SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Tuesday, February 16, 2016 must be an unforgettable day for officials of the Edo State Transport Management Agency (EDSTMA) and the state Ministry of Transport under the Commissioner, Isimeme Irogbe, when Governor Adams Oshiomhole stormed their premises. The action flowed from the outcry from members of the public who accused the EDSTMA members of alleged extortion, harassment and all sorts of illegality which Oshiomhole had persistently warned them against. The governor had lamented how the EDSTMA officials were destroying the image of his government particularly as they were popularly referred to as ‘Oshiomhole’s Police’.
The agency had been set up last year to control traffic in Benin-City and also restore sanity to parks and markets, after market women converted walk ways into shops. Sadly, their introduction, which also helped in the employment of over 10,000 youths, became a problem to the state government which disbanded the agency late last year.
Meanwhile, even nursing mothers were said to have been molested by the agency officials under the guise that they beat traffic light. The officials, it was alleged, would try to forcibly take the steering from drivers while on motion, a situation that led to serious accidents. Like Oshiomhole described the situation, they exhibited wickedness even to nursing mothers and travellers passing through Benin-City to Lagos or to the East. “And it hurts me more because each time they go out to commit these atrocities, people call them ‘Oshiomhole Police’ and I have no police. I never sent them to cause pains to our people and that is why I am personally pained.
They are not my police, they are not my boys, these are people who still believe they are in the old days, when PDP was in power. And that is why we must stop this wickedness against our people”, the governor said. Sunday Vanguard observed that victims, who failed to part with the money requested, will be dragged to their office, located at Sapele Road, where they will immediately deflate the vehicles tyres and issue papers to them to pay some amount of money. Even after passing through the rigours of the payment and your vehicle is released, you still have the task of getting somebody to pump your tyres to leave the compound. All these led to their disbandment but some members of the agency regrouped this year and continued their extortion.
Oshiomhole gave them a shocker of their lives when he stormed their office at Sapele Road, scrutinizing all the receipt books in their possession. The governor was amazed at the number of seized vehicles found in the compound and even several keys that the owners decided to abandon, apparently due to lack of money to secure the release of their vehicles. Visibly angry Oshiomhole persistently yelled at the officials, describing their activities as not only a crime against God and humanity but fraudulent. He ordered the arrest and detention of some of the officials and immediate release of all the vehicles seized by them.
His pronouncement was greeted with wild jubilation by hundreds of persons in the premises seeking the release of their seized vehicles. He reiterated the disbanded of EDSTMA in a bid to sanitize and rid Edo roads of unwholesome activities. Speaking during the unscheduled visit to the premises of the state Ministry of Transport, Oshiomhole said: “I have received a lot of complaints from members of the public. Even some of our Commissioners have observed a lot of extortion going on. All of these young men and women just go and put on T-shirts, unauthorized, unemployed. They just take over some strategic streets and extort money from members of the public. Whether you are guilty or not, they take you to this place, issue fake receipts, and we have seen a number of the fake receipts.
One was shown to us this morning, and we find a similar example here now. So, I want to, once again, publicly announce that these men, called EDSTMA, have since been disbanded. They have no business on the roads. Henceforth, anybody they harass, the person should report them to the nearest police station. We are going to set up a monitoring squad, made up of policemen, both plain clothes and uniformed, to arrest anyone that decides to turn our high way to extortion point. Anyone that harasses motorists in the state will be sent to prison.”