Anambra State Government has warned that it will not hesitate to take decisive action against some truck drivers protesting against an accident which occurred on Thursday, at the Azia Junction of the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway, resulting in the loss of lives, injury to many and destruction of property.
On Friday, a Mercedes truck crashed into vehicles on a queue at a Police checkpoint along the Azia junction axis of the Onitsha-Owerri expressway, killing two persons on the spot and injuring many.
Following the incident, a group of truck drivers has since Friday, laid siege on the Ihiala section of the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway, blocking both sides of the ever busy road.
The result is unprecedented gridlock on the road, making life extremely difficult for commuters.
TNC correspondent gathered that some of the truck drivers believe the State Government has not done enough to prevent the incessant accidents at the Police checkpoints on the road.
According to them, the State Governor, Willie Obiano has proved incapable of addressing issues bordering on the welfare of citizens, and his failure to get the checkpoint off the flashpoint, was testament to that fact.
But according to the Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, MR C-Don Adinuba, the state government is saddened by the deaths and injuries as well as loss of assets and is looking into ways to see the kind of assistance it can render to victims.
He said on learning of the protest by truck drivers, Governor Obiano had directed the Commissioner for Transport and himself, to help resolve the impasse swiftly. “We held discussions with the union of truck drivers for several hours, pleading with the truckers to take their vehicles out of the road while a lasting solution was found to their grievances.
“Governor Obiano had to personally intervene on Saturday, February 19, pleading with the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the union of drivers, Mr Victor Okeke, to ensure his followers vacated the road immediately and come to Awka at 10 am on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, for a meeting with the Commissioner of Police in the State as well as the Deputy Speaker House of Assembly, the Member representing Ihiala Two in the House of Assembly, Traditional Rulers, Presidents General and Youth Leaders in Ihiala Local Government Area, among other stakeholders in the LGA.
“Mr Okeke rejected all entreaties to get his followers to leave the road in the overriding interest of not just innocent but suffering Anambra people but also millions of persons in Nigeria and beyond who daily use the road which connects the Southeast and the South-south.
“He even ignored the decision by the Commissioner of Police to shift the checkpoint by Special Forces from the Headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja.
“Most shockingly, Okeke arrogantly states that the drivers will continue to block the Ihiala stretch of the Onitsha-Owerri Road until the Anambra State Government pays compensation to the families of casualties of the accident of last Friday and also to owners of the vehicles involved.
“Up to this second, none of the drivers, including the one who drove the truck whose brake system failed and resulted in the multiple accident, has deemed it wise to commiserate with families of victims of the accident, let alone with the people and Government of Anambra State,” he noted.
Adinuba queried why the state government should be held liable for a mistake made by a truck driver, saying it is unjust to punish all road users because of the mistake of one person.
“How can any rational person hold Anambra State responsible for the failure of a brake system which may have been as a result of the road unworthiness of the truck in the first place and that the driver was under some influence?
“How can Anambra people be held accountable for an accident on a federal road? How can Anambra State be held liable for an accident which occured three poles to a checkpoint mounted by federal security agents?
“How can subjecting the people of Anambra State and millions of others who use the Onitsha-Owerri Road to excruciating pain for days be a justifiable punishment for an accident in which they had no hand?’ he asked.
According to the Commissioner, preliminary investigation suggests that the persons responsible for the irrational action by a handful of truck drivers are not indigenes of Anambra State but extortionists and blackmailers from other states who believe that there is too much money in the State to which they are entitled.
He said further information revealed that they are under the illusion that if they rattle the people and government of the state, a lot of money will enter their private pockets.
Adinuba also said there is another suggestion that the tragedy which occurred on the Ihiala section of the Onitsha-Owerri Highway on Friday, was not an ordinary or natural accident, but planned havoc by some elements to cause mayhem in the state and attempt to halt the tremendous progress which the State has been recording in various sectors.
“In other words, it may seem that what took place was no manslaughter but sheer murder designed to inflict maximum damage on Anambra people by non-Anambra indigenes and make our state ungovernable.
“Their calculation is that since the Governor Obiano’s administration has less than one month to remain in office, they can use the Transition period to do as much damage to our state as possible.
“All those who think that the Obiano Administration is now a lame duck and that they can consequently toy with the welfare and destiny of our people are mistaken.
“All extortionists who think that the Anambra State government will watch akimbo as they gleefully destroy our state are in deep error.
“Therefore, the truck drivers who have since Friday subjected our people and other road users to acute hardship are hereby warned the last time to move their vehicles away from the Ihiala stretch of the Onitsha-Owerri Road or face the full weight of the law.
“Persons with vehicles which are not roadworthy will be prosecuted, just like persons proved to have committed offences like manslaughter and multiple murder.
“Anarchists cannot be allowed to reign supreme in our beloved State.
“We are a law-abiding State,” the state government warned.