By Sunny A. Ijomah
The Onitsha Chamber of Commerce industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA), Anambra State on Wednesday said over N3billion were lost to the activities of touts, hoodlums and illegal toll collectors within Onitsha and the environ in the past three years.
President of the body, Pharm Sir. Chris Ukachukwu disclosed this in Onitsha in a press conference, saying N3billion was directly lost, while another N100million was indirectly lost through the activities of the miscreants.
The President of ONICCIMA regretted that the menace had continued unabated despite the government’s proscription pronouncement on them, just as he lamented the aspersions such activities had cast on the image of the once-bustling city of Onitsha.
Pharm Sir. Ukachukwu lamented that the menace was worsened following the death of a truck driver who ran into concrete in his attempt to escape the illegal toll collectors.
He said, “Their despicable activities which include incessant harassment, damage to property and illegal toll collections particularly on the Bridgehead and Upper Iweka axis of the city has contributed immensely to the diminishing business fortunes of Onitsha Business Community.
“Their operations do a lot of disservice to Anambra State’s bid to leverage investor confidence and attract much needed Foreign and Local direct investment.
“The consequences are already noticeable as most customers now prefer diverting their businesses to neighbouring States.
“The obvious implication of this is the loss of revenue both for the people as well as the state. It is estimated that businesses worth over N3billion may have been lost directly and another N100 million indirectly through the activities of these hoodlums in the past three years.
“Worse still, these touts appear to hold the city to ransom working with impunity and parading as representing the government in the full glare of security operatives.
“Notwithstanding the numerous pronouncements by the State Government banning the activities of these illegal revenue collectors, there seems to be a concerted effort by unknown persons to provide effective backing for these miscreants thereby creating a perception of lawlessness in our community.”
While lauding government efforts in flushing out all manner of illegality on state roads and markets, the ONICCIMA boss maintained that decisive stand on those found contravening its directive would go a long way in turning around the economic fortunes of the State.
Pharm Sir. Ukachukwu added: “The Chamber implores the government to take strong measures in clamping down on whoever is providing support for the nefarious activities of these miscreants. We urge the government Anti-touting Squad under the supervision of the Commissioner for Trade to sustain the fight head-on without fear or favour.
“Sentiments and bribery are among the factors that could hamper the success of this operation; thus, the team should avoid every temptation that ultimately leads to compromise.
“Areas of focus are Bridgehead stretch of the expressway, Onitsha-Owerri Road, Menax Hospital axis, Venn Road, Ochanja axis, Obosi Road, Obodoukwu Road, and many other flashpoints.
“ONICCIMA is confident that with sustained and committed efforts, the government will be able to rid the State of these individuals who have contributed nothing to the growth of the Onitsha Business Community but have continued to deny the government much-needed revenue as a result of their illegal activities.”