By Izunna Okafor, Awka
The newly-established Anambra State Joint Enforcement Team (ANJET) created by Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo has been accused of extorting and harassing commuters in different parts of the state, in pretense of enforcement.
According to complains trending on different media platforms condemning the activities of the said enforcement team; the officers have left their main assigned duties and started feeding the innocent citizens while also causing untold hardship to the people.
It was alleged that the Team are a new brand of touts created by the current administration in the state just few weeks after the state government nominally barred the earlier version of touting in the state.
The officers of the new Team who usually dress in yellow jacket and cap perambulate in shuttle buses and tricycles, looking for scapegoats, or better put, whom to feed on.
For having the inscription ‘ARTMA’ which means Anambra State Road Traffic Management Agency on their uniforms; it was presume that the primary duty of the Team should be road decongestion and enforcement of other road traffic management-related rules.
Reports, however, allege that the officers have added more unauthorised job descriptions to their original roles while also overlooking the government-assigned roles for which they were established.
One of the victims of the excesses of the Team who spoke under the condition of anonymity said he was beaten up by the officers of the Team in Onitsha for parking on the road side where his car developed mechanical fault and refused to move any further.
Narrating his ordeal, he said: “Immediately I came down to set the Caution sign and open my car bonnet to check what the fault was; they surrounded me from nowhere and said I have committed an offence of wrong parking, and further said the fine is ₦50,000.
“Before I could even explain to them that the car developed fault, they had already started beating me up. They collected my key. And even when my wife wanted to put mouth, one of them slapped her.
“To cut the long story short, they ended up extorting the sum of ₦30,000 from me after beating us up. Can you imagine that kind of harassment from children I am old enough to be their father?”
Asked whether he was given any receipt for his payment, the victim said he was not given any receipt; and further explained that the officers threatened him that he would pay ₦50,000, pay ₦5000 for the fueling of their vehicle and also pay ₦20,000 for towing of his own vehicle if they took him and his car to their office; which, he said, made him to take the second option of ‘settling everything’ with just ₦30,000.
Corroborating this in a viral WhatsApp voicenote, another concerned resident of the state, Mr. Ejimofor Nwabunwanne advised Ndị Anambra who might be coming home, especially through Onitsha this yuletide, to be very cautious and watchful to avoid falling prey to the ANJET officers who are desperately looking for whom to feed on this period in the course of their criminal activities nicknamed enforcement.
According to him, the ANJET officers have made it a taboo now for vehicles to stop or park anywhere in Onitsha if not inside motor parks, most of which are always filled up and also considerably extortive.
Mr. Nwabunwanne advised any driver who enters Onitsha not to stop, whether to ease himself, buy, something, drop or pick someone, as doing so will attract the ANJET officers who do not even care to hear any explanation or know how well and safely one has parked, but are only concerned about their settlement.
He also lamented that there are no available parks for vehicles, especially private vehicles in Onitsha and other parts of the state, which, he said, naturally creates more rooms for the officers to extort innocent commuters.
Another victim from whom the Awka branch of the same ANJET officers extorted ₦5000 in front of GUO Motors office in Awka today (Thursday) said he was coming from Enugu and stopped at the front of the GUO along the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway to top water in his vehicle, only for the officers to storm in a shuttle bus and double-cross him.
He said they started by questioning why he kept the Caution sign only at the back without keeping any at the back when he parked. He said after clearing them on that, they told him to open his boot for them to see what he had there, which after he did, they still went back to their first question and insisted that he must settle them with ₦10,000 to avoid being taken to the office and charged for wrong parking.
The victim who identified himself as Ifeanyi, said the officers eventually extorted the sum of ₦5000 from him before releasing him. He also revealed that he was not issued any receipt after the payment.
The excesses of these officers and their means of collecting fine made this reporter to imagine if they were actually given proper orientation, being supervised or monitored by the authority that set them up, and if all the fines they collect daily, running into hundreds of thousands of naira (if not millions) truly get to the government.
However, efforts made to verify these from the State Commissioner for Transport, Barr. Pat Igwebuike, proved abortive, as she did not pick her call after several attempts.