There is no doubt, that a breath of Fresh air was experienced in the democratic space of God’s Own State on May 29, 2023. Factly speaking, it was the day, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti, OFR, took the oath of office as the 5th Executive Governor of Abia State. Ndi-Abia, well-meaning Nigerians and people from all walks of life defied the heavy rainfall to witness the historic swearing-in of our dear Governor.

As expected, Governor Otti used his inaugural speech to outline a series of well-articulated programmes his Administration would stir into action in order to positive change the tide of development in the state.

The next day, the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Engr. Ikechukwu Emetu, with his entourage, made their way to Umuahia city centre, Isigate, and empirically witnessed First-hand what traders and the motoring publics were passing through in the hands of these touts. The Deputy Governor wasted no time to order these touts to stop their evil trade or be made to the full weight of the law. It could be recalled that our dear Governor had indicated earlier in his inaugural address that the reign of touts in all facets of the state be put on hold, forthwith. In a matter of minutes the war against touting was swiftly extended to Aba, the economic hub of the State.

It would be safe to assert that swarms of touts “have vowed to make life most uncomfortable and miserable for the motoring publics.  Their illegal conduct has become a huge thorn in the flesh of road users in the State.

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To begin with, it is a common sight to see touts harassing and tormenting all manner of road users, particularly heavy truck drivers carrying or ferrying goods and services inside and beyond the shores of Abia State. If the driver fails to grease their palms, he would be made to face a raw deal. These touts would not hesitate to deflate his tyres, engage him on a verbal insult and even attack the driver. However, if the driver complies with the illegal extortion, he would be allowed to have a free passage.

Once in a whole, some die-hard drivers would refuse to accede to their illegal demands of these touts. In such moment, the touts would ferociously engage the driver in a hot pursuit. Like a lightening, those touts would jump into a moving vehicle and free for all fight would ensure between the driver and these touts. These dangerous undertaking may result into auto crash. And most unfortunately, innocent people may be crushed to death and Valuable properties of citizens willfully destroyed.

Lest we forget, these touts do not limit their evil operations on the motorway only. They have expanded the obnoxious practices “in all facets of the State economy.

A brief stop-over at Isigate Market Umuahia would show in practical terms the excruciating pains traders, ranging from old women, petty traders, those hawking sachet water, groundnuts, etc. were suffering in hands of these touts. On sighting anyone carrying any wares, these touts would rapidly descend upon the hopeless fellow with a view to extorting their hard earned income. Of course no receipt is issued once money exchanged hands. However, woe would betide any trader that fails to oblige these touts, as the fellow would face the risk of having his wares destroyed, confiscated at extreme case, these heartless touts would have sand poured into the traders garri, rice or beans. The fear of touts in the market is the beginning of wisdom in Abia State.

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Strangely again, it would be most unwise to show up in a bank in the State Capital with one’s Vehicle. As we know, most banks have small premises that would hardly accommodate most of their clients Vehicles. At such moment, bank customers would be forced to park their Vehicles outside the bank premises. By the time one is through with his banking transactions, awaiting touts would have removed the vehicle plate number of bank customer. No amount of grammar or logic would save the fellow from parting with huge sum of money before these touts would return the Vehicle plate number to him or her.

In recent times, anyone contemplating building any structure anywhere in the state must be prepared to settle plethora of touts or the project would not see the light of the day. The same applies to people trying to buy land for any project. Touts are everywhere seeking who to settle them or the land deal would not sail through.

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Furthermore, if you wish to obtain a new driver’s license or renewed old ones with vehicle particulars, the story is the same. Touts would not let you deal directly with the authorised officers, most of the time. In a nutshell, there is no sector of the State economy that is free from the menace of touts.

Society cannot remain helpless and allow these touts to roar unabated. Accordingly, the security agent, Ndi-Abia must align with the administration of Governor Otti to permanently put these swarms of touts out of business as their conduct is not adding any value to the socio-economic well-being of the State.

By Comrade John Emejor, State Director of Information, Umuahia