CRISIS LOOMS IN OGUN OVER EXTORTION ON FEDERAL ROADS… ICPC, OTHERS TO THE RESCUE

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By our Reportee

There is palpable tension in parts of Ogun State over extortion on Federal roads by some private agents who have been suspected to be operating in connivance with men of the Nigeria Police working on check- points on the affected parts of the Federal roads. The private agents usually show off in thuggery aggression to mount road blocks on the Federal roads and perpetrate their illicit activities against transporters’ and other road users, even as they have on several occasions claimed to be engaged by Community Development Associations in some Local Government areas in the state vide revenue generation plan.

While not compromising revenue generation roles of Local Government Councils in the states towards ensuring the development of their domains especially their rural communities, we affirm that no Local Government Council reserves the constitutional power to to collect any stipulated rates in the name of revenue generation from Federal roads users, especially when.the Federal Government that owns and maintains the roads has not directed to the effect. It is therefore illegal for any Local Government. Council or it’s Community Development Associations in the states of the Federation to engage anybody or group either in individual or corporate capacity in any such activities. And where any such activity is allowed, or even encouraged, any identified perpetrator representing the benefitting private or public interest should be made to face the wrath of the law without compromise.

In Imeko Afon Local Government area of Ogun State, perpetration of this illegal activity had been on the increase unchecked, making it look like organised crime in the circumstance. From Abeokuta, the State capital, a Federal road leads to Imeko, headquarters of Imeko Afon Local Government area through neighbouring towns and villages of Abeokuta North Local Government stea. And beyond Olorunda after the road that leads off the Federal road to Ayetoro, headquarters of Yewa North Local Government area are some towns and villages which include Olodo, Ileniku, Idi emi, Obada, Owode and Afon among others that exist along the Federal road to Imeko town. At strategic points in Idi emi, Obada, Owode towards Afon, these privare agents carry out their illicit activities unperturbed, even with threat to life of anybody that may raise eyebrow or question them over their actions. While the matter is often made worse when men of the Nigerian Police on nearby check-pointd are asked for necessary intervention. Even on different occasions when the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Imeko Afon Police Division was informed about the illegal acts for his necessary actions, his response was often more of glaring disappointment. And this is much more astonishing as men of the Nigerian Army on nearby road blocks often show to be seen but hardly show to be available for any such rescue actions.

Who then would want to contest the suspicion that this illicit activity usually carried out before the watchful eyes of the men of the Nigeria Police and Nigerian Army only constitutes act of organised extortion on our Federal roads. To say the least, this illicit activity also kills the economy of those affected areas in no small measure, as a large number of the distributors of various brands of beer and soft drinks now suffer great losses so prone to winding up their businesses.

In a telephone chat with one of the distributors who preferred anonymity, most beer parlours in the area have closed down, thereby looking for alternative business ventures, while dealers in soft drinks have locked up shops. Another distributor fondly called Baba Eto narrated the bitter reservation of the Marketing Executives of Pepsi and Coca Cola among others when last the distributors visited the Lagos Centres of the companies for necessary recipe. According to Baba Eto, the reservation was that of no hope to end as long as the extortion persists on the Federal roads “except we are able to secure interventionist recipe from above”. Though the distributors have taken steps before relevant State Agencies including the Nigeria Police, there had been no good response from them.

He recalled that the matter had been reported severally to Abeokuta North and Imeko Afon Local Government Councils, including the Divisional Police Officers and the Imeko Afon State Constituency member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon Jemili Akingbade, but all to no avail. He pointedly expressed the fear that without hiding under a finger tip, the undue tolerance of the illicit activities of the private agents is dangerous to the economy of the area and that of the State by extension, even as the palpable tension being experienced by the people may snowball into disastrous crisis. Substantiating his words, Baba Eto submitted some recovered tickets written in the name of Community Development Associations of Abeokuta North and Imeko Afon Local Government areas for confirmation and actions by relevant Federal Government Agencies.

From all indications therefore, these unrattled private agents with their thuggery antics appear ready to ignite crisis against any challenging quarters. It is therefore imperative that the relevant special Agencies particularly of the Federal Government should come to the rescue of the people of the area before it is too late.

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