There are lamentations from residents of Anambra State over the activities of the enforcement arm of the Anambra Road Traffic Management Agency, ARTMA.
ARTMA is a traffic control agency empowered by law in Anambra. The group was primarily set up to help traffic wardens with the management of traffic on the busy roads of the state.
The group came into existence during the Governor Peter Obi era under the name ATMA, Anambra Traffic Management Agency.
They have been noted on many occasions to have been very useful in various communities during the yuletide, as they are usually deployed in large numbers to ensure free flow of traffic.
Since the emergence of the Prof Chukwuma Soludo administration, however, the group has further been empowered with more functions, including the arrest and impoundment of vehicles belonging to traffic offenders. They have also been more ferocious, because of the drive for tax by the Soludo administration, just as they now constitute a revenue generating arm of the government.
Soludo upon assuming office as governor had extended an olive branch to hoodlums in the state. This was because of the rate of insecurity. This was also seen as a way of bringing people out of criminality to useful ventures.
Apart from criminals, who are known as unknown gunmen, Soludo also offered to reabsorb all motor park touts in the state into useful ventures, saying that there was no room for touting in the state any more. He banned touts from operating in all motor parks in the state and directed that those who wanted to be absorbed into state government service can register at designated points.
This was how many unscrupulous elements found their way into the agency as staff of Anambra State government. Quite recently, there have been a series of complaints against the agency over extortion, intimidation and wrongful impoundment of vehicles by the enforcement arm of the agency.
Though many motorists are known for beating traffic rules, many motorists have complained of being arrested unduly, while others have accused the organisation of extorting them.
A resident of Onitsha, Mrs Eunice Ibe told DAILY POST that: “What we are seeing in Onitsha in the hands of ARTMA people is something else. Last week, I was driving and I got a call, so I cleared from the road and picked my call, and while I was on the phone, a mini bus double-crossed my vehicle and about six men jumped down and invaded my vehicle.
“I was so afraid; before I knew what was happening, they had invaded my vehicle, entered the front and back seats, while another one who was standing by my side had a spike to my tire, asking me to come down.
“I was only consoled that it was happening in broad daylight and people were all around, else I would have thought they were armed robbers.
“When I came out of the vehicle, one of them was making a video recording of my car. That was how they told me to pay N30,000 for wrong parking. I begged them that I was only taking phone call, but they did not listen to me.”
Another resident of Awka, Mr Nonso Oguno, who spoke with DAILY POST on the excesses of the officials of ARTMA, said the activities of members of the enforcement arm of the agency were constituting nuisance, adding that it was high time the people resisted them.
He said the condition was made even worse because the governor recruited touts into the agency, hoping that this would rid the state of touts, but that the activities of the touts within the agency had gotten out of hand.
He said: “In an effort to recreate and reabsorb touts in the State by Governor Soludo, touts are now exploiting every opportunity within their disposal to intimidate and extort the unsuspecting public, especially Awka residents, all in the name of the Traffic Enforcement team.
“Soludo emphasises this dictum “Soludozie Anambra” but this is simply rhetoric, and negates the exact intentions in the context as the supposed agents of Soludozie Anambra are now doing.
“It is, therefore, high time the residents rose in defence of themselves against these touts in the guise of Traffic enforcement Team as an official label.
“They cannot be useful to the Government as the Governor thinks because they’re unleashing their unbearable attitudes resulting from drug use and addiction, on the people, which is a major influence in carrying out their ill Traffic Enforcement Acts.
“Without mincing words, this act is no longer acceptable, it is suffocating, especially amidst the economic challenges and may tarnish whatever positive image and opinion the people are trying to form about the State Governor.”
The managing director of ARTMA, Mr Emeka Okonkwo could not be reached as at the time of filing this report, but a message from the media department of the agency, blamed the poor traffic in Awka on most motorists, who he claimed seek to cut corners.
The agency blamed some motorists of attempting to corrupt their officials with bribe, claiming that they see such road users every day.
The message by the agency read: “On a daily basis, we interface with road users who always want to cut corners. Such road users tag us as their enemies because we make them pay the appropriate fines. We will not stop until the proper driving orientation in our beloved homeland is achieved.”
Meanwhile, complaints of lack of road signs by motorists seem to be receiving attention as the agency in the press statement stated that road signs were being hoisted around the popular Eke Awka Market, which is also known for traffic gridlock.
The agency showed pictures of their officials hoisting the road signs, saying: “This is Eke Awka. The road is free, with traders and commercial vehicles all under proper check. More signs are being installed and the people are happy.”
Despite complaints by some motorists, the Managing Director of the Agency, Okonkwo has been severally applauded by many for innovations in the agency, which include the introduction of unique numbers on the vest of every member of the enforcement team, and phone numbers where the bad eggs among them can be reported.
He insists that every traffic offence has a stipulated fine, and that offenders should insist on going to their offices for payment, with proof, instead of bribing the enforcement team.