By CHUKS EKE
Authorities of Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, ONICCIMA have decried what they termed as worrisome menace of touts, hoodlums and illegal toll collectors operating in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra state and its environs, saying that the notoriety of these individuals has cast a dark cloud on the image of the once bustling Onitsha business community.
President of ONICCIMA, Sir Chris Ukachukwu, a pharmacist who spoke to newsmen at the Chamber’s office, noted that while they commend the state government on its current efforts aimed at flushing out all manners of illegality on our roads and markets, reality on ground is that the touts appear to increase their nefarious activities each time government makes pronouncements against their activities.
Flanked by ONICCIMA’s 1st Deputy President, Chief Kelvin Obieri; 2nd Deputy President, Odekpe Anyadufu; Director-General, Stanley Anyadufu and the Vice President Public Relations, PR, Chinedu Nwonu, Ukachukwu expressed concern over the vicious nature and menace of these touts, miscreants and illegal toll collectors who he said are scattered across Onitsha metropolis, adding that their clandestine activities were made more obvious due to the death of a truck driver who crashed into a concrete drainage in his bid to escape from their grip.
According to the ONICCIMA boss, the untimely death of the truck driver led to the widespread unrest as angry road users blocked all lanes of the expressway, thus causing traffic gridlock for hours and subjecting commuters to trauma, just as the ripple effects of the gridlock reverberated throughout Onitsha, Asaba, Nkpor, Ogidi, Ogbunike, Obosi, 33-Nkwelle Ezunaka and all other surrounding cities.
He contended that the despicable activities of these touts which included incessant harassment, damage to property, extortion and illegal toll collections have contributed largely towards the diminishing business fortunes of Onitsha business community, as their operations do a lot of disservice to Anambra state’s bid to leverage investor confidence and attract much needed foreign and local direct investment.
He regretted that notwithstanding the numerous pronouncements by the state government banning the activities of these illegal revenue collectors, there seems to be a concerted effort by unknown person to provide effective back-up for the miscreants, thereby creating a perception of lawlessness in the business community.
He therefore called on the state government to begin a clamp down on the touts and their collaborators who provide cover for them, adding that the anti-touting squad set up by the state government, under the supervision of the state Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Markets and Wealth Creation should sustain the clamp down without fear or favour.
He expressed the confidence that with sustained and committed efforts, government would be able to rid the state of these individuals who have contributed nothing to the growth of the Onitsha business community, but rather continued to deny government much needed revenue as a result of their illegal activities.