By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI—Touts have taken over the streets of Owerri, Imo State capital, harassing and extorting money from unsuspecting citizens.
While scores of the red-eyed, stick-carrying touts claim to be staff of Environmental Transformation Commission, ENTRACO, others storm private business outfits, forcing them to pay varying sums of money as tax.
Vanguard investigation revealed that the municipality had been carved out into various segments and given to some individuals to collect the tolls.
Although it was not clear at press time the person, local government or ministry the touts were working for, they have taken over the entire space.
A man, who gave his name simply as Vincent, said he was accosted, yesterday, by the rampaging touts at the Control Post, Owerri, and virtually made to cough out N10,000 for parking near the NNPC Mega Station to buy banana.
“These touts pounced on my car as soon as I stopped to buy fingers banana. They claimed that they were working for ENTRACO and before I knew what was happening, they fleeced me of N10,000.
“Heaven was almost let loose when I asked for a receipt to cover the money collected for the state government,” he said.
Another woman, Madam Bertha Ngozi Iwuajoku, lamented that she barely managed to make a living from the sale of fruits.
“These people (touts) came to my stand, yesterday, and slammed a N3,000 bill on me. The entire fruits on my table was not worth that much but they never cared to know.
“If this is how the state government will handle the citizens in the next four years, then we are all in serious trouble,” she said angrily.