Motorists, especially those driving private vehicles in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, have decried extortion by suspected hoodlums parading as members of the Rivers State Taskforce on Traffic and Street Trading.
The taskforce was set up during the first tenure of immediate-past Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, to clear street trading and illegal motor parks in the state.
However, LEADERSHIP gathered that as time went on, members of taskforce went into controlling of traffic in major junctions in the state capital, especially Waterlines Junction and Rumuola Junctions along Port Harcourt-Aba Road as well as Rumuokoro Roundabout connecting Ikwerre Road and the East-West Road.
It was further gathered that tgd the decision of members of the taskforce to venture into traffic control along the major roads, created room for imposters to infiltrate the organisation.
The new Rivers State Governor, Siminalaye Fubara, is yet to take a decision on whether the taskforce will continue to exist or be disbanded.
Speaking to our correspondent on his experience, a banker, Isreal Goodluck, said he had been confronted by the hoodlums at Rumuokoro Roundabout and Waterlines Junction on two different occasions.
Goodluck explained that on the two occasions, he was forced to cough out between ₦15,000 and ₦25,000 to them in order not to have his car impounded by the state government.
He said: “My brother, on two occasions, I encountered them; one was at Rumuokoro Roundabout and other other was at Waterlines Junction. Before you know it, they will jump into you car and accused you of violating a traffic light that does not function.
“During the incident at Rumuokoro Roundabout, I settled them their with ₦15,000 because they wer beginning to become violent. At Waterlines Junction, before I knew it, two persons jumped into my car.
“They overpowered me and took over my steering. We drove round the whole of Port Harcourt in the name of looking for an impoundment site that has space. At about 5:00pm, they took me to an ATM where I withdrew ₦25,000 and gave to them before the handed over my car key to me.”
Narrating his own experience, a media practitioner, Okoh Ufere, said he was waylaid by the hoodlums at Waterlines Junction in Port Harcourt, who accused him of violating traffic at the junction.
Ufere stated that three men, dressed with the taskforce reflective vests jumped into his car and ordered him to drive to a point along the Port Harcourt-Aba Road.
He said when they noticed that the genuine members of the taskforce force were ahead, they hid their reflective vests and forced him to the back sit of the car while one of the took over the steering.
The media practitioner said: “As the jumped into my car, they ordered to drive to a distance and by the time we got the Anglican Cathedral at Garrison, they ordered me to come down because they have impounded the vehicle.
“They forced me to the back seat where I was sandwiched inbetween two of their members and one of they, who was later identified as Amaechi, took over the wheels. However, when we were about to begin the journey to the impoundment site, they saw some Taskforce members ahead and hurriedly hid their reflective vests.
“The journey to the site, which they claimed was located at Elekahia community, took us about three hours as we drove round the whole of the state capital until I told them that my fuel tank was already empty.
“They then parked at D-Line close to the Garrison Junction and forced me to withdraw ₦15,000 from a Point of Sale (POS) agents before handing over the car key to me.”