Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State has received a pressing plea to take immediate action in disbanding both the Anambra State Road Transport Management Agency (ATMA) and the Ocha Brigade.
In a recent press release, the Campaign for Democracy (CD) in the South East and the Human Rights, Liberty Access, and Peace Defenders’ Foundation (HURIDE) voiced their concern over the ineffective management of roads within the state by the road management agency. Instead of focusing on road management, the leadership and personnel of the agency are reportedly engaging in the extortion of motorists for personal gain.
During the press briefing, Dede Uzor A Uzor, the Chairman of CD in the South East and Executive Director of HURIDE, alleged that ATMA operatives deliberately target car owners from whom they anticipate substantial monetary gains. This stands in contrast to their neglect of addressing the issues caused by commercial bus drivers who consistently obstruct traffic and park haphazardly on main roads and streets in the urban area.
The groups revealed that these extortion activities involve demanding amounts ranging from N20,000 to N100,000 from victims. This exploitative behavior has resulted in a pervasive atmosphere of fear, discouraging many individuals from bringing their vehicles to Onitsha due to the risk of harassment and extortion.
Equally concerning is the behavior of the Ocha Brigade, which has strayed from its intended duty of easing traffic congestion and instead prioritized revenue generation.
It is the collective opinion of the CD and HURIDE that both ATMA and the Ocha Brigade should be either disbanded or subjected to comprehensive refresher training.
The rights groups also emphasized that a significant number of traders residing in Asaba, Delta State have ceased driving their vehicles to Onitsha as a result of the unfavorable conduct exhibited by ATMA personnel. These traders now prefer to park their vehicles near “God is Good Motors” and cross into Onitsha using Keke or commercial buses.
It was observed that at Onitsha Bridge, ATMA personnel predominantly target private vehicles driving in the double lane, while commercial vehicles are disregarded due to the monetary incentives they provide.
Also, both ATMA personnel and the CSOs have been noted to focus on private vehicles with license plates from regions outside Anambra State and the South-East, utilizing tactics of blackmail, intimidation, and extortion to extract substantial sums of money from their victims.
“They suppose to manage traffic but they are not doing that. They are just harassing motorists, extorting money from them and giving the State a bad name especially the under the bridge,” said the rights groups.
They demanded a fresh leadership for the agency to remove all the current “hoodlums and undesirable elements” within the organization. As a result, advocacy groups urged the Governor to dismiss the Managing Director of ATMA, Mr. Emeka Okonkwo, also known as Konti, along with his management team and other personnel such as Mr. Nnamdi Emmanuel Aghadinaulo, alias Ochudo, and Mr. Henry Ugochukwu Ezeji, also known as Dangerous Akwansa, and others.
These individuals have gained notoriety for their harsh treatment of motorists and their apparent allegiance to a group known as KONJI, based in Awka, Anambra. This group has been responsible for lifting the one-way traffic restrictions under the bridge since the opening of the Niger bridge and the relaxation of traffic regulations.
“Their criminal activities have risen to apogee. They make more than N500,000 per day in Onitsha and N6m in a month but the money does not go into Government cover. It goes to their private pockets. Only a paltry sum goes to the coffers of the State Government”.
Sometimes, said the CSOs, these people would deceive a motorist and ask him to follow a particular way or park somewhere, only to turn around and bounce and unleash terror on him and extort huge money from the person.
“Before you know it, they have jumped into your car, some of them even steal your phones and cash in the process.
Such an illegal outfit should not be allowed to thrive in Anambra State at this age we have a Professor as a Governor.
Their Chief Executive Mr Konji’s line is unreachable and lacks human relations. It is unacceptable.
He and his boys should be arrested and be made to account for the money they had extorted from people” said the rights groups.
We call on the governor to disband ATMA and train a new set of people within 7 days of this statement, failure to adhere to our advice shall attract a massive protest to seek home our request. Dede Uzor advised.