Drivers, Touts War: Obiano’s Intervention Postpones Bloodshed

July 2, 2020
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*as “park managers” threaten return to old rate

From Chuks Collins, Awka

Except something urgent was done to restructure and arrest the current ugly scenario in the supervision of motor parks in Anambra state, more bloodshed may be in the making.

The touts enlisted to forcefully collecting high charges from commuter bus drivers by some top government officials in the state are currently threatening retaliation over the reduction of the amount they had been collecting from each bus load of passengers from N1200 to N500.

Drivers association plying the Awka-Afor Igwe-Nkpor-Onitsha route where casualties were recorded in the one week old crisis before truce was brokered told journalists that the grouse was the N1,200 charges that agents of government officials were forcefully taking from them, while mandating them to carry only half the normal number of passengers. That the situation was leaving them with almost nothing at the end, per trip especially at the Awka-Ekwulobia-Oko-Umunze route.

To ensure minimal resistance, the touts collecting the fees/charges enlisted the services of armed anti-riot policemen and soldiers to enforce payment. They were wrong as the drivers on the Onitsha route stood their ground of not paying.

The drivers’ resisted and opting for a fifty percent reduction of the charges. The touts(christened “park managers”)vehemently rejected the proposal resulting in a free-for-all that lasted for nearly one week. A life was allegedly lost while many sustained injuries, commuter services were disrupted throwing peace and security of lives of citizens in the area in jeopardy.

However, the intervention of Gov Willie Obiano vide the new Commissioner for Transport, Mr Afam Mbanefo in the fracas saved what would have been a free-for-all bloody two axis simultaneous fight on the Awka-Ekwulobia-Oko-Umunze, and the Awka-Afor Igwe-Nkpor-Onitsha routes. It was learnt the ugly arrangement was left behind by the former Commissioner for Transport for selfish reasons.

According to the Chairman of the Awka-Ekwulobia-Oko Drivers Welfare Association, Ossy Okoye, who led all his members on a peaceful protest to the Anambra state Secretariat complex where they met with the Commissioner for Transport, Mr Mbanefo the problem was the forceful “charge of N1200 being taken from us on each trip by the park managers who were appointed by the state government was becoming unbearable especially in the present economic realities in the country.

“After series of letters to the governor’s office for a meeting without response, we were forced to embark on the peaceful protest.

“The governor quickly despatched the Commissioner for Transport who brokered peace and instantly brought down the charges from N1200 to N500 per vehicle, per trip. And it saved what would have snowballed into a major crisis”.

Mr Okoye thanked the governor and his aides for their timely intervention before it deteriorated into a bloody clash. He however appealed for the repairs of the badly eroded road network in the state to make their operations smoother and easier.

But when contacted, Mr Ebele Nnofu who leads those fleecing the drivers in the Ekwulobia motor park refused comments, saying the status quo would soon return and there was nothing anyone would do about it.

He threatened journalists who dare to write the report, beating his chest that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) administration in the state chooses how to operate every aspect of the economy.

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