Food crisis looms in S'East as Transporters threaten to withdraw services over attacks by touts

By AdvocateNews on 03/07/2022

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• Ask S'East govs to remove thugs from highways

• Blame rising cost of food items on touts

Transporters of perishable goods under the aegis of the Truck and Bus Drivers Association of Nigeria (TABAN) have blamed the rising cost of food items in the South East on the activities of thugs who harass and extort money from their members.

The drivers union alleged there are over 2000 checkpoints across the federal highways in the South East zone where touts collect over 20 different levies and taxes.

The drivers who made this known while protesting over the activities of the thugs stated that the levies paid by drivers are later passed on to the consumers, leading to the skyrocketing prices of food items in the market.

The protesting drivers who barricaded the Lokpanta, Umunneochi LGA, Abia State axis of the Enugu – Port Harcourt expressway, lamented that they have lost over 5 drivers and 3 vehicles to the thugs who beat up their members and destroy their vehicles over non-payment of what they described as ‘illegal levies’ on the federal highways.

The Chairman of the Association, Mr Okezie Okeke, lamented that they have spent over N500,000 in hospital bills for many drivers who were beaten up for refusing to pay what he described as the ”illegal levies’ charged by touts along the federal highways.

The chairman disclosed that they have petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, who ordered the arrest of most of the thugs on the federal highways, but they returned to their nefarious activities within a few days.

He listed the worst areas where thugs beat up drivers for refusing to pay illegal revenue to include Lokpanta, Obollo Afor, Okigwe junction, and Umuikaa junction, among others.

“The South East zone may soon face a food crisis if the activities of illegal revenue thugs are not checked on all the federal highways in the zone. Truck and bus drivers conveying perishable goods from the North to the South East are daily beaten and their vehicles destroyed for refusing to pay over 20 different levies being charged by these thugs.

“The activities of these touts who claim to be working for both state and federal government revenue collectors are the reasons behind the skyrocketing of prices of perishable goods in the South East.

“We convey perishable goods like okra, tomatoes, vegetables and onions from the North. We don’t have a problem within the North, but our problem begins as soon as we get to Obollo Afor in Enugu to other cities in the South East.

“The thugs will beat you and destroy your vehicle if you fail to pay the over 20 different levies they charge. We have paid over N500,000 in hospital bills for our drivers who were beaten by the touts.

“Three days ago, they beat up our driver at Amansea, he is still in hospital while his bus loaded with perishable goods is yet to be seen. We have lost over 5 drivers and vehicles to them. At night, they rob drivers at these checkpoints. We will soon withdraw our services if the government fails to address the problem.

“We are calling on the five South East governors and the state Houses of Assembly in South East to quickly stop the thugs and find out who is empowering them, as their activities are causing more hardship on the people of the South-East.”

He said the South East will soon face a food crisis as they threatened to withdraw their services if nothing was quickly done to check the activities of touts. 

Posted 03/07/2022 09:21:28 AM

 

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