.Vandalize offices, cart away 86 impounded motorcycles
Angry youths and commercial motorcycle operators numbering over 500 Tuesday invaded the headquarters of the Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) along PortHarcourt road, Owerri, destroying and vandalizing properties of the agency.
The rampaging youths believed to have been constituted largely by Okada operators plying their trade within and around the Umuguma area of the state capital, were allegedly armed with machetes, locally made pistols, broken bottles, clubs and other dangerous weapons.
The youths who also reclaimed and carted away impounded motorcycles in the custody of the OCDA numbering over 86 were said to have been reacting to alleged incessant harassment and impounding of their source of livelihood by the OCDA.
While the OCDA maintains that there is a law restricting the operation of commercial motorcycles in the state capital of which the impounded motorcycles ran foul; some of the youths insists that they operate only within unrestricted areas, accusing the OCDA of premeditated extortion.
Some of the operators who were interviewed by our correspondent around the Umuguma junction but craved anonymity, unanimously maintain that the OCDA officials were charging N10,000 for the release of impounded motorcycles.
They were angered by the fact that after paying the said N10,000, the same okada operator would still be impounded again and made to pay all over again.
Responding, the Special Adviser to the General Manager of the OCDA, Ikechukwu Akumonye denied their claims in its entirety saying that, ‘no kobo was collected from any okada operator as the impounded motorcycles were not to be released without the directive of the state governor. Our mandate was to impound, not to release’.
Commenting also, the General Manager, Rev. Johnson Ayozie stated that a taskforce was formed on the directive of Governor Rochas Okorocha to force the okada operators out of the city centre. He noted that before the taskforce went into operation, a meeting was held with the operators a mutual understanding was reached.
Said he, “Surprisingly, last Monday, over 200 okada operators attacked my workers around Chibyke filling station area near Naze and beat them to stupor for enforcing the Governor’s directive. Some of them were arrested and later released. We went back to work so it came as a shock to hear that they invaded our head quarters and thoroughly vandalized it.”
While some public commentators maintain that the OCDA has no business enforcing the restriction law of the state, Ayozie had this to say: “I work for the governor and all I know is that we were following the directive of the governor. And that is all that matters. Our mandate is to drive away every trash from the state capital and that is what we are going to do.”
The General Manager however informed newsmen that the governor has also directed that the police now join the taskforce.
Meanwhile, Police have confirmed the arrest of 10 suspects in connection with the attack on the OCDA. Speaking when he visited the OCDA for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation, the Imo state Commissioner for Police, Mr. Adisa Bolanta assured that the hoodlums who attacked the agency would not go unpunished as police have intensified investigations into the attack on the government facility.