Enugu residents seek govt intervention over activities of traffic, ESWAMA officials

 Stakeholders at the Town Hall  meeting

Stakeholders at the Town Hall meeting

RESIDENTS of Enugu State have risen against the alleged extortion of the people by traffic and sanitation officials in the state in the name of enforcing applicable laws.

At a town hall meeting called by a non-governmental organization, the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Association (PRAWA), in conjunction with the Enugu State Justice Reform Team, the J4A, residents expressed concern over the activities of traffic and sanitation agents of the state.

They accused officials of the agencies of government including the Enugu State Waste Management Agency (ESWAMA), the Capital Territory Development Authority, the Ministry of Transport as well as those of local councils of exploiting the masses and road users in the name of complying with traffic and sanitation rules. Hence they called on the state government to intervene to arrest the situation.

At the two-day town hall meeting, every speaker lamented how officials who enforce compliance now engage in acts unknown to law
while carrying out their responsibilities.

South East Zonal Director of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mrs Uche Nwokocha noted that the ugly trend had continued following the use of “untrained” personnel to man the various road junctions where traffic lights are installed in the state.

She stated that these “officials”, who stand at the traffic junctions clutching big wood fitted with nails and other dangerous objects, have
made life unbearable for road users with the way they carry out their activities.

“They don’t know the difference between driving on the red and amber lights. You have run foul of their law if you are caught driving on
the amber light. They pursue you with vehicles, they pursue you with motorcycle and tricycle. In some cases, they drag you to their office where you are made to cough out between N20,000 and N30, 000 for the so-called traffic offence.”

“They employ every manner of uncivilized action including intimidation, harassment and what have you to extort residents and road users, especially first-timers to Enugu. It is worse when you cannot distinguish between those authorized to work for government and
touts who masquerade on the roads in the name of traffic enforcement,” she lamented.

Mr Chike Onaga, a legal officer with the Catholic Institute for Development Justice and Peace (CIDJAP), said there are many uniformed
agents on Enugu roads managing traffic. He stated that apart from officials of the Capital Territory Authority, there are also the Easypark who operate on motorcycles, those of Ministry of Transport as well as traffic agents from the three local councils of Enugu East, Enugu South and Enugu North comprising Enugu urban.

“They are all doing the same work. Agents of Enugu East Local Council are really causing pain for the people. They not only collect money, but have built cells where they keep people they’ve
arrested over traffic offences. My worry is that they have succeeded in creating panic among the residents such that many people no longer drive their car except on weekends”, he noted.

On ESWAMA, a Professor of Law, Race Achara, said that the body was approved by law to serve and not to intimidate people, adding that the way they collect their bills should be strategized.
He decried the mode of operation of officials of the body, whom he said arrest and try defaulters at the revenue court, even when demand notice was not served on the offender.

Achara suggested a review of the ESWAMA laws so as to give it a human face as well as serve the public generally.

An official of ESWAMA at the meeting, Egere Nwatu, said the agency was looking at the root cause of some of the abuses by her officials,
stressing that there was need to separate environmental crime from waste management offences.

The problem, according to him, had to do with residents who have always waited for the enforcement to come before they would pay their bills.
National Director of PRAWA, Dr Uju Agomoh said the town hall meeting was elicited by the research conducted by her organization on
management of traffic offences in the state.

She said that traffic officials have taken over the responsibilities of the police and road safety, adding that in some cases people are penalized for failing to wear seat belts, which was outside the mandate of the body.

The town hall meeting agreed that there was need to review the laws and regulations on traffic in the state, adding that though traffic
offences are considered minor offences, they have become a major offence in Enugu State.

They also called on government to remove touts from the system so that residents would know the right personnel employed by government to manage traffic and sanitation offences among others.

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