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Motorists lament extortion by touts in Anambra

Touts operating in Onitsha  and environs in Anambra State are making life difficult for motorists and commuters as they daily harass and extort them, Daily…

Touts operating in Onitsha  and environs in Anambra State are making life difficult for motorists and commuters as they daily harass and extort them, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

To check the continuous harassment of motorists plying roads in Anambra State, Governor Charles Soludo, on assumption of office, banned the activities of touts in the state.

The governor launched the Anambra Special Anti-Touting Squad to address the menace.

But the ban appears to be ineffective as touts are still found in the nooks and crannies of Onitsha, Awka and other towns in the state, extorting motorists.

Daily Trust Saturday learnt that the activities of touts have continued unabated because some influential individuals and top government have hands in the illegal operations.

The touts stay at strategic points, especially in Awka, Onitsha and adjoining environs because of the large volume of vehicles plying major roads in those areas.

They impose levies on motorists on a daily basis; hence, their activities have continued to be a source of worry for the government and road users.

Lorry and truck drivers entering Anambra State, especially from the Upper Iweka part of Onitsha, are always the worst hit as their windscreens and side mirrors are often smashed by the hoodlums, who usually swoop on them demanding various payments.

Some of the levies the touts charge include park-and-pay; daily motor ticket; daily tolls ticket; morning levy; afternoon levy; evening levy; cargo ticket; upstream and downstream payments, among others.”

A motorist, Augustine Eze, who fell victim recently in Onitsha while traveling to attend the  burial  of his uncle in the village, described his experience as traumatising.

According to him, he was driving in his private vehicle with his

family  to the village  when  the touts arrested him for parking by the roadside to take a call

“I was driving behind another vehicle to our village and suddenly missed the vehicle because of traffic.

“I drove to a safe place and cleared off the road entirely to make calls to the other driver about his whereabouts, and then, suddenly, some people wearing yellow vests charged at me and collected my car keys and forcefully took us to a place they said was their office. They charged me for wrong parking.”

“I pleaded that  I was driving my family home for burial and nobody said anything  until I paid N30,000 as demanded,” he said.

The publicity secretary of the Lorry Drivers Association of Nigeria, Awka branch, Chief Chimezie Ugoh, said it was a pity that the activities of touts in Anambra State had defied every solution by the government.

“We move our trucks all the way from far North, West and other parts of the country without harassment by touts, but immediately we get to Anambra, we are subjected to all kinds of inhuman treatment.

“We spend between N5,000 and N7,000 coming from other states, but once we enter Anambra State, they extort between N30,000 and N40, 000 from us.

“The sad part is that these miscreants always wear different government uniforms, demanding various levies, which we must pay daily.

“We have engaged in various protests to draw the attention of the government to our plight, but to no avail. When the government banned their activities last year, it was a relief for us, but today, they are back in full force, terrorising us,” he said.

Also speaking, a truck driver, Micheal Onuoha, who narrated his  experience, said  he was coming from far North with some items, and immediately he got to Onitsha, the touts in uniform stopped  him,  and without much argument, they started hitting his car and removed his vehicle’s side mirrors. At the end, he was forced to pay N35,000 to be freed.

“It appears that the state has recruited these touts and illegal revenue collectors for the job,” he said.

Another motorist, Uche Johnson, lamented that  his bus was ‘hijacked’ in a commando style for hours at Upper Iweka  while passing through  to Asaba, Delta State for a wedding and was made to pay N50,000 for not having an ‘emblem.’

When contacted, the chief press secretary to the Anambra State governor, Christian Aburime, said it was not true that the state government had any deal with the touts.

Aburime said, “The state government is working hard to ensure that touts are cleared off the streets and reduce their nefarious activities to the barest minimum so that there can be sanity in the system.

He said, “These people have been there over the years and it is going to take a gradual process to remove them from the roads.”

He said the government was looking for an alternative means of livelihood for those who want to turn a new leaf.

“Some of them have been arrested and taken to court, and the court has given judgement on what should be done to them,” he said.

 

 

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