Wednesday, September 26, 2012

ONITSHA: THE NOTORIOUS TOUTS CITY



THE NOTORIOUS TOUTS CITY CALLED ONITSHA
Onitsha is the headquarters of Onitsha North Local Government Areas of Anambra State, South-East Nigeria. It is a bubbling city with high rate of commercial activities. It is a center to various big and small businesses scattered across the place.
For a first time visitor to Onitsha, he/she will mistake the place for a well organized society but, it is far from it. This is as a result of the many ills that go up here, even in the day light. The cases of robbery, pickpockets, dubious and vexatious taxing, deadly looking touts and so much notorious activities happen here unabated.
The essence of this right up is a result of the bitter experience I faced in the hands of touts, in the name of collecting revenue for the State government. Or, is it Local government now? I don’t know.
The date was Tuesday, 4 September, 2012. I was returning to the Northern states, from Benin City, the Edo State Capital, and my home state, where I went to spend some days while on my annual leave. Although this was not my first time of visiting or passing through Onitsha to my destinations, but, my experiences of that day angered me to my bone marrow.
Starting my journey from Benin City, I boarded the buses of Faith Motors, a private transport company, located along Akpakpava Street, by 2nd East Circular Road Junction, Benin City. All through our journey until the first passenger dropped at Asaba, the Delta State Capital, it was all very peaceful and smooth, though it was raining. After leaving Asaba and heading straight through the River Niger Bridge, we arrived Onitsha, the city known for its notorious tout activities.
The termination of our journey is the general motor park, which is very close to the Onitsha - Port Harcourt road overhead bridge, by the right as you face Asaba. This park is where all passengers vehicles from Benin City stop after revising through the overhead bridge. This park is also the place to carry passengers en route Lagos, Benin City, Uyo etc. It is very close to Ifeanyi Chukwu Luxurious Park, Onitsha.
Therefore, after alighting from the bus that took me from Benin City to Onitsha with the loads I carried in bags, a tout showed up while bargaining with a wheelbarrow pusher, to take my loads to G.U.O Okereke Motors, a luxurious park that services some selected Northern cities, like Yola, Jalingo, Sokoto, Kano etc. Meanwhile, the distance between this park and G.U.O is about a minute walk. So, he came with a receipt asking me to pay for dropping my load there. I asked him, is it me paying for my load, or the wheelbarrow pusher for his daily tax? It fell on deaf ears. So I ended up parting with N50.
As soon as we left this park and turning to the small road from the overhead bridge, another tout accosted us. He brought another receipt asking me to pay as well. Remember, we are on our way to G.U.O, not that we stop there for anything. I was wondering: When did Onitsha becomes this notorious for ticketing? Who am I complaining to? Nobody of course. Then and again, I parted with N20.
We therefore take the short road that passes through one market to burst out directly opposite G.U.O Park, lo and behold, a 3rd tout with another ticket. This time, I became furious and challenged their extorting menace. Again, who am I complaining to? This is because the average touts in Onitsha sees it as normal, when they are extorting money from passersby in the name of collecting revenue for the government. I am very sure that, this continuous daylight robbery by these touts is being monitored by their Ogas, who are nothing but touts as well waiting for the bounty their boys will bring on a daily basis.
I told them that in Benin City, where I came from, we don’t maltreat visitors and passersby in this way. It is on record that, the local governments that collects revenue for the various local councils in Edo State, do so with high sense of responsibility. A wheelbarrow pusher is billed once in a day and after paying and collecting his ticket, his customers, no matter the amount of load they may be carrying is never charge extra dine. It therefore became a surprised to me that Onitsha, which I passed before with similar loads and even more without paying any form of ticket, have become so notorious in ticketing.
Therefore, after shouting at them, I paid the money they were asking which was N20. Note that these short roads where these hooligans are daily robbing people in the name of collecting revenue for the government are in deep mess. No form of sign of the presence of government, let alone maintaining it for easy passage for commuters. You have to fold your trousers up when it rains otherwise, mud will become your neighbour as you walk along those short roads. It is very annoying I must confess. This is the height of irresponsible government administration that prides itself in the suffering of the public that passes their domain.
Now, considering how much money will be collected (exploited) from the public, who are passersby or petty trade vendors by these touts on a daily basis, it will leave one to wonder, whose interest is the government of the day serving in Anambra?
Moreover, when I finally got to G.U.O Motor Park, I was unlucky as the bus loading for Yola, the Adamawa State Capital have been fully booked when I arrived. Having missed G.U.O, I then settled for Eze Nwanta transport, which is just a stone thrown from G.U.O.
For the entire time I spent while waiting for our onward departure to Yola, I saw a repeat of the operations of these touts abusing and intimidating petty vendors with different types of receipts, threatening to seize their wares should they refuse to pay, not minding that the gains these people are getting from their sales are nothing to write home about. My God! What sort of robbery is this in the name of revenue collection? Mark you, these petty hawkers of Chinchin, Oha leave, groundnut, biscuits and sweets and other petty stuff, are also made to pay at every single motor park they will visit each day.
However, one may argue that these revenue that is been collected are minimal. Yes, they are minimal but, considering the number of victims that will fall to their trap each day, it brings this minimal amount of money in huge income in the hands of these government touts.
I therefore call on Mr. Peter Obi, the Anambra State governor, to investigate my claims. I know that if the state government is not behind this daylight robbery by these touts, they will impress it on whosoever is responsible, to stop this public menace in the name of collecting revenue for government. Should the state government take decisive action(s) to ending this touting operations in the state, Anambra will be better for it.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.