Luxury bus owners bemoan gridlocks, multiple road checks

Luxury bus owners bemoan gridlocks, multiple road checks

As the year gradually comes to an end, ushering Christmas and new year festivities, transporters, especially luxury bus owners, have appealed to the federal government to order the removal of the road blocks mounted by the Nigerian Army on many strategic highways in the South-eastern part of the country, owing to the impediments they constitute to the free flow of vehicular traffic.

The inter-state transporters said on Wednesday that the military road blocks have led to gridlocks which result in road users being stranded for hours while some commercial vehicles get to their destinations two days after departing their terminals.

Speaking in Lagos while reacting to what he said was recent harrowing experiences of luxury bus operators and other commercial vehicle owners since the Nigerian army’s ‘Operation Python Dance’ commenced, the President of the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON), Chief Dan Okemuo, lamented that some travelers depart Lagos in the morning and get to their eastern destinations the following day.

The association’s President called on the Federal Government and the Army to listen to the cry of users of the eastern highways and halt the operation immediately or conduct it off-road and in a manner, that will not affect the flow of traffic.

Corroborating Okemuo’s views, ALBON Vice President, Prince Emeka Mamah, expressed the fear that if the situation remains the same till Christmas, travelling to the east for the festivities would be nightmarish for the easterners.

He explained that this is because the volume of traffic on the highways leading to the south-east is expected to increase sharply, while some of the roads are in bad condition already, and slow down traffic even on normal days.

“In the past few days,” Mamah recalled, “the traffic congestion caused by the Operation Python Dance road blocks was so bad that many of our buses and passengers slept on the road while some trips lasted close to 48 hours.”

The Vice President further remarked: “This is not the kind of Christmas gift we want for our customers who grow in number during the yuletide. The road blocks are simply compounding the problems on the roads.”

In place of road blocks that are counter-productive, traffic-wise, Mamah suggested that patrol teams be deployed to some identified trouble spots and stretches of the highways, noting, “I believe that this will be more effective and reassuring to the road users than road blocks that cause traffic jams and keep travelers stranded.”

He added: “We at ALBON will like to use this medium to thank our numerous customers who have been travelling with our members’ vehicles to various destinations over the years, a merry and safe Christmas celebration. You are the reason we are still in business, and we will do whatever we can to ensure that you travel comfortably and safely throughout this season and beyond”

Some of the army road blocks are located at both ends of the Niger bridge in Asaba and Onitsha; 9th Mile in Enugu; at both sides of the expressway linking Anambra and Enugu staes {at Amansea}: on the old Enugu-Awka road: and Onitsha-Owerri road – in what the Army authorities say is part of efforts to ensure free flow of traffic, as well as check crimes and raids by herdsmen.

But the transporters argue that since the operation was launched on November 27, traffic, especially on the highway leading to Asaba and Onitsha from the Benin end, has not been flowing freely and is likely to worsen if the road blocks are not dismantled.

Emphasizing that the country is not at war with itself, the luxury bus owners said the presence of the military at road blocks gives the impression that there is war, a situation which may create tension among members of the travelling public. “We implore the government to do the needful by removing those military road blocks along our major highways for members of the public to have a peaceful Christmas devoid of tension.”

They appealed to government to prevent a repeat of last year’s ugly incident when the road leading to the Niger bridge from Asaba was made completely impassable for motorists as soldiers mounted road blocks allegedly to checkmate the activities of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

As a result of the stop-and-search exercise that year, passengers going home for Christmas from the western part of the country spent two days on the road.

Operation Python Dance, according to the Nigerian Army, is expected to end on December 27.

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