Commercial bus drivers carrying passengers between Anambra and Imo states daily have threatened to embark on a protest to register their anger at the constant harassment and extortion by bribe-seeking policemen at Azia Junction along Onitsha-Owerri Road in Anambra State.
 
The plan by the drivers followed a fatal multiple auto crash involving a heavy-duty truck, several buses and cars at Azia Junction on Friday, which left two persons dead and nine others severely injured.

Though the police in Anambra and Federal Road Safety Corps blamed the accident on a speeding container-laden truck, which lost control before ramming into other vehicles, some commercial drivers told SaharaReporters that the incident was caused by the activities of bribe-seeking policemen, who usually harass and extort money from vehicle owners at the popular spot.


A commercial driver named Frank, who witnessed the incident, revealed that the latest accident was the third of its kind at the same spot since January 2022.
 
According to him, bribe-seeking policemen at the place, who have no regard for the safety of road users, often stop vehicles on motion abruptly with logs of wood thrown at their wheels in a bid to extort them, causing accidents in the process.


The policemen usually disappear from the area immediately after causing accidents, which often record casualties, he said.


Frank disclosed that despite complaints from road users about the illicit activities of the policemen at the checkpoint, nothing had been done to tackle the menace and avert more accidents and deaths at Azia Junction.
 
He said they were already mobilising members of the drivers’ union in the state to embark on a protest any moment from now.

He said, “Men of the Nigeria Police continue to cause accidents at Azia Junction on Onitsha-Owerri Road. The one that happened on Friday makes it the third since January with heavy casualties.
 
“The policemen are fond of blocking the road and extorting motorists on a regular basis. I am a commercial driver and I pass through that road almost every day. At times we spend hours on that spot due to that checkpoint by the police.


“Lives are being destroyed in that spot every day. We have complained several times but nothing has been done by the authorities. Something urgent must be done to save lives.


“Any moment from now we would be embarking on a protest over this disturbing incident because it is making our work very difficult.”


Another commercial bus driver, who plies the route daily, Obinna Ejike, disclosed that they will not stop their protest until the police authorities do something about the checkpoint at Azia Junction, which has been making life tough for many of them.


He said, “Our peaceful protest will not stop until the police do something about the activities of their men at Azia Junction.


“The number of lives being lost to accidents at that spot is too much because of their illegal business of extorting vehicle users.
“We will not take this anymore and that is why we will continue the protest until the situation changes.”
 
The spokesperson for the police in Anambra State, DSP Ikenga Tochukwu, while confirming Friday’s fatal accident, which led to the blockade of the highway by truck drivers for several hours, however, denied that it was caused by policemen extorting motorists.
According to him, contrary to the belief of many, the police checkpoint at Azia Junction had helped to checkmate a lot of crimes and accidents in the area.
 
He said, “While the police indeed have a stop-and-search point close to the scene of the accident, it is wrong to blame the police for the incident.
 
“The fact that only six vehicles were in the queue on a dual carriageway as busy as that expressway is evidence that the police have been responsible and ensured minimal delay as they conduct stop-and-search operations aimed at protecting not only police facilities in the area from insurgents' attacks but also the general public who are mostly at the receiving end of escapades by criminal elements.
 
“The Anambra Police Command also commends officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps for promptly rising to the occasion and partnering with the police in getting the injured to the hospital and clearing the wreckage from the road to allow for free flow of traffic.
 
“The Commissioner of Police, Anambra State, Echeng Echeng, wishes to commiserate with families of the two persons who died and nine others who were injured in the fatal accident.”

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