By Nwabueze Okonkwo
LUXURY bus owners, under the umbrella of Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria, ALBON, have petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu and the Chairman of Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19/Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, complaining bitterly against what they termed excessive extortion by security agencies at road blocks on highways.
They alleged that apart from extorting between N2,000, N5,000 and N10,000 from each vehicle, depending on its category in each of about 25 checks points mounted by the security agencies from Port Harcourt to Kano, the check points also prolong the journey from the Southern part of the country to the North.
They, therefore, appealed to the authorities to as a matter of urgency, revise this economic sabotage, dismantle all road blocks on highways and in its stead, deploy police motorised surveillance vehicles to counter criminals and insurgency as according to them, in all the check points, any driver who refused to offer bribe to the police would have his legs and hands tied with rope inside his vehicle, while his passengers would be discharged and his vehicle impounded.
They also appealed to the authorities concerned to immediately withdraw and replace with new officials, all the staff and personnel of the security agencies who monitored the compliance of COVID-19 inter-state lockdown at the peak of the total lockdown.
In separate petitions to Adamu and Mustapha dated July 13, 2020 and made available to newsmen in Onitsha, Anambra state, yesterday, ALBON frowned that the security agencies, particularly the police capitalised on the brisk businesses they engaged in during the inter-state lockdown and continued with their extortion tendencies, not minding the fact that the inter-state lockdown has been lifted by the Federal Government.
The petition entitled: “SOS: Excessive extortions by security agencies at road blocks cripple commercial vehicle transportation in the face of COVID-19 pandemic”, further noted that the association complied with the presidential taskforce and CDC’s health protocols for commercial vehicles in parks, terminals, loading bays and on inter-state routes.
The petitions were jointly signed by Chief Joseph Ejiofor of the God’s Time Motors Limited, Chairman ALBON National Taskforce; Uchenna Akuegbu of the Uchenna Motors Limited, Chairman, ALBON Taskforce, Anambra state; Alhaji Haruna Babanyara, ALBON Chairman, Sokoto Central Motor park, Sokoto; Malam Yusuf Mohammed Chairman Jabutu Luxury Park, Yola, Adamawa state and Malam Yusuf Garba, Acting ALBON Taskforce Chairman, New Road Park, Tudunwada, Sabon Gari, Kano.
The petitioners recalled that the extortions started during the period of the inter-state lockdown when the unorganised motor transporters capitalised on it in collusion with some unscrupulous security agents at the borders as a brisk business by offering huge amount of monies as bribes in order to pass the borders freely without observing the COVID-19 rules and protocols.
They noted that ALBON complied with all the protocols such as fumigation and sanitization of vehicles, deployment of passengers’ manifest for contact tracing, observance of basic hygene procedure such as washing of hands, provision of sanitizers and use of infrared thermometers to check temperature.
They added that in the case of social distancing, they reduced the number of passengers boarding their buses or vehicles from seven to five for Sienna, 15 to nine for Hummer bus, 33 to 20 for Coaster bus, 52 to 25 for Luxury bus four to three for Saloon car and 59 to 30 for bigger Luxury bus.
They contended that it is obvious from the above scenario that commercial road operators run heavy losses by observing the health protocols and guidelines on COVID-19, to the extent that some of the companies are struggling to break even or make profit to sustain the road transport business yet these unscrupulous security agents are busy causing economic sabotage by blocking the roads and still extort as much as they extorted during the inter-state border lockdown.