Covid-19: Extortion, suffering galore at Niger bridge

Covid-19: Extortion, suffering galore at Niger bridge

By Alphonssus Nweze

Motorists, commuters and pedestrians have decried the high level of extortion, corruption and callousness by the security operatives and agents of Covid-19 of Anambra and Delta States.

They said Covid-19 has unmasked the oppressive and corruptive instincts of officials of both State Governments who they alleged collude with security operatives to extort various sums of money from drivers to allow them pass through the Onitsha Bridge.
A lorry driver from the North, Salisu Muhammed, wondered why both security operatives and these officials from the two states turned both ends of the bridge into bazaar of sort in spite of the clear directive of the President Mohamadu Buhari, to allow vehicles carrying agricultural products, goods, petroleum products and those on essential duties safe passage.

Salisu said instead of obeying these instructions, these people created artificial barricade to block vehicles, which in turn caused long queues of traffic gridlock and sometimes extending to Borromeo at Onitsha end and Koka bus stop at Asaba end.
He said as a result some of them slept for two days on the gridlock in spite of the money they were compelled to pay.

Oseni Omoregie, another truck driver said sometimes they were forced to pay about N10, 000 before they were allowed to pass through series of barricades at the bridge, stressing that the security operatives and touts created many barriers which they must pay money before they allow them to pass.

On the side of Asaba, Delta State, he said, they have about seven barricades at Okwe, Oko junction, Toll Gate, at Tipper Junction, there were four road blocks before one gets into the bridge.
At the Onitsha end, Oseni said, they have four barricades in which they collected money from motorists and sometimes they have flying barricades, which does not physically exist but there were some people who collected money for these security operatives and the State officials.

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Then in between both end of Onitsha bridge there were Keke and Okada riders who ferried people to and from both sides of the bridge. These people paid some money to security operatives before they were allowed to operate.

In fact, both Delta and Anambra States lacked creativity and human face to manage this Covid-19 from onset
Ignatius Nwoma, a pharmacist, who works in Onitsha, but resides in Asaba said from the beginning of Covid-19 Lockdown these people carried out as if there was war between them, government and the people who voted them.

He said they failed to recognise the fact that Onitsha and Asaba are unique cities.
” They are like Siamese twins. They are inseparable. There are traders in Onitsha who live in Asaba. Virtually, traders in Bridgehead reside in Asaba,. The same is applicable to bankers who work in Onitsha. In fact, some professionals too and vice versa. If it is so, why are they now blocking the Bridge if not to suffer people and to extort them” he said.

Mr. Christopher Okonkwo who also works in Onitsha but resides in Asaba said from inception Governors Willie Obiano of Anambra State and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State would have taken into consideration all these aforementioned facts coupled with the approach to lock down at Niger bridge with human face.

He queried “have they forgotten that the people are mainly those in informal sector, if they do not go out, they would not feed? They were busy extorting the poor masses and inflicting them with pain”.
He said the height of insensitivity and recklessness was the construction of iron bar at both ends of the bridge by the Anambra State Government.

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The legal practitioner said the zealousness at which these people inflict pain was not to protect them from being infected with Covid-19 but to maximally extort them.

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