By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
About a hundred drivers of articulated vehicles including fuel tankers and trailers on Tuesday afternoon dared Niger State Government ban and called off the bluff of road regulatory agencies in the state for hours.
The angry drivers had blocked the busy Western by pass along Shiroro road, the Kpakungu roundabout axis, the Minna-Suleja road at the Minna City Gate angle using their huge vehicles to block traffic on the roads for several hours.
Movements by motorists and other road users on the Western by pass highway, along Shiroro road junction, and at the Kpakungu roundabout axis were hampered by the heavy duty vehicles as their drivers threw caution to the winds and dared the consequences.
The drivers alleged that they were provoked by officials of the state Vehicles Inspection Officers, (VIO) who constantly harassed them and collect gratifications from them before allowing them to pass through the state.
Some of the drivers spoken to alleged further that highhandedness by state officials was becoming a huge drain to their pockets as the VIO officials churn out new rules now and often just to collect money from the drivers before allowing them access to the roads from Maje – Diko – Suleja area and at Gida Kwano – Gidan Mangoro axis along the Federal University of Technology, Minna axis.
The angry tanker and trailer drivers lamented over the corruption going on at the VIO’s office and urged the state government to sack the bad eggs at the VIO office.
The drivers claimed that the VIO officials demand for between N10,000 to N50,000 from them. Others claimed that they were frequently forced to obtain new road permits at N30,000 which expires in three months time.
Refusals by the drivers to renew the said road permits according to the angry drivers, results in the seizure and impounding of their vehicles by the VIO officials on the orders of the state governor.
But an official of the VIO office who however did not want his name mentioned, debunked the allegations by the angry tanker and trailer drivers describing the allegations as mendacious and evil blackmail.
As the impasse lasted, officials of the Road Safety Corp, (FRSC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defense were seen making frantic efforts to plead with the angry tanker and trailer drivers to move their vehicles away from the road.
About a fortnight ago, the state Director, Vehicles Inspection Office, Umar Muhammad Kuki had reechoed the state government’s ban on all heavy duty vehicles to stop movements into the state from Suleja to Mnna and Minna to Bida to allow the ongoing repairs works on the roads to be completed.
The state government had lamented that frequent use of the roads by the heavy duty vehicles was responsible for the wear and tear of the roads even though the state government had committed huge sums of resources on repairing the roads.
The state government had directed all heavy duty vehicle drivers to stay off the roads in the metropolis and navigate the Suleja – Minna and Minna- Bida road at nights only when traffic on the roads were low.