The National Union of Road Transport Workers in Borno State has responded to a twitter claim that its members pay at least N300,000 each before soldiers provide escort through dangerous routes in the state.
Borno is the state most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency which has caused about 100,000 deaths since 2009.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said on Sunday that the army will investigate claims by a Twitter user accusing soldiers of forcefully collecting money from commercial motorists before providing escort services.
The recent accusation is despite the fact that the escort service had been criticised as very poor. Civilian travellers are sometimes attacked, killed or abducted by Boko Haram gunmen despite the military escort.
A Twitter user, @Dan-Borno, had shared a picture with a caption stating that "long trucks assembling along Ngamboru Ngala Road waiting for @HQNigerianArmy to escort them. Each truck owner will pay N300,000.00 to the soldiers escorting them and there are estimated 200 - 300 trucks per trip".
Officials of the NURTW have, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that the claim is untrue.
"I am the chairman of the NURTW here in Borno state and if there is something like that happening, I should be the one to know before any other person does", said Bello Moduganari
"As far as I am concerned that allegation is not true. The soldiers may have their excesses or shortcomings; but it would be unfair on our part to make such claims that are unfounded.
"The Maiduguri-Gamboru is one of the routes that are not that very safe. And each time our drivers are to ply the route we get escort from the military, who would only advise us to embark on such trip if the routes are safe. And if the routes are not very safe they would equally advise us to tarry a little until they clear whatever challenges on the way".
Another official of the NURTW, however, admitted that there are fees collected from the truck drivers and owners of the goods conveyed before each truck is allowed to embark on the cross border trip.
"The claims that each truck must pay about N300, 000 before moving out of Maiduguri is very true", said the Secretary of the Borno NURTW, Ahmadu Musa.
"As a matter of fact, each truck pays more than N400, 000 and the money has nothing to do with the soldiers of the Nigeria Army providing escort services. The fees had to do with Customs excise duties which every truck must pay to the Nigeria Customs Service before being allowed to leave Maiduguri. And we the union officials too would also collect our dues per each truck before they leave. So when you put all these monies together, it is even over N400,000".
The trucks leaving Maiduguri from the Mina garage are mostly bound for Chad.
"Unfortunately some people who lack deep knowledge about how international transport of commodities work, would sit down and be making spurious allegations. The soldiers only come in when we are ready with all our papers and have gathered enough truck for the escort movement. They escort us from Maiduguri to Dikwa and from there we find out way to the borders".
"If the army hierarch wants to investigate it; that is very fine. We are ready at any time to given them all the details they need. And if they find nothing let them go and get more explanation from whomever you said post such thing on the social media", said Mr. Musa.