It is an industrial zone mapped out host major multi-nationals companies, but of late, due to the activities of touts and criminals, operators and residents are crying out as GODWIN EGBA reports.
Eleme local government area of Rivers state stands out among the 23 area councils that make up the state.
It prides itself as an envious economic engine house of the nation hosting over 200 multinationals.
A peep into a few companies that operate in this industrial oil-related companies include Indorama world-class Petrochemicals and Fertiliser Plants with a mega export terminal at Onne, Eleme Oil and Gas Free Zone and Nigeria’s Premier Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC).
Others include former National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON) now called NOTORE, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) comprising Federal Lighter Terminal and Federal Ocean Terminal (FLT/FOT) and two trailer parks that accommodate over 15,000 trucks that operate across the country.The first park at Ebubu – Onne junction was created by the old NAFCON while the second and most recent one at Tipper junction, Aleto was established by the National Union of Road Transporters (Truck Unit) and donated to the union body by Rivers state government.
These two parks are described as revenue spinners for the state government and the Eleme local government as millions of naira are being generated from the union body currently under the leadership of its chairman, Comrade Umar Giwa and secretary, Comrade Mohamed Lawal.
Criminals take over parks
However, while the union boasts of contributing huge revenue to the state government, the Ebubu – Onne Trailer Park is far from providing a comfort zone to the truck union members and other innocent citizens doing other businesses there including pedestrians that ply the routes connecting the Onne business community and Ogoni–Akwa Ibom axis.The national union chairman and his secretary described the Ebubu–Onne park while speaking with Blueprint as a den of criminals hosting kidnappers and armed robbers who attack people brazenly both in broad daylight and at unholy hours of the day.Lawal lamented that people who operate businesses at the place do so with fear as there is no safety and protection despite the presence of security outfits like a major police divisions that cover the entire Nchia – Eleme down to Onne industrial community. Some of the security outfits include Nigeria Police Force, Eleme Area Command, Eleme and Onne Divisional Police Headquarters and a conspicuous police outpost cited at the park. The union executives lamented that some criminals killed one of their members recently and another kidnapped but regained freedom after his parents paid five million naira ransom. Also, the secretary, Lawal was also attacked by robbers who attempted to snatch his Android handset but said he escaped with matchet cuts.
Investigation reveals that criminal activities take place at the park almost on a daily basis to the chagrin of security agencies because dare-devil operators freely occupy shanty ‘batcher’ they use as hideouts. Other flash areas where criminals attack truck drivers include Obibo, Ahoada, Mbiama, Elele and Onne, according to Giwa’s account.
The problem of touts
Their other challenges, according to Giwa and his union truck drivers, is illegal and multiple tax collection by community youths who print illegal tickets outside the one approved for the state and local government for the sake of uniformity.“These community youths would mount illegal road blocks where they forcefully stop our truck drivers to collect money. Failure by our members to give them the amount they demand, they would descend on the drivers and their trucks with dangerous weapons, inflicting injuries on the drivers and as well damaging the trucks.”Between Obibo and Imo River gate in Abia state, a truck driver coughs out as much as N30,000.00 to illegal tax collectors at different check points,”
Giwa regretted.“Sometimes ago, some revenue collectors killed one of the truck drivers at Mbiama and about 11 trucks were burnt at Obibo by some group of persons during a day of agitation for Biafra. All these put together, I have sent a petition to the police, Department of Security Service (DSS) and Rivers state government, but we are still at a loss over who can checkmate the activities of these criminal elements,” he regretted. The Ebubu trailer park and the Ejamah were originally conceived to serve as Motor Park for heavy trucks, especially trailers waiting for their turn to lift fertilisers from NAFCON and transport it to various retail distributors across the country.With time, human presence in the area multiplied and so did trailers and other vehicles which caused a lot of gridlock on the roads. The trailer park soon gave rise to shanty town around it which can be described as a slum with its over population.
Blueprint findings reveal that if someone drives through the major roads, one would mistake the park for a safe haven, but on the contrary.
Other environmental problems
Ebubu Trailer Park is connected with Okpako settlement in Ejamah through a pipeline which is presently used as access way and contains a hand-dug earth drain flowing from the park into Epene stream through Okpako settlement.The shanty structures inhabited by so many people who have no sanitary facilities results in indiscriminate defecation all over the place. Some persons, due to high population density of the area, put up in sanitary commercial toilet and channel the waste into the earth drain that flows down through the slum along the pipelines which also makes the place inaccessible.
Residents decry situation
Lamenting the environmental degradation of the area, a senior pastor with Assemblies of God Church in Okpako, Rev Eugene Osarobele said, “Last year they dumped something here and fire engulfed the whole area. People were burnt to death and property worth millions of naira were destroyed. This year again, the same business people have come to dump chemicals and those mostly affected are women and children.”Apart from sanitation, the most critical and worrisome attributes of the Ebubu trailer park is the total lack of security and reign of impunity within the jungle put in place by underworld mafia lords who made themselves immune to the laws of the land. Until recently, the law enforcement agencies were unable to take control of crimes in the area. Robberies are committed in broad day light and women are regularly raped. Investigation also revealed that hardly a week passes without people being murdered as there seems to be an unwritten law which forbids victims of crimes to report to the police, even with a police post in a caravan along the East-west road.Some innocent people who live within the park in an interraction with Blueprint said oftentimes, some gang chiefs would erect permanent outposts where sentries are stationed to watch out for the presence of law enforcement agents. They also said that landlords and caretakers within the area rule by the gun.One of them, Uche Harry said, “There are gunrunners who feel free and fear no law. There are drug dealers who fear no NDLEA operatives in the area. There are also hired killers who go about with sharp knives touting for jobs. There are freelance assassins waiting for any odd jobs. Of course, there are legions of sundry criminals who serve as recruit for political thuggery, oil bunkering, foot soldiers, prostitutes, armed group informants, and so on.”