised to impersonate anti-touting operatives by going around with unmarked vehicles and even Keke, from where they attack drivers just to give us a bad name.

“Let me use this medium to urge the members of the public to call 09038381276 at anytime the impersonators are sighted anywhere across the state.”

On why the anti-touting operatives go about with matchetes, cutlasses and pestles, Nweke simply said, “They are all protective weapons.”

Back to top button