Iniobong Ekponta, Uyo
Motorists, especially commercial vehicles’ operators plying the Umuahia – Uyo road, have embarked on protest over incessant blockade mounted by thugs said to be loyal to the Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji.
Narrating their ordeals in the hands of the touts, who operate at the Ekebedi Oboro in Ikwano Local Government Area, the drivers said they were forced to pay N30,000 as road levies for plying the Federal Government road.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase, has recently ordered such road blocks mounted for illegal tolls to be dismantled, but while other States including Akwa Ibom have acceded to the directive, the drivers expressed worry that such illegalities were still being allowed in Abia.
In line with this directive, the Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom, Mr. Gabriel Achong, has since ordered such illegal tolls’ points to be dismantled with immediate effect.
According to one of the drivers, Mr. Ime Inyang, in an interview with The Union in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, “any commercial bus driver is forced to pay for two levies of N15,000 each including what they called the yearly safety clearance (N15,000) and the yearly assessment clearance (N15,000)”.
According to him, “they (the thugs) always throw wooden sticks with nails under any vehicle that would not want to stop there at the Ekebedi Oboro section of the Federal road”, adding that “several tires of commercial buses and haulage trucks have been busted, leading to several accidents on the spot”.
He said several complaints have been lodged at the nearby Ariam community Military Barracks to no avail, adding that “we need urgent government intervention to help us ply the road with ease”.
Confirming the incident, a soldier who would not want his name in print, told The Union that “we are tired of those people. We receive several complaints arising from the activities of those people there”.
He recalled that “some time ago, they threw sticks of nails under a truck that refused to stop and four of its tires were destroyed. We have asked them to evacuate the place because their activities are illegal but they claimed they are there on the orders of Governor Theodore Orji”.
“During the just concluded elections, all those boys ‘worked’ for the Governor; they were all there at the premises of the Ikwano Local Government Chairman during those elections to carry ballot boxes and thump-printed for the Governor”, he recalled, adding that “it will be difficult to chase them away because that is their settlement”, he added.