…Many Left Injured …Union Demands Justice
By Nwogha Ndubuisi Andy
Tension heightened in the early morning of Monday, 17 February, 2020 at the popular Nwezenyi junction in Igbeagu, Izzi Local Government Area when some men identified as Haulage Tax Operators situated at the Junction Primary School allegedly attacked a heavy-duty driver leaving him with several matchet cuts.
Narrating the ugly incident, the driver, Mr. Eze Nnabuife told Citizens’ Advocate that he was on his way from Benue State to Port Harcourt, after over one month of his usual business trip when he was allegedly attacked by the tax operators.
According to him, it w
as around 1:00AM when he was intercepted by the Haulage Tax operators who demanded for a certain amount of money as settlement, a request he said, was unusual at that particular place seeing that they were not men of Nigeria Police Force who were seen not far from the point they blocked the Federal Highway, and that prompted his demand for explanation.
He said, the Haulage Tax operators dragged him out of steering and started beating him, before inflicting on his body wounds with matchet cuts.
The Heavy-Duty Driver explained that in the process of struggling with the men, some of their members jumped into his vehicle and took away the sum of eight hundred and thirty thousand naira(N830,000), he made for the period of over one month they have spent on the way, phone, vehicle particulars and other valuables.
He, further, narrated that for the intervention of Policemen, he was rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment as his face was badly brutalized.
Speaking, the National President, Heavy Duty Truck Drivers Association, Mr. Ugochukwu Onojie frowned on the attack of his member, pointing out that he was invited to the state with the plan of having meeting the next morning (the day the incident took place) on how to
stop multiple taxation levied against their members along the highway.
According to the National President, he was shocked when the affected Driver called him on phone to narrate his ordeal but he quickly instructed him to locate the nearest police station for aid, but was lucky to had been saved even when they vandalized his vehicle.
He explained that on arrival at the scene, they met a man who claimed to be in charge of the checking point, but he was unable to establish reason behind the vehicle vandalization but rather mobilized his men for a second attack that their private car was also vandalized before the arrival of policemen.
He lamented that Heavy-Duty Truck Drivers are badly humiliated and intimidated along Benue, Cross River and Ebonyi State highways by men who claimed to have contracted the job of Haulage Tax force against the Inspector General of Police directive of “Zero Highway Blockage”.
The National President appealed to the State and Federal Government to intervene in their case as those who claimed to be working either as State Coordinator or other nomenclature have been blocking the highway, extorting drivers.
On his part, the state Chapter Chairman, Heavy Duty Truck Drivers Association, Mr. Itumo Chidi, hinted that he came to the scene with his task force who sought for explanation from the Haulage Operators but they rather attacked their official vehicle and made away with some other belongings.
The truck owner, Mr. Emeka Ani, who was also attacked with matchet, told Citizens’ Advocate that he lost his bag containing foot wears and clothes when the tax operators attacked his private car that brought them to the place.
He commended the men of Nigeria Police Force, Izzi Division who through their help saved the life of his driver, and urged Ebonyi state government to look into their plight.
However, Ebonyi State Police Public Relation Officer, Loveth Odah confirmed the report, stating that the Haulage Tax operators acted against the directive of Federal Government which has it that no Haulage Operator should be found along the Federal highway.
DSP Odah, explained that the Haulage Operators have been identified as part of those causing accidents in the process of collecting their money.
She explained that the Commissioner of Police had earlier this year invited principals of those identified to be on the highway and warned them against breaching the peace already existing in the state, and directed them to rather visit loading point of the vehicle to avoid breach of law and order.
She stressed that the Deputy Police Officer Izzi and Officer in Charge of monitoring in the area have been given matching order to ensure that those behind the act are arrested and brought to book if found guilty.