Owners of luxury buses on Saturday protested alleged harassment and extortion by suspected produce toll collectors along the nation’s highways, especially Benue and Ebonyi State roads.
The protesters under the auspices of the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON) gave federal and state governments 14 days ultimatum to dismantle all roadblocks mounted by produce toll collectors in the states.
Addressing newsmen in Onitsha, Anambra State Chairman of ALBON Taskforce, Mr. Uchenna Maduakor, flanked by his colleagues, Chukwuma Nwolisa of Osinachi Motors and Afamefuna Aboaja of Ifeanyoluchukwu Motors, said his group would use their buses to block highways on the expiration of the ultimatum.
He alleged that some of their drivers and passengers had severally been beaten and their vehicles robbed in isolated areas, including the delay they experienced on their journey occasioned by roadblocks by the Army, Police, and Produce toll collectors.
He said, “For instance, a journey of four hours will take us eight hours. The problem is not even the money they collect from us but the delay and sometimes they will draw drivers down and beat them for no just cause.
“The recent experience was the day I was going to Taraba state, a G.U. Okeke bus that was coming back to Onitsha was robbed by the suspected Produce toll collectors. These produce collectors stay from pole to pole. We pay between 2000 to 5000 and even more.
“The worst part of the routes are Aliede to Gboko in Benue state and Abakaliki to Ogoja route in Ebonyi state. We are following Ebonyi state through Abakaliki to Ogoja to Benue state due to bad roads.
“That route is now impassable due to the menace of produce collectors who line up along the road. It was on that route that Ifeanyoluchukwu bus and Chukwudi bus were attacked and their busses were damaged.”
While revealing that they were now compelled to drive on the convoy with a police escort who they contribute money to pay for fear of the toll collectors, Maduakor called on the government’s intervention against the attacks.
He said further: “We are no longer talking about armed robbers but produce toll collectors who hide underproduce to rob us and attack us on the highway. They rob us and our passengers in broad daylight. They have roadblocks village to village, pole to pole in Ebonyi route.
“Besides, we pay revenue at the park where we load as a luxury bus, not lorry buses but they will insist that we must pay them on the road and when we pay for instance N2000 they will tell you that it’s too small and in the process, they will beat up driver or smash the vehicle.”