A Owerri based journalist, Modestus Nwankpa writes on his ordeal with agents of Owerri Mayorial Affairs Office
By Nwamkpa Modestus#
The establishment of the Owerri Mayoral Affairs and its traffic task force by the Governor of Imo state Owelle Rochas Okorocha was a great disservice to the people of Imo state. In fact, I want to say that it was like a poison served on Imo people. However, based on my personal encounter yesterday, I have concluded that indeed, it was a meaningless contraption and a somewhat Gestapo group established for the reason only best known to the Governor.
Imo people particularly motorists are passing through hell in the hands of these wicked, belligerent, haggard and angry looking extortionist group unleashed on the state in the name of Owerri Mayora Affairs Traffic task force. I confirmed this yesterday in Owerri as I had a very terrible and sordid experience in the hands of these Gestapo group.
At around 10:30 am yesterday, I was driving along Wetheral road and decided to buy Newspaper at Wetheral by Item Street. So I pulled off the road to call the Vendor for a copy of Sun Newspaper. No sooner had I pulled off than one Car hurriedly overtook my Car and stop in front of me in a commando style. Quickly, four terribly looking and disgusting young guys alerted from the Car like Kidnappers and came to me while my car was still steaming and my Car Windscreens were wind up. I knew it was them anyway from the T-shirt and I did not border.
They came to me and told me that I had committed an offence by parking along the road. Initially, I was calm because I knew they were talking nonsense as I was still inside the Car and equally knew that I did not obstruct vehicular movement. I never came out from my Car.
Suddenly, one rude guy among them who was looking like an Oshodi motor park tout told me in a hush and Indian Hemp destroyed cracked tone that I must follow them to their office at ICAPS along Egbu Road and while this embarrassment was going on, the other of their colleague was busy removing the plate number of my car without any courtesy. I just allowed him to complete his foolishness.
So I called one of them whom I sensed was their ring leader and asked him whether he knew me? And quietly he told me that he didn’t know me. Again, I told him whether he knew the implication of their unruly behavior and he did not answer. Later, he said I would be given ‘Caution’ letter or tag (I didn’t know ) at their office.
At that stage, I didn’t want to go further and therefore I requested that we must get to their office because I decided that I must see whoever their Boss is and also i wanted to use the opportunity to get to the root of that nonsense which I have heard severally before now.
So, about three of them entered my Car to their office. There, I confirmed my fear! It was there I discovered the fraud behind this public malady called Owerri Mayoral Affairs task force. Meanwhile, along the road before we got to their office, two of the guys inside my car pleaded with me to give them money because according to them, if I got to their office, whatever I give their Boss would eventually not be given to them. I was already angry at this time and I told them that I would never give one Kobo to anybody including whoever is their Oga because I wanted to just see their Oga and talk to him/her over this disservice and embarrassment on Imo people.
Immediately we got to where they said was their office at ICAPS. We drove inside the back of the place where one small gate was opened and I drove in. The entire place looked like Kidnappers den. It was covered with Bushes and looking deserted. There was no office anywhere and nobody to talk to.
I again requested to speak to their Oga and it was at that time that one of them inside my Car told me politely that they didn’t have any Oga. Surprisingly, he told me that that was what they do to help themselves. My holy God! He pleaded with me to give them money. At this stage, I became angry and furious. I became red and threatened to ensure that I take the matter up. One of them inside the place suddenly saw what was happening and came to where we were. He told them to allow me go claiming to have known me. They all started pleading with me to go and I refused.
Meanwhile, there were more than ten other cars inside the place who apparently committed the same ‘offence’ with their owners negotiating ‘bail out’ price with them before I arrived. So while I was shouting on them in a harsh tone, some of their captives inside the place got emboldened, came and surrounded me like a messiah. Quickly, I called one pregnant woman among them and asked her what her offence was. She narrated her ordeal in the hands of these wicked task force and told me she had already agreed to part with Eight Thousand naira being the money she was suppose go to Hospital that day with.
I told her not to give them one naira again instead she should park her Car there and follow me in my Car promising to ensure that I took the matter to higher authority. Without wasting time, they also released the woman and her Car and we drove out together leaving the rest at the mercy of those task force guys.
I was surprised at the level of barbarism and impunity going on in Imo state in the name of Owerri Mayoral Affairs task force. In the first place, what is actually the importance of Owerri Mayoral Affair and its traffic task force in a capital city like Owerri. There are so many task forces existing in Owerri today all in the business of impounding vehicles at the slightest excuse and extorting money from innocent and hapless citizens in the name of traffic offence. Is this the way Imo will be better?
I recall that this was the same thing and the same approach that a certain Willie Amadi adopted during Ohakim’s tenure and Imo people rose in condemnation and now Okorocha is reinventing the Wheel. His own is even the worst because there are about three different task forces in the state doing the same dirty job of harassing and distorting money from motorists in a way that is not dignifying.
We will recall with trepidation that last Month, one Keke operator was crushed to death by an incoming Trailer along Port Harcourt Road while running away from one of the Task forces. The operations of these task forces particularly the obviously meaningless Owerri mayoral Affairs should be checked and curtailed. In fact, let government disband it forthwith. This is becoming embarrassing and disgusting in Imo state.
ENTRACO is doing a fairly good job. So, bringing or unleashing Owerri Mayoral affairs again on the same poor Motorists in Imo is unconscionable and smacks of duplication of duty.