VICTORIA KALU has been monitoring the activities of street traders, drivers and policemen at the Rumuokoro roundabout in Port Harcourt for sometime now. In this report, she asks a pertinent question: when will the madness that has characterised the popular roundabout end?
Anybody who believes that Rumuokoro, that ever busy roundabout in Port Harcourt, is a place in constant madness may not be wrong. That is what Rumuokoro really is.
Unfortunately, the policemen who are supposed to ensure sanity there are either confused or assisting the civilians to misbehave, or both. The traders are very comfortable selling on the road. Taxi drivers feel freer to stop and pick their passengers on the road.
And then the street urchins, those guys called area boys. They harass unsuspecting members of the public and dispossess them of valuables. Rumuokoro is not a place to be at night or during the rush hour.
If you spend an hour at Rumuokoro, what you will see will shock you. Take the policemen for example. They are very friendly with commercial drivers. They play with them at will, while the drivers behave the way they like. The drivers feel very comfortable parting with some money for the police to allow them to pick and drop their passengers anywhere they choose.
Once money has changed hands, the police can look the other way. In fact, some of the policemen even have a register for the taxi drivers. They tick their names once they drop the notes. And once the name is marked, their sins remain forgiven for that day. The drivers can decide to leave their taxi on the middle of the road, go home to have some food and come back. What they will probably get is a slap on the wrist.
Daily transactions along the road by both traders and drivers have not only turned Rumuokoro to a market place, it has also turned it to a hideout for criminals. Some youthful thieves operate from their without encumbrances.
Some of the people spoken to express sadness over the situation of things at Rumuokoro. A taxi driver, Emeka Johnson, said the traders have succeeded in ending so many lives on the Rumuokoro axis, because drivers struggle to drive due to the road blockage. “The road was supposed to allow free traffic flow, but traders and policemen have already turned part of the road to an extension of slaughter market”, he said.
Another driver who gave his name as Opara said relevant agencies of the government had so much to do to solve the problems around there.
A bus operator, David Adams, blamed the situation on the drivers that load their vehicles on the road. He stressed that the practice hindered free flow of vehicles. And also most of the drivers consciously park along the road, even if they don't see any passenger coming.
“Drivers are the cause of the constant road block in Rumuokoro axis. Even if they don't see any sign of passenger, instead of the drivers to leave the area, they still park their vehicles on the road and possibly wait for those in their houses to come out:”
Defending their action, a trader, Chinasa, said they make lots of sales along the road. “Selling along the road gives us lots of money, because we all know that Rumuokoro is a very busy area. People find it very difficult to enter inside the slaughter market to buy something”.
Another trader who chose to remain anonymous said it was the busy nature and the high level of traffic in Rumuokoro that encouraged them to sell along the road.
“The busy nature and the traffic in Rumuokoro encourage us to sell along the road, despite the fact that the caretaker committee chairman of Obio/Akpor has tried to prevent us from selling along the road.”
She added that traders start selling by 3am, people come from different communities to trade in Rumuokoro junction. Things are bought at a cheaper rate by 3am, so Rumuokoro is designed to be busy.