Metro & Crime

Owerri grounded as protests rock Imo

Commuters stranded as protesters extort motorists in Ogun
We’ll end police brutality, extortion, harassment in Ebonyi –Umahi

What started on Sunday night as an #EndSARS candle light rally at Freedom Square, Owerri, Imo State spilled into the streets same night, defying the downpour and by yesterday afternoon had settled at the strategic Warehouse roundabout into a carnival of sort.

The Warehouse roundabout is strategic to the free flow of traffic in Owerri, the state capital. Owerri is such a compact city that once either the Warehouse roundabout or the Library/Whetheral roundabout is blocked the city’s transportation system is greatly affected and seemingly shutdown. Same situation affects commercial activities, office work and school run by parents who may need to sneak out of office to go get their wards from their schools. Radio stations in the city were announcing necessary diversions to avoid the gridlock occasioned by the protest.

It was tough for people at New Owerri to access the main town and Government House area through the usual Assumpta/Bank Road route as the winding bumperto- bumper traffic jam will discourage any motorist from a mile away. Beside the protest in the Owerri metropolis, there are various other protests in other areas across the state. In Asaba, Delta State, an oil mogul, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rainoil Petrol Station, Mr. Gabriel Ogbechie, allegedly escaped being lynched yesterday by hundreds of protesters.

Trouble erupted as the private security guards that were allegedly hired by the oil chief tried to prevent the protesters from gaining entrance into the filling station, which was situated at their mustering point, the popular Summt Junction in Asaba. As early as 6.30am, the protesting youths had gathered at the junction to barricade the Onitsha- Asaba-Benin Expressway and the popular InterBau Roundabout.

The protesters caused gridlock on the ever-busy expressway as motorists made U-turn for alternative routes. The protesters yesterday reportedly extorted motorists in Abeokuta, Ogun State. New Telegraph learnt that the protesters, who mounted roadblock at Panseke-Ibara under bridge, the commercial centre of the state capital, demanded money from motorists before they could be allowed passage.

This caused gridlock on the road as some motorists who could not pay the protesters turned back to take alternative routes. Meanwhile, thousands of commuters and motorists were stranded in different parts of the state.

In Osun State, it was learnt that two policemen were seriously injured by hoodlums during the crisis that brew in Osogbo, on Saturday. A police source told our correspondent that the policemen were chased by hoodlums on motorcycle. In Ebonyi Sstate, Governor Dave Umahi yesterday said he would meet with the state Commissioner of Police and Army Commander to dismantle all roadblocks in the state to stop alleged incessant harassment and extortion of motorists and okada riders. This is even as he promised to set up judicial panel of inquiry today to look into police brutality in the state.

He urged motorists, okada riders and youths in the state to stop giving money to policemen on the roads, saying ‘enough is enough’. Addressing the protesters, who besieged the Old Government House, Abakaliki, Umahi said the state would no longer tolerate police extortion, intimidation, harassment and brutality. He said: “One of the things that I am going to be taking on with the Commissioner of Police and the Army Commander is to dismantle roadblocks in Ebonyi State.

“What we are going to accept is that police stay by the side, if they suspect a vehicle, they search the vehicle, they go away. Any policeman that asks you for money, alert me to resist that, call me on the phone. Don’t give money to any policeman again, enough is enough.

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