By Clement James
Motorists in Calabar, the Cross River State capital have called on the governor, Prince Bassey Otu to intervene and caution the Federal Road Safety Corps officials from harassing and intimidating them on state roads.
Among those who fell on the path of FRSC on Thursday was one Mrs Rosemary Okokon, a businesswoman who claimed that road safety officials harassed her in a manner that got her injured as they struggled with her over the ignition key along Marian Road, in the heart of the metropolis.
She told our correspondent that “this is a flagrant disobedience to an Appeal Court judgement banning Federal Road Safety Corps officials from operating on state roads.
“Look at the way they barricade the road and desperately force motorists to either give them money forcefully or they take your vehicle to God-knows-where,” she said.
Mrs Okokon sustained a level of physical injury, during the aggressive treatment meted on her by one of the FRSC officials she referred to as C.E. Ejim along Marian Road.
Reliving what she called a painful ordeal, Madam Okokon said: “I was so shocked to see the FRSC officials on a state government road like Marian. Usually, they stand on the Murtala Mohammed Highway. As a loyal citizen of this country, when they stopped me, I stopped and the man with the name tag, C. E. Ejim asked for my vehicle particulars and I complied. Everything was in order.
“But, the next thing I knew was that the man went away with the originals of my Driver’s Licence, claiming that it had expired. Meanwhile, I did a 5-years licence, which is expected to expire in 2025. Now, that was dubious. Because I raised an alarm that he could not take my original and valid Driver’s Licence away, he started claiming that my four-month-old tires were expired.
“He was looking for every way to indict me and since he couldn’t find any, he still would not return my documents. He asked to see my spare tyre and fire extinguisher, even ordering me to unfasten the tyre and bring it to him before he would release my valid documents. In the process, I sustained injuries. In fact, I am truly traumatised,” she said.
“The official blamed me for a defaced plate number to which I asked if I printed it personally. I got it from Road Safety and expected that they would have informed us that they used inferior paints for the number plates. How can they brutalise me for a defaced number plate, which they issued,” Okokon queried.
Another motorist who gave his name as Bassey Oto complained that the Road Safety officials were just looking for money and appealed to the governor to restrain them from flouting court judgment “by staying on the Federal Highway.”
Oto said: “We ate in trouble if the Federal Government agents can wittingly flout an Appeal Court judgement without anyone challenging them. Brutalising motorists on a state road simply calls the governor to lecture FRSC on their limitations and I hope the governor will rise to the occasion before the people revolt.”
However, a road safety official, who pleaded anonymity said that they were “collaborating with the Cross River State government to enforce road tax and generate revenue.”
A visit to the Cross River State Internal Revenue Service, where the road safety officials were supposedly registering vehicle owners under a tree beside the CRIRS building, a basket was seen containing several seized car keys and staff of the CRIRS conducting documentation and collecting revenue, which ordinarily should have been paid directly into the Cross River State Government coffers.
The reporter observed several motorists arguing and complaining about the disregard of the Court Judgement and why the Cross River Command of the FRSC should flout the ban and forcefully arrest (at gunpoint) vehicle owners – most of whom were within their rights.
One of the staff of the CRIRS, who was seen visibly quarrelling with motorists, said “The State Government has since been enforcing vehicle registration and roadworthiness. But, anything Driver’s Licence and plate numbers is road safety that the money is paid to. It is not us at all.”