By Chimaobi Nwaiwu – Nnewi
There was a total breakdown of law and order yesterday at the Niger Bridge Head area of Onitsha, near the status of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, when machetes and other dangerous weapons wielding touts took over the Onitsha-Enugu expressway, attacking anybody on sight.
The touts were chanting “No ticket, no peace” “We own Anambra State, and we will continue collecting our levies” “Nobody will stop our work.”
About 15 people sustained various degrees of injuries as they run for their lives, while oncoming vehicles and tricycles knocked others down resulting to different bodily injuries as they tried to escape from the attack of the rampaging machete brandishing touts in the area.
This is even as members of the Executive Friends Drivers Welfare Association, EFDWA, the commercial drivers that ply Onitsha -Asaba routes, engaged in a protest against the extortion of over N4,800 from them by illegal revenue collectors and touts that operate at the Niger Bridge Head end of Onitsha Enugu expressway, and touts at the Upper Iweke area of the road.
Some of the placards carried by members of EFDWA, read, “Nelson Enendu what revenues you collecting after State government banned IGR” We say no to illegal extortion by Nelson Enendu” Governor Obiano listen to the cry of poor innocent drivers” “We are happy to be affiliated with RTEAN”
Chairman of the EFDWA, Mr Osmond Okpe, while addressing his members at the venue of their protest said, revenue collectors working for a park Manager, Mr Nelson Enlendu, and one man identified as Tallest, are behind the extortion against them.
The touts numbering about 30, wielding knives, planks and other dangerous weapons at about 10.40am took over the Niger Bridge Head area of Onitsha Enugu expressway, near Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu status, attacking anybody in site, traders, passerby, tricycle operators and oncoming vehicles from Asaba end of the Bridge, in protest against the stoppage of revenue they collect from the tickets they give to commercial vehicle drivers, by the State government.
The activities of the touts grounded vehicular movement from Onitsha to Asaba and from Asaba Delta State, into for over 30 minutes, as people including private vehicle owners abandoned their vehicles along the road and on the Niger Bridge to escape for their lives, before a combined team of the Police and the Nigerian Army appeared with over fifteen Pickup vans to restore peace, law, and order.
The attack by the machete and other dangerous weapon wielding touts was shortly after the EFDWA, members had protested against the collection of different kinds of levies from them by the touts, working for their agents, who are said to have been directed by the Anambra state government to stop such levies collection.
As Chairman of the EFDWA, Mr Okpe was addressing newsmen shortly after their protest, he got a call that some of the touts were coming to attack him and the media men, and shortly after receiving the call, some boys wielding machete and other dangerous weapons, invaded the area causing everybody around, including newsmen to escape for the lives.
However, the combined team of battle-ready looking Policemen and Army, arrived at the scene and arrested some of the touts with their machetes and other dangerous weapons.
The combined team of Police and Army cordoned off arrested the area, seized some of the machete abandoned by touts and arrested some who his in some parked tricycles, gave them the beating of the lives, before taking them away, while some Police and Army officer were stationed at the Head Bridge to maintain law and order.
While addressing newsmen before the invasion of the touts, Chairman of EFDWA, Mr Okpe, said what the government approved for his members to pay on a daily basis was N100, for those plying Inter-State, that is Onitsha to Asaba routes and N50 for those plying within Onitsha, that is Town Service, but the touts are collecting N750 from them at the Bridge Head, and another group at the Upper Iweka end are collecting compulsory N1000 ‘Award money, another N1500 and other sundry money from them and when put together, amounts to N4,800 daily from them.
He said that another group, the Urban Drivers Welfare Association, UDWAS, which is a union like them, and which they are not members and therefore, not supposed to collect money from them are collecting N100 daily from his members.
When Vanguard contacted Chief Enendu, who is also the Treasurer of Anambra State Park Managers Association, he said he is in the Police Station trying to sort out a disturbing issue.
He said that the “members of Road Transport Employers Association Nigeria, RTEAN, is working with the EFDWA to taken over his lawful job and there clash which the police came to stop.”
Contacted, the Deputy Chairman Operations, of RTEAN, Mr Onyeka Ezeani, said: “Chief Enendu should confirm that he is still working with his boys in the parks in a statement or text message after the government has directed that they stop collection any levy.”
“Enendu should also state in writing or text message what his lawful job is and it was his boys are fighting with machetes and other dangerous to retain his so-called rightful job.