Tricycle operators in Umuahia, Abia State capital have accused policemen and women in the area of allegedly working in cahoot with hoodlums at the Isi-Gate area of Umuahia to extort money from them.
The tricycle operators said the policemen provide cover for the hoodlums as they harrassed, intimidated and brutalised those who refused to part with their had earned money.
However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Superontendent Geoffrey Ogbonna, denied any knowledge of the allegations and asked those who were being extorted to come forward with credible evidence against the policemen allegedly involved in such criminal activities.
He said, "The Police authorities have no knowledge of alleged connivance of Police with touts to flout government order at Isi-Gate in Umuahia," and encouraged the victims to report the offending policemen for disciplinary action.
According to Ogbonna, tricycle riders with such complaints should contact his office at the State Police Command headquarters, Umuahia.
However, the tricycle operators had alleged that the policemen provide cover for the touts to extort them and perpetrate illegal activities in the area.
Abia state government had in December 2019, ordered traders at Isi-Gate to relocate to Ubani-Ibeku Market, but touts said to be loyal to a top ranking member of the state House of Assembly, now collect money and allow traders on clothing materials among other items to display their wares in area.
A tricycle operator, who gave his name as Caleb Otti, alleged that the policemen usually come from Umuahia Central Police Station, CPS, and Umuahia Area Command to harass and extort money from them.
According to him, “The touts claiming to be employed and empowered as taskforce members at Isi-Gate by a powerful member of the state House of Assembly from Ibeku, Umuahia, boasted that nothing would happen no matter whom they hurt or terrorized.
“We pay N150 for daily tickets, buy emblem of various local governments, yet the touts harass us for no reason and whenever we challenge them, they will invite policemen from Umuahia CPS and Area Command who will confiscate our tricycles and demand huge sums of money before releasing them.
"We're tired of complaining. If we complain, our union will promise to do something, but after several complaints you'll still see these touts around turning life into hell for all of us.
"So, this is why we chose to talk to the media. How can I suffer on daily basis and after I have toiled, small boys will come and extort the because they're political touts of one powerful politician."
Another tricycle operator, Nnabugwu Ikonne said that the touts also extort food vendors who move around the area.
His words, “These touts aren't strangers. They're known and their leader is a well known politician from Ibeku land. They claimed they were given the job by the popular politician, that no one can stop them . Whenever we try to park anywhere, they will jump into our tricycle with the allegation that we parked wrongly and they will seize our keys.
"When you demand your key back, they will invite their partners from CPS Umuahia and Area Command who will come, take the tricycle to their station and collect money they will share with the touts from you. Most times they have a way of stealing the tricycle when you chase them and you will not see the tricycle again."