A driver attached to the circulating unit of the African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc (ANN), publishers of the Nigerian Tribune titles, was on Tuesday, forcefully extorted the sum of N15,000 by suspected officials Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), for allegedly not having up to date insurance paper.
The driver, Mr Demola Adebisi, had delivered his Tuesday consignment in Warri and was returning to Ibadan at about 8:00 a.m when he was accosted by officials of the VIO at a roadblock along Warri – Sapele highway and was forcefully taken to their office at Osubi.
He said he was not aware that his vehicle’s insurance certificate had expired on November 17, 2021, since other papers he obtained the same on the date were expected to expire on November 25, 2021.
Efforts by the driver, who had been on the road since Monday night to convince the officers to let him go having just refurbished his vehicle following a ghastly accident, fell on deaf ears.
Mr Adebisi told our correspondent that the officials, rather than reason with him, hurriedly billed him N55, 000 as fine as a condition to let him off the hook.
It was at this point that he contacted Nigerian Tribune correspondent in Warri at about 8:30 a.m who, in turn, informed officers of the Warri Correspondents Chapel to wade in.
Chairman of the chapel, Mr Okies Vickies, made a call to the director of VIO in the state capital, Asaba, Mr Oyakemeagbegha Ezonebi, who promised to intervene, but said he was in a meeting.
But as of 10:30 a.m to 12noon, Mr Ezonebi could no longer be reached on his mobile line while the driver remained helpless and fagged out in the custody of the VIO officials.
A text and WhatsApp messages later sent to the phone line of Mr Ezonebi by our correspondent to prevail on his officials to release the driver was read but not responded to as of the time of filing the report.
Mr Adebisi, whose Toyota Corolla vehicle number is AGN 307 FG, said the officials, eventually extorted N15,000 from him, saying ” Though many of them were not in uniform, I can recognise the official that collected the money from me.”
However, it has become commonplace for officials of VIO to mount roadblocks on major highways against extant laws to extort money from unwary motorists, especially commercial drivers in Delta State.
Speaking with the chairman of the Warri Correspondents Chapel, Mr Vickies, he called on the VIO director, Mr Ezonebi, to not only call his men to order but return the N15,000 forcefully collected from the Tribune driver.