Tackling the Menace of Touting in Anambra

Tackling the Menace of Touting in Anambra

Although the menace of touting is on an all time high in Anambra State, 

David-Chyddy Eleke reports that the state government is set to restore sanity by curbing their high-handed activities. However, stakeholders posit that this must include putting an end to the torture, abuse and humiliation by “official touts”, who are agents of the state government recruited and constituted into teams of taskforce, for various revenue drive, traffic offences and many others

One of the major promises of the Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo to the people before his coming to power was to make the state a liveable homeland. This, one would envisage involves an Anambra that is free of touts, who are mostly the armed robbers that the state has, as they intimidate, extort and most times even rob unsuspecting persons.

But Soludo has geared up to ensure that the state, especially Onitsha, its commercial nerve centre is rid of these unwanted elements. During the last Ofala festival of Onitsha people, Soludo boldly told the people that his government is making plans to phase out touts in Onitsha, insisting that people must be able to conduct their businesses, without fear of being intimidated and molested.

But for critics of Soludo’s government like Mr Chibuike Uloka, a public policy analyst; even though there are touts in Onitsha and other major cities of Anambra State, the bigger challenge facing Anambra people are what he referred to as official touts. These are agents of the state government, recruited by the Soludo administration and constituted into teams of taskforce, for various revenue drive, traffic offences and many others. These able bodied men with various uniforms have been caught in viral videos bullying innocent road users, business people, to the extend of subjecting them to physical torture.

Recently, a video of revenue officers surfaced, showing an SUV driver being dragged our of his car and dumped in a mud in the middle of the road, while his car was driven away. Just this week, a helpless tricycle operator, who is also shown to be physically challenged, was captured in a video, not only being dispossessed of his tricycle, but also physically assaulted for coming close to beg the officials that he has not refused to pay, but should be given sometime.

These and many more have generated an uproar among Anambra people, with many decrying the level of touting in Anambra, even among government operatives. Chibuike Uloka reacting about the level of touting in Anambra said: “Recently, reports from Anambra State have highlighted the unruly behavior of touts and Agbero acting as revenue agents in the state. They are engaging in blatant abuse of citizens, causing suffering to motorists, traders, motorcycle riders, and tricycle riders.

 Rather than condemning the rise of these touts and Agbero in the state’s commercial hubs and rural areas, Professor Charles Soludo’s deliberate silence is encouraging these rogue individuals to continue their offenses against those in need of protection from the state.

“When Soludo declared his intention to disrupt the system and introduce new ways of doing things, many thought it would be a positive disruption with beneficial effects. Unfortunately, we had no idea that these disruptions and new methods would translate into incivility, abuse of power, oppressive taxes, and little relief for the poor. Human rights abuse has become prevalent across Anambra State. Touts and street urchins empowered by the Soludo regime show no restraint in mistreating the less fortunate, as the government appears to grant them impunity to assault the vulnerable,” Uloka lamented.

Meanwhile, the governor has made good his words to redeem the state, especially Onitsha from the grip of touts.  On Monday, Soludo launched what he called the Anambra Special Anti-Touting Squad, which was codenamed SASA.

Speaking during the launch which held in Onitsha, Soludo said: “The launch of this squad is an acceleration on the key promise we made to the people living in the greater onitsha area which consists of Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Ogbaru, Oyi, and Idemili to restore Anambra State, known for law and order back to its full glory as the Light of the nation. When we assumed office, eight local governments were taken over. Thanks to the combined efforts of our security agencies and the vigilante service, those local government areas have been liberated and normalcy restored. 

“We have told the youths to come out from their hideouts and the bush. We shall help to rehabilitate and integrate them into society to be useful to their families, communities, states, and nations. While dealing with hoodlums on a larger scale, we will be dealing with touts in Onitsha greater area and Anambra State as a whole. We are fighting a war to bring back the soul of our society governed by law and order not a society anyone does what he or she likes arbitrarily without recourse to law and order. Touts disturb customers who come from every nook and cranny of the country. But this journey is to rescue Onitsha as a commercial hub and Anambra State in general,” the Governor said.

Most people who have reacted to the formation of SASA have lauded it’s formation, but stated that the problem is that the main touts terrorizing the people of the state are government agents whose activities have been legalized with uniforms, even though they are also touts themselves. For Uloka, the recruitment of the SASA operatives may may well be an upgrade of dangerous touts, who Soludo would use to fight for his reelection bid.

Uloka in a statement said: “Recent events have clearly demonstrated that the current regime is heading towards a state of chaos. Street touts and urchins, known as “Agbero,” have taken control of the state, disrupting economic activities and enforcing oppressive and unrealistic tax remittances. 

“Reports of regular abuse have become a daily occurrence, leaving many victims in their wake. Recently, the Soludo regime launched the Anambra state anti-touting squad through the Ministry for Homeland Security, perhaps another recruitment of untrained, un-profiled, and faceless individuals with no apparent background, and possibly for political purposes as the regime gears up for re-election in 2025.

“Incidents such as the murder of Peter Udenkwelle in Agulu, assaults on tricycle rider in Nkpor, and attacks on GUO driver in Awka have garnered attention on social media, and among ndị Anambra at home and in the Diaspora. It appears that these incidents also led to the creation of yet another “Agbero” group by the regime to counter the existing one, which the regime had initially recruited in a similar manner. 

“All of this underscores the fact that the Soludo and APGA-led regimes have lost touch with reality. They lack the ideas and policies needed to address the suffering, poverty, and poor governance that have plagued Anambra State for the past 19 months.

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“The recent formation of the anti-touting squad has led to a sharp increase in the recruitment of touts in Anambra State, totaling over 53,000 in just 19 months. These individuals receive little to no compensation but are empowered to assault and abuse citizens. Professor Charles Soludo’s administration promised to create 100,000 jobs annually for the next four years and make 1,000,000 youth millionaires. Instead of fostering industries and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and vocational training, many young people are being pushed into becoming touts and street urchins, causing further disruption to struggling businesses and economic activities.”

Contrary to Uloka’s complaint, the Soludo administration has insisted that it is working hard to rid Onitsha and all the major towns of Anambra of touts. Soludo had during his speech at Onitsha Ofala festival stated that the activities of touts in Onitsha has slowed down business in the city, with many who would have come for business, avoiding the city because they fear that they’ll be robbed and maimed if they visited.

Meanwhile, as a resolve to the commitment of the state to rid the state of touts, the state government yesterday parading 64 persons, who were arrested by the newly formed Anti-touting group, SASA.

The suspected touts and other criminals were arrested around Upper Iweka, Bridge Head and Chisco Motor Park, Onitsha. The SASA Director of Operations, Mr. Solomon Onwuemene, while parading the suspects at Onitsha, said the arrest would continue until Onitsha metropolis is rid of criminals.

He said, “Following the inauguration of the Anambra State Special Anti-Touting Squad (SASA) at Onitsha by Governor Chukwuma Soludo, the squad has swung into action and arrested 64 suspected touts and a one-chance suspected robber in various parts of Onitsha. All those arrested would be tried according to the law to serve as a deterrent to others,” he said.

Quote 

When Soludo declared his intention to disrupt the system and introduce new ways of doing things, many thought it would be a positive disruption with beneficial effects. Unfortunately, we had no idea that these disruptions and new methods would translate into incivility, abuse of power, oppressive taxes, and little relief for the poor. Human rights abuse has become prevalent across Anambra State

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