Anambra commuters lament gridlock on highways

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Commuters travelling various highways and roads in Anambra State, particularly along the Onitsha-Owerri dual carriageway are lamenting the heavy gridlock caused as a result of multiple roadblocks mounted by security operatives at various points.

The areas where the checkpoints cause the gridlock are Obosi-Idemili Bypass under the newly completed Second Niger Bridge flyover, First Gate Bus Stop, Enamel Bus Stop, Ozubulu Police Area Command Headquarters, Ekwusigo Local Government Area Headquarters at Ozubulu and Okija Junction all along the Onitsha-Owerri dual carriageway.

 

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Afam Osigwe

Chukwuemeka Mbamala

Chukwuemeka Mbamala

Others are the Borremeo Bus Stop, Ogbo-Ogwu Junction, Amawbia By-pass, Awkuzu Junction, all along the Awka-Onitsha Expressway, among others.

 

Findings by our correspondent on Wednesday showed that the checkpoints were mounted very close to each other by security operatives including police, naval ratings and the army and were being used to extort various sums of money from motorists plying the roads.

For instance, at the Enamel Junction, the naval ratings who mounted the checkpoints there engaged some youths to collect various amounts of money ranging from N1,000, N500 and N100 from truck drivers, shuttle bus drivers and tricycle operators respectively.

 

Speaking to our correspondent in separate interviews over the ugly development, a concerned citizen and Chairman, Board of Trustees of Importers Association of Nigeria, Chief Gilbert Obi, called on security agencies within the Anambra State command to urgently monitor the activities of their subordinates at these roadblocks.

 

Obi, an Onitsha-based resident, lamented that the negative consequences of the commando-style operations of the security operatives at the checkpoints were gradually becoming so inexplicable that law-abiding commuters were no longer comfortable with them on the highways.

He insisted that how the security operatives block both sides of the highways with condemned motor tyres and drums and then leave only a small space where they would mount a sentry and begin to flag down every oncoming vehicle left much to be desired.

 

He said, “By so doing, while the policemen would be demanding one thing or the other from each of the drivers passing through the roadblock, the gridlock would build up uptown two miles or even more.

 

“We are suggesting that if the policemen are suspecting any vehicle, they should order the driver to clear out of the road for a search, while others continue with their journey, instead of wasting commuters’ time and at the same time shamelessly and unnecessarily tarnishing the image and reputation of the force which the hierarchy had laboriously built over the years.

“People are not against the checkpoints or roadblocks on our highways because of the security challenges of our time, but we are against the lackadaisical attitude of the policemen and naval ratings which usually causes the gridlocks and puts law-abiding commuters into unnecessary stress on the road.”

 

Also lamenting, some commercial drivers alleged that the naval ratings at the Enamel Bus Stop on the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway deliberately left a “small portion” for road users to make it convenient to extort money from them.

 

One of the drivers, who identified himself as the Welfare Officer of Anambra Drivers Union, John Uzor, lamented the hardship the “extortions” on the Onitsha-Owerri Road had been causing travellers.

Uzor said, “We spend several hours for a journey of 30 minutes, especially in the evenings because of the money the naval ratings collect from commercial drivers and tricycle operators. The worrisome aspect is that they engage teenagers to do the extortions for them while they supervise.”

Another driver, Johnson Ibe, said, “This is how the Navy people disturb us daily. They make life very uncomfortable for us and the passengers. Here, we pay N500 for crossing the checkpoints every time. At the end of the day, we pay close to N5,000 or even more per vehicle daily.

 

“It depends on the kind of vehicle you are driving. For me, I drive a shuttle bus, so the money I will pay may differ from what all those big lorries pay. They positioned these boys to collect money for them because they don’t want people to see them collecting the money in uniforms.”

 

A tricycle operator, Joshua Ugo, said, “This thing is not a new thing. It is something they have been doing since. Even when new officers are deployed, they still do the same thing. It has become a recurring decimal. The government should please help us stop this, it is killing us because they are eating out of our daily income and it is not fair.”

Reacting to the development, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Tochukwu Ikenga, said he would reach out to the command monitoring unit to intensify efforts towards arresting the situation.

 

All efforts to get the reaction of the Anambra State Naval Commander proved abortive as his phone rang out several times and messages sent were yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report.

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