By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The DG of the Cross River state Department of Public Transportation DOPT, Mr. Godwin Nyiam, has told CrossRiverWatch that the death of a trader allegedly killed by operatives of the department earlier today Friday, at Watt market in Calabar, was an accident.
Mr. Nyiam who said, he is still recovering from a violent attack on him and members of his team at Marian market few days ago, accused those he said have turned public roads to revenue points, of sponsoring the ongoing violent campaign against operatives of the department to prevent them from doing their work.
While responding to the uproar that has greeted the death of the trader simply identified as Michael, the DOPT boss said: “I wasn’t there today. Me and the Speaker and the Chief VIO did certificate presentation at the three days workshop we did for driving school instructors. It was there in the presence of the speaker that I received a distress call that there was problem in Watt market. By the time we finished and got to governor’s office, that thing (the incident) had come to an end but from my interaction with the adjutant who Ied the squad, he said when they got to Watt to carry out our daily operations, they saw a group of boys; first the market was littered with goods at the middle of the road, selling where we have told them not to sell in that particular area. They should go inside the market and sell. There is a difference between market and the road side. And then we said you can sell on the road side but not everywhere in Calabar. We designated some places where you cannot sell by the road side. For instance, that road is the road leading to the Obong of Calabar palace. It’s a very essential road. Visitors come in, Presidents come in, Commissioner of Police come in, IG or whoever wants to pay a courtesy call. For ease of traffic, we advised them not to sell there, having given them more than five months notice, so when they got there today, they saw that the people have returned back, it’s like we’ve not done anything at all, and the first person they saw, they asked why are you people keeping things here, then he responded that, those things you people did before, you cannot try it this time around, you cannot try it! What you people saw at Marian market is even half of what you are going to see here and all that. Then they made U-Turn and the man who was selling kept his wheel barrow at the middle of the road and other vehicles were horning, they now took the wheel barrow and put it in the DOPT vehicle; the man now went and sat in front of the vehicle that nobody will drive out. At the time the car wasn’t driving. The car was parked, since he had blocked. While they were arguing, they saw boys with cutlasses; that means it was planned already and fuel and they were speaking Calabar language, (Efik) saying “nomi matches”, that they were going to burn, that no DOPT staff will survive it. In that process, everybody was running, that’s where they had the accident. The eyewitness stated the same thing again before the DPO Atakpa, because he said he is a bus driver. He loads from African Club. That is what he saw. That the young man went and then stopped in front of the car, when the car made a U-Turn, the car now stopped, but when they saw the crowd coming with sticks, of course you know you will run for your dear life, bringing matches and bringing cutlass, and the experience I had in Marian market, uptill now, it’s still like a shock. In fact, I’ve not been able to overcome it. I saw death live. People bringing cutlasses, all manner of weapons, that DOPT (cannot stop them), that they must sell anywhere they want to sell. I know that this is being sponsored. I know that. I am convinced that it is being sponsored by enemies of good governance. Those who do not want the needful to be done.”
He emphasized that the DOPT was not after tolls from the traders and accused illegal toll collectors of sponsoring violence against the department.
“We are not collecting tolls. We are saying leave the road. In a bid to bring sanity there is always a reprisal attack. And then we are very civil in our approach. We are not entitled to any gun. We don’t have anything. The highest we have in the office is batten, which of course the number of battens we have are limited. The whole office, it will surprise you to hear that we have only 15 battens for a population of about 300 people, so you can imagine that. So we are not armed. We don’t even have any police at our disposal. We went to Marian market that day and we didn’t know that they had planned already for this attack. Now who are these people? The revenue collectors. Those who have turned government roads to revenue points. They are generating revenue, not because they are generating for government, and so by telling them to stop generating this illegal revenue, you are already offending them. And since they don’t want it to stop, anybody can plan and then ask anybody to do anything. That’s exactly what happened and that’s what I was informed. Informed by my staff and informed by the bus owner who carries passengers at African Club. The incident happened at African Club. And other policemen too have confirmed that, that is exactly what happened. That the man went and stopped in front of the car and when they saw the mob action coming, that they were coming to burn them, so they were running, in that processm, every other vehicle too was in motion and they were all running like that and then the accident occurred. Unfortunately the man died. May his soul rest in peace. It was not a deliberate thing.
Mr. Nyiam appealed for support from the public to enable the department serve them better explaining further that:
“The last time we paid courtesy visit to Road Safety, we were told that in 2017 alone, 5000 people had road accidents in Cross River state. And out of that five thousand, 75 were injured and 25 had permanent disabilities. But they don’t understand the importance of what we are doing, they may not get it right now. Was it not three weeks ago they said a car loose break at Goldie by Atakpa and then knocked some persons (down)? So what we are simply asking them, there is a market there, there is space there, there are shops there; you can go to the market. They should stop patronizing these people who are collecting money, illegal revenue. We are not collecting taxes. Our own is just, leave the road, this place you are selling is causing obstruction. Because our job basically is traffic control. So anything that stands as obstruction to traffic or pedestrians, we have to clear it up from the road. All we want is just sanity on the road. So that is it. We mean no harm. We are only asking them to support us in order to serve them better. That’s all we are asking for and then by doing the needful. Also recall that the last time, that is how the okada people went and hired one corpse and said DOPT killed, meanwhile the Cross River state government has banned Okada since 2017 and it became a law that once you impound okada, you don’t refund. Then that okada should not be found at the metropolis and then they are still coming again. Are you now saying that the individual is stronger than the government or opposes government policy? So it was an accident according to an eyewitness and the DOPT operatives as informed. At the time the DOPT left, they were not even aware that somebody had died. It was later on they heard what happened because that time everybody was running. Some f them (DOPT) even ran to African Church and they said the pastor was calling that they are armed robbers before they said no they are DOPT. They were calling me to tell Police to go and rescue them from that particular place. So it’s a war against DOPT by a few cabal and against government policy.” He concluded.
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