A woman in a passenger bus heading to Awka from Onitsha asked the driver who was picking Enugu bound passengers whether he was actually going to Enugu because of the border closures by both Enugu and Anambra States Governments to prevent spread of Coronavirus in the states and the driver replied: “Nobody enters Enugu these days.
Every driver stops at the Amansea border and discharges his passengers. The passenger heading to Enugu will cross on foot to Ugwuoba,the Enugu side of the border and board another vehicle which might have dropped passengers heading to Anambra from Enugu, while the drivers from Onitsha turns back carrying passengers heading to Onitsha or other parts of Anambra from Enugu.
This is how it is done but both the passengers crossing the borders on foot and of course the drivers must settle the security men on duty at the borders”.
The story above and other findings show that security men drafted to enforce the order are sabotaging the policyfor their gains.
Two stops at both Amansea and Ugwuoba ends of Anambra and Enugu States, respectively, on Thursday, April 2 and Saturday, April 4, met situation on ground in no different way. Security agents comprising Police and Civil Defence personnel make brisk business at the border posts they mount.
Rather than ensuring strict compliance with orders of their respective commands, security officers are busy grabbing as much ‘tips’ as they possibly can extort from commuters and pedestrians that seek to cross.
This led to the sudden emergence of a sort of two ‘motor parks’ at both ends of River Amansea for passengers to board or alight in continuation of their journey in form of relay race.
On paying money ranging from N1000, commuter buses heading to Onitsha or Enugu are allowed to ‘offload’ their passengers at the artificial parks within Amansea or Ugwuoba territories, and wait behind to load again and pay another N1,000.
Even though the each team from the two states worked independently, it was cool business once drivers paid his loading or offloading bill to the fully armed security agents.
The situation is not different from what obtains along old Amansea-Oji River Road where buses, mainly shuttle buses, heading to Awka from Oji River Park before the bridge for passengers to alight and cross over to Anamsea end where Awka-bound buses are loading in turns.
In same manner as what plays out at the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway border post, money ranging from N500 is paid by any driver who wants to offload or load again.
Drivers of articulated lorries are not spared. Even those transporting food items, petroleum or pharmaceutical products, which are clearly exempted from the restriction order, pay money ranging from N2000 to N10,000 depending on their size before they cross the border.
A white Hiace Urvan bus loaded with bread of different sizes was not only refused entry into the Amansea end, but its driver was given time within which he should ‘cooperate’ or reverse to wherever he was coming from. All his pleas fell on deaf ears until he paid N3,000 after informing his baker on telephone call.
Many people who spoke on the issue wondered how the very people posted to enforce the border closure order could turn around and saw the policy as money spinner.
An elderly man from Amansea who identified himself as Eric could not understand the basis for allowing passengers to cross over when there are existing governments directives to stop people from entering into any of the state from the other. He wondered whether humans are vectors of the lethal virus or vehicles, and which of them should be stopped from crossing into another state in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the whole thing makes mockery of whatever government intends to achieve with closure order.
But another man who gave his name as Nwabu took the development from a different angle. He was happy that one of the policemen manning the posts, who lives in his compound, paid his rent arrears the previous day. He also said that apart from paying the rent, he has been owing since January, the officer ‘washes’ him with beer very evening.
Nwabu said that since the closure commenced, his tenant has been returning home with huge amount which he counts in his presence.
Recently, Anambra and Enugu States ordered closure of their borders at the two gateway towns of Amansea and Ugwuoba in Awka-North and Oji River Local Government Areas of Anambra and Enugu States respectively. This is part of their ‘war plans’ to contain novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from further spreading across the two neighbouring states.
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