Traffic at Ajebandele, the Produce Control Post between Ondo and Ogun State on the Ore-Ijebu Ode expressway was yesterday disrupted for several hours, as members of the Ondo State Flitchers’ Association barricaded the road, causing temporary hardship for commuters.
The Flitchers in their numbers protested what they described as illegal extortion and barbaric activities of the officials of Ogun State Government, who are collecting revenue from them when transporting planks and teak wood through the state.
The protesters bore placards with various inscriptions, alleging that many of their members have suffered physical assaults from agents of the Ogun State Government at the slight provocation.
Some of the placards read: ‘Enough of Harassment from Ogun State’; ‘Enough of Illegal Charges by Ogun State Government’; ‘Stop Attacking Our Trucks’; ‘Abiodun Call Your Men to Order’; ‘Stop Illegal Ticketing’; ‘Stop Unlawful Arrest of our People by Ogun State Agents’, among others.
Addressing journalists, the Chairman of the Flitchers Association, Mr. Aro David, alleged that officials of the Ogun State Government collect money from them up to five times while driving through the state to Lagos.
According to David, money is collected from them under various headings as Community Ticket; Local Government Ticket; Environmental Ticket; Parking Space, at various points on the expressway.
He said: “While Ondo State Government from where the planks are emanated collects only N7,000 at produce post, Ogun State Government officials, who are supposed to collect only N3,000, end up extorting over N35,000 from us under various headings.
“We have been subjected to various physical harassments whenever we tried to explain to these illegal tax collectors on the federal government expressway.
“My members in Ondo State can no longer tolerate these illegalities, and we are calling on the state Governor, Dapo Abiodun, to call these collectors and consultants to order.
“These planks originated from Ondo and Edo States and our colleagues in Edo State are also complaining. Ogun State which is just a passage to us collects N35,000 while the owner of the planks collects a maximum of N10,000 only. This is barbaric and cheating. We are going to resist this.
“We hereby give the Ogun State Government the ultimatum of seven days to correct this illegality and do what is right. Should the government fail to address our grievances, it will strain the relationship between Ondo and Ogun States, and we are ready for the confrontation.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of Klick Connect, Dr. Alex Ajipe, who is the consultant to the Ondo State Ministry of Natural Resources, described the tax collection by Ogun State revenue officials, as illegal and extortion in nature.
Ajipe also condemned in strong words the physical attacks by suspected agents of the Ogun State Government, describing them as barbaric which should be stopped by Abiodun.
In his reaction, the Ogun State Commissioner for Forestry, Mr. Tunji Akinosi, said the Flitchers had been trespassing into the state, saying flitching is illegal in the state.
He said: “If flitching is legal in Ondo State, it is illegal in Ogun State. If you saw planks in Ogun State, it is better you sell them in your state, because if you cross it to our state, the planks and the vehicle would be seized.”