By Ozioruva Aliu
THERE was chaos in several parts of Benin City, Edo State, yesterday, as bus drivers, mostly those driving mini-buses, withdrew their services from the roads over alleged extortion by personnel of the Edo State Traffic Management Agency, EDSTMA, and Public Works Volunteers, PUWOV.
Commuters going from Wire Road to Ugowo, New Benin to Ugbowo had to trek long distances before they could get vehicles and the vehicles terminated their trips at Uselu, forcing commuters to trek the remaining distance to their destinations as the protesting bus drivers blocked parts of the Benin– Ugbowo Road.
The drivers took over some sections of the road, causing gridlock in some areas while other sections were completely deserted.
One of the drivers, Emmanuel Kanya, complained that there were not enough signs on the road to show where they can park and that the extortion was telling on their ability to pay back the buses they acquired on hire purchase for between N2.7million and N3 million.
But Managing Director of EDTSMA, Dennis Oloriegbe denied the allegation, saying: “We have gone the extra mile to educate them on where they should park or areas not to park. We put signposts and they got removed at night. We have arrested a driver with our signposts in his boot, so they have to obey the laws.”
He, however, said the agency was in talks with the drivers.
While the protest was on, residents of Oghede and other communities near the by-pass on Benin–Warri road blocked the road for the fourth day, over bad state of the road, which has became impassable.
A resident in the area, Omo Osifo, said the reason for the protest was because of deaths being recorded on the road with the latest being the killing of a man by a truck that was driving against traffic to avoid the bad spot.
He said: “Why should the government not fix that road? We heard that the state government is saying it is a federal road but how does that affect us? We don’t know federal road, we know we are in Edo State where there is a government.
“We have the local government, we have the oil and gas commission, we have NDDC, we have commissioners but nobody is listening to us. If it is a federal road, Governor Obaseki should inform the Federal Government to fix it.
A message to the Head of Road Maintenance of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, in Edo State, Ben Olisa was yet to be replied at press time.