Drivers of perishable goods under the aegis of Truck and Bus Association of Nigeria, has warned that the South East states risk food crisis if the activities of thugs who extort money , beat up drivers and seize their vehicles and goods, are not checked.
They stated that the activities of the revenue thugs are behind the rising cost of food materials in the zone as the consumers now bear the pains.
The protesting drivers who barricaded the road at Lokpanta Umunneochi LGA, Abia State ,along the Enugu – Port Harcourt expressway, lamented that they have lost over 5 drivers and 3 vehicles to the thugs who beat up drivers and destroy their vehicles over non-payment of what it described as ‘illegal levies’ on federal highways.
Chairman of the Association,Mr. Okezie Okeke, told Sunday Vanguard that there are over 2000 revenue checkpoints across the federal highways in the South East zone manned by thugs who collect over 20 assorted levies, seize vehicles and beat up drivers who fail to comply with what he described as ”illegal levies.”
The chairman lamented that they have petitioned the Inspector General of Police,Usman Alkali Baba, who ordered the arrest of most of the thugs on the federal highways, but they returned to their nefarious activities within 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, Umuikaa junction ,among others.
He said; “The South East zone may face soon face 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 are daily beaten and their vehicles destroyed for refusing to pay over 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 differences between the prices of perishable goods in the North and South-East.
“We convey perishable goods like Okra, tomatoes, vegetables and onions. We don’t have problem within the North, but your problem begins as soon as you get to Obollo Afor in Enugu. The thugs will beat you and destroy your vehicle if you fail to pay the over 20 different levies they charge. Three days,ago , they brat up our driver at Amansea, he is still in hospital while his bus loaded with goods are 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 situation.
“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.”