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Food Items Worth Millions Rot In Niger, As Trailer Drivers’ Blockade Of Minna Road Enters Day Three

Motorists entering and exiting Niger State from the western and eastern parts of Nigeria have been stranded.

Trailer drivers blocked all the entry and exit points into Minna, the state capital, in a protest that entered Day Three on Sunday.

The protest had started on Friday in Bida and it continued on Saturday when the protesters blocked the road at Lambata.

The roadblock worsened on Sunday when the trailer drivers blocked farmlands and communities, apparently to ensure that no vehicle would enter or leave the state.

It led to the loss of perishable goods worth millions of naira.

The drivers urged the Niger State government to reopen the Bida-Minna road, saying they would not suspend their protest until the road is opened.

They regretted that the state government had blocked the Minna-Bida road in the past six months, making them to take the Bida-Lapai- Lambata road, which the drivers said had become a nightmare.

This happened as the government said it got approval of $86.64 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) for the construction and upgrading of the 82-kilometre Minna-Bida road currently being handled by Dantata and Sawoe Company.

The roads into Bida which have been blocked include the Gbazhi area before Emirs palace; Esso, Siriku junction; Bida-Kontagora junction in Mokwa alongside some street routes.

Even the residents have been overwhelmed by a surge in traffic around their area and resorted to blocking some alternative routes.

Stranded motorists decried their inability to meet up with some commitments due to the blockages on both sides.

Also, the Niger State government has said opening up the Minna-Bida road was not an option because of the huge amount of money spent on its repair.

A statement by Information and Strategy Commissioner Muhammad Sani Idris said the plying of heavy-duty vehicles on the road would damage the sections that had been repaired.

The commissioner said the trailer drivers cannot hold the government to ransom by demanding the opening of the road.

“The Governor Abu Sani Bello administration is determined that the road construction must go on and, as such, opening the Minna-Bida road to heavy-duty vehicles is not an option for now, for that would destroy everything the government has done and taxpayers’ money would be wasted redoing what was already done,” the statement said.

Also, the Niger State chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and some civil society organisations (CSOs) yesterday gave the Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), tanker and trailer drivers’ associations 48 hours to vacate the state’s roads or face massive civil action.

NYCN State Chairman Bello Sheriff spoke yesterday in Minna, the state capital, when he led the CSOs at a media briefing.

“The once acclaimed most peaceful and hospitable state in Nigeria has been thrown into a state of chaos and mundane situations by the activities of NARTO, PTDAN and Trailer Drivers’ Association with the blockade of the Suleja-Lambata-Bida roads for four days now.

“The implication of this heinous act by these drivers is that they have constituted themselves not only as a nuisance but as a government within government, blocking and stampeding major highways at the slightest provocation,” he said.

The NYCN official empathised with the residents and other road users for their patience and understanding.

Reacting, the State NARTO Chairman, Alhaji Hassan Shiroro, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the association was discussing with representatives of the Federal and state governments and security agencies on how to resolve the matter.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the groups represented at the media briefing included the NYCN, Youth Lead Nigeria (YLN) Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Northern Youth Assembly of Nigeria (NYAN), Niger State Students in Diaspora (NSSD).

Others are: Concerned Shiroro Youths (CSY), North Central Youth Parliament (NCYP), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Niger East Youth Frontier (NEYFRO) and the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN).

Also, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) National President Lawal Yusuf Othman yesterday beamed a ray of hope on the blocked road.

Othman told The Nation on phone that having spoken with Niger State Governor Sani Bello through his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, he was certain that there would be solution in the next 24 to 48 hours.

He noted that NARTO had been in constant touch with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to resolve the blockade.

Also, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) National President, Alhaji Abubakar Maigandi, urged the Federal Government to open up the road from Bida to Minna as an alternative to the blockade at Lambata.

Maigandi noted that the blockade had caused what he called monumental loss to the nation’s economy.

According to him, NARTO blocked the road to compel the Federal Government to repair it.

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