Posted by News Express | 3 July 2019 | 532 times
An ethnic nationality group, the Igbo Renaissance Forum, has alerted on what it called “the unpardonable extortion and the countless and often times needless checkpoints mounted by security agencies between Lagos and the South East and within the South East”, which at the end leave hapless travelers thoroughly fleeced and harassed.
In a statement titled ‘Roadblocks on South East Roads – The Unholy Enterprise and the Multibillion Naira official Extortion and Siege Ongoing on South East Roads’ signed by its International Coordinator, Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi II of Oyi), the group described the situation as disturbing and called for urgent action.
“We of the Igbo Renaissance Forum are heartbroken at the persistent and incurable scourge of the unfortunate and gargantuan extortion that is being carried out by security agencies at checkpoints along the Lagos to South East stretch and also within the South East States in Nigeria.
“It is no news that travelling to the South East from Lagos is the worst nightmare anyone can ever imagine. There is a terrible and suffocating distribution and duplication of security agencies on that route to the extent that one actually starts wondering if there is a deliberate effort to frustrate every commuter on that road and make life unbearable for those who come from that part of the country.
“It is instructive to understand that even in the North East and North West where insurgency is rife; such closely spaced number of checkpoints is not present. Is it to say that it is only on that route that security needs to be this choking?” the statement queried.
“These multiple checkpoints include the Police, Customs, Army, Road Safety, Vehicle Inspection Officer (VIO) and others. Their major duty as it seems is to extort cash from the motorists. When you have managed to pass through this constricting weave of multiple checkpoints and finally cross into the South East, another level of extortion hits you with a bang!
“One can be at one checkpoint and be looking at another one less than 500 meters in front! These roadblocks come with its attendant traffic bottlenecks that slow down the economic and social life of people in the South East. The disposition of some of the men of the security agencies that man some of these roadblocks can only be described as irresponsible, with some of them improperly dressed, reeking of alcohol and threatening to shoot at the slightest perception of refusal to pay up the bribes demanded.
“In some cases, some of these undisciplined officers have gone ahead to shoot to death innocent motorists for refusal to pay up the bribes. These unholy enterprises set up on the roads to the South East from Lagos and within the South East hinterland has very debilitating effects on a region that should rather be encouraged to continue growing and positively impacting the national bottom-line.
“It is traumatic to still be going go through such open and unabashed psychological battering after the experiences of the civil war and these same people are treated like a conquered region with all the lip service of being one with the rest of the country. When one thinks of visiting his ancestral home from Lagos, your heart sinks at the thought of the rigours of driving through this closely-knit weave of security agencies that have mounted multiple checkpoints for the purpose of extortion and harassment that sometimes lead to fatalities. It seems to be a subtle way of reminding the South Easterner that they are just being tolerated within the Nigerian space.
“Such checkpoint siege presence was used by Hitler against the perceived enemies, the Jews, and the same strategy is being used in Palestine to intimidate, disorient and emasculate the targeted regions.
“It is obviously incontrovertible that these official highway extortion-points also known as checkpoints deal a very heavy and deadly blow on the economy of the South East. On the 5th of July 2018, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa cited Orders 42 & 52, informed the Senate of an increase in armed roadblocks along major expressways on the South-East roads which is hampering ease of transport of persons, goods and services. On that very day, the Senate resolved to:
“Urge the Nigerian Police to quickly take action to reduce the number of heavy roadblocks on the South-Eastern major expressways so as to facilitate the free movement of goods, people and services throughout the region and the Federation.
“Urge the Nigerian Police and army to always seek to balance the imperatives of national security in the monitoring of an environment especially if there are no evident security breaches.
“Direct the Committees on Police and Army to take a tour of the South-East expressways to investigate the matter and report back to the Senate. It is going to be one year in a few days’ time and it seems the roadblocks have rather increased instead of decreasing!
“This is a region that has been recognised as the safest in the country, as well as with the lowest tendency for insurgent activities, yet it is treated as if it is a war zone. This same region is on record to receive the highest percentage of containers that lands at the ports in Lagos. One can then start imagining what these importers go through in the hands of these mercantile roadblocks.
“A good number of drivers and motorists have been killed over arguments with some of the overzealous security agencies, most times over refusal to pay bribes. These roadblocks within the South East region has become a feasting ground for the security operatives while crippling the economic output of the region as is evident by reports from various nongovernmental organisations. We, therefore, want to state that such lopsided and vindictive spread of roadblocks that are used to intimidate and emasculate the South East region be reconsidered immediately,” the statement said.
It called on the South-East Governors Forum to, as a matter of urgency, beam its searchlight in this direction and make this one of their priority projects as it is crippling the economic stability of the region while the Federal Government on its part should also move to clear these roadblocks that seem to be a tool for punishing a people that should rather be encouraged to add more to the economy of Nigeria.
Therefore, we make our demands as follows: That the security agencies do an appraisal of the roadblock policy in relation to the South East as requested by the Senate since July 5th 2018. That an immediate dismantling of these too numerous roadblocks commences immediately.
“That all cases related to roadblock killings by the security agencies be treated with the seriousness they deserve. Those current and internationally accepted standards be applied in the policing of the South East and other regions and not this kind of archival system that only seeks to make the roadblocks an office for collection of bribes on our roads. We shall be engaging the South East leadership in the National Assembly and the South-East Governors to ensure that this ugly phenomenon that has been overlooked for too long be addressed immediately and taken care of.
“We shall also be engaging with the business community and South-East stakeholders to find ways to continue to raise awareness on this matter both nationally and internationally. Finally, we implore the officers and men sent to these roadblocks to know that their duties do not include intimidation, extortion and summary execution of those who insist on not paying out bribes to them,” it declared.
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