Nigerian Army bans trekking on Niger Bridge

Nigerian Army bans trekking on Niger Bridge

Soldiers have stepped up their surveillance of the Niger Bridge and search for suspected members of the Indigenous Peoples of Bia­fra (IPOB) and the Movement for the actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
Apart from mounting road­blocks on the bridge and con­ducting intense searches on trav­ellers on the route, the Army has banned pedestrians from crossing the bridge from both the Onitsha and Asaba ends of the bridge.
Although the Army unit from the 302 Artillery Regiment, Onit­sha headed by Col. Issah Abdul­lahi, began the search for IPOB and MASSOB members a week to Christmas, the ban on pedes­trians’ movement on the bridge was noticed on Tuesday when The NEWSMEN visited the area.
Under the new arrangement, a pedestrian from either Onitsha or Asaba end of the bridge must board either a vehicle or a motor­cycle to cross it.
Some residents complained to The NEWSMEN that their movement had been hampered by the military’s action because they not could afford the transport fare to board a vehicle or motorcycle to cross the bridge.
They called on President Mu­hammadu Buhari to transfer Col. Abdullahi from Anambra State.
A civil servant, who opted for anonymity, said: “It is humiliating to force people to go by a means of transportation they cannot afford. Yesterday, so many of us slept on the bridge as our means of crossing over was to trek first and latter board a vehicle to our direction but the sol­diers do not understand any other language.
“It is unfortunate that the bridge we walk through for ages is what these soldiers are asking us not to use. Some people may have goods to sell but no money for transport fare and walk over to sell them or may have spent their money and decide to trek home. But these sol­diers have stopped them from using the walkway on the bridge. Look at what they are doing, causing confu­sion with the snail speed of vehicles. They should be cautioned,” he said.
The Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), South-East zone, Dede Uzor A. Uzor, called for the transfer of the Army command­er, who he accused of violating the rights of the people with impunity. He wondered why the Army should not allow pedestrians access to Onit­sha or Asaba via the bridge.
“Why the suffering and humil­iation? When is it a crime to walk home? Why would they treat eve­ry trader as a member of IPOB/MASSOB? That is why I suspect they banned people from trekking home but what benefit is that to the state or the country? You know at the close of the markets, traders move in groups and they suspect them and ordered everybody must enter vehicles or motorcycles, there­by causing more confusion from the already tensed situation of searching every motorist,” he lamented.
But the Chairman of Intersoci­ety, Comrade Emeka Umeagbala­si, said there was an improvement on Tuesday on the blockade of the Head Bridge though vehicles were still moving at snail speed. He said the military had relaxed its excesses following the public outcry against their action.
The Army could not be reach for comments on the development. Several efforts to reach the com­mander were futile while the offic­er facilitating army/media relation­ship in the state did not help matters.
Vivian Gist had report­ed on Tuesday that travellers were stranded for days on the Niger Bridge Head because of its block­ade by the military.

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