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Wednesday, 06 December 2023 05:34

South East: Nightmare of coming home for Christmas

AS Ndigbo and other residents of South East region prepare to return home for Christmas and New Year celebrations, they are sure to face nightmare of passing through uncountable checkpoints, which actually are extortion points by security operatives. No route to the region is free of excessive extortion checkpoints.

Put together, from Lagos to Onitsha, Abuja to Enugu and the numerous ones dotting the roads in the region, no less than 4000 checkpoints constitute embarrassing barriers the people  are subjected to. At each checkpoint, motorists are openly extorted amounts ranging between N200 to N1000. This cuts across checkpoints  manned by  military and police.

Most embarrassing is that in some of these checkpoints, passengers are forced to disembark from their vehicles to walk across before boarding their vehicles again. Painfully, this is done irrespective of the weather or the health condition of the occupants in  such vehicles.

While brazenly engaging in the extortion spree, motorists and their passengers are also inhumanly treated like a conquered people. Annoyingly, in some cases the security operatives are not interested in carrying out routine security checks but to just extort and humiliate the commuters. They behave and act as if they are for different mission in the region other than to provide security to the people. Surprisingly, despite all the hues and cries from the people about this ugly trend in the South East, the military and police high command are yet to take any visible serious actions to stop it.

Military, police high command must end the extortion — Nwagbara 

Condemning the high rate of extortion of motorists on the South East roads, particularly by police and soldiers, Chief Executive Officer of Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiatives, YSAD, Obinna Nwagbara, urged the police and military high commands to take drastic measures against their men involved in the evil act. He insisted that the leadership of the security agencies must do more than giving out orders and threats which are hardly taken serious.

“We wish to call the attention of the leadership of these security agencies to take  more than a passing interest in the evil activities of their men and officers against Nigerians. It is unfortunate that the issue of extortion  on our roads continues to multiply with reckless abandon, with perpetrators unashamedly going about their ugly activities in the full glare of the public, including innocent children.

 

“From Aba to Umuahia, Enugu to Nsukka, Okigwe to Owerri, Owerri to Port Harcourt,  from Port Harcourt to Aba, Umuikaa Junction to Owerri, Aba to Ikot-Ekpene and across several major roads in the South East, huge  man hours are lost daily on account of multiple checkpoints where motorists are intimidated and extorted. As we approach the yuletide, more checkpoints with gun-wielding officials are daily taking over the highways in the South East. It is now an open bazaar on South East roads.

They are openly extorting from motorists, even giving change for those who so demand.“Seeing all of these, we are forced to ask; at what point did Nigerian roads become commercial banks and security and law enforcement agents’ cashiers? The IGP and the CPs, the military high command must do more than just barking out threats and orders against their men on the highways”, Nwagbara lamented.

Nothing will change until S/East Govs rise to say it is enough — INC 

The National President of Igbo National Congress, INC, Comrade Chilos Godsent, said the governors of South East should rise to say  enough is enough. He said the humiliation has lasted because the South East governors have allowed it.“

He stated: “The INC strongly condemns such humiliation and torture of the residents of South East. It is happening because the governors gave their consent to it. I have always insisted that the security chiefs in the South East must have mentioned it to the governors during security meetings and the governors approved of that.

“The governors should rise and stop it. The people of South East should not be treated with such disdain.”Yes, there had been cases of criminals attacking security agents at checkpoints, but this shouldn’t warrant such measure. It is capable of generating hatred in the minds of residents, thereby making them not to volunteer necessary intelligence needed to ensure effective security of the zone”.“

 

Checkpoints in the South East are  officially organized extortion,  intimation points– Prof Igwe 

A renowned Professor of Political Science, Obasi Igwe said, “the checkpoints across South East region are officially set for extortion, intimidation, humiliation against Ndigbo”.

He also alleged that the checkpoints are very often used for evils, in some cases kidnappings take place near and around some checkpoints, and wondered how such things happen near security operatives.

“Nigeria’s checkpoints in the South and Middle Belt are official organized extortion, humiliation, intimidation of Ndigbo. Huge sums of money is extorted from the Igbo at gunpoint at checkpoints, including those by another terrible group called Road Safety Corps, the topmost nemesis of travelers, whose own assignment is how to make bad things worse.

“Igbo youths with laptops, attractive handsets, reverse caps, sagging trousers, backpacks, especially those in flashy cars are instantly arrested for being “Yahoo boys” and, once taken or dragged behind a nearby building, they are never seen again by their families. The intimidation must stop”, Igwe said.

 Roadblocks, now tollgates, they should be dismantled — COSEYL

Igbo youths under the aegis of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, condemned this embarrassing practice by security operatives deployed to the South East region and called for the immediate removal of roadblocks unless they are ready to genuinely serve as security checkpoints, not extortion points as they presently constitute. The President General of COSEYL, Comrade Goodluck Ibem said soldiers and policemen deployed to the South East should stop treating the residents of the region as slaves and conquered people. 

“The federal government should clear the roadblocks. They are already causing logjam and inflicting pains on the people how much more during Christmas period when more vehicles will be on the roads. In their bid to extort money from motorists, they create long hold-ups, increasing pains and hardship.

“Security is about intelligence gathering. Before now, we used to have security patrols. Roadblocks are not the only way to tackle criminality. Let the security operatives do more of patrol instead of staying at a particular point which the bad guys know how to avoid.

“In fact, multiple roadblocks cause  insecurity. When busy extorting money from motorists, they lose concentration and the bad boys could seize the moment to attack them. Extortion exposes them to needless attacks by these bad boys”.

The Chairman Board of Trustees, BoT, Igbo Leaders of Thought, Prof. Madubuike Ezeibe, believes that checkpoints can serve good purposes if the security operatives decide to focus and do their duty professionally. He noted that although some of them had converted the checkpoints to extortion points, the relevance of their presence on the roads could not be underestimated.

 
“They do good work and also bad work. If you tell them to stay, what about the bad work they are doing? So, it is a very difficult situation. Their presence is  important because of the activities of these bad boys. If you send them to chase the evil boys out of the roads, they go and do their own evil. But the police and military hierarchies have a way of controlling them. I don’t think it will be proper to ask them to leave the roads because if they do, these bad boys will deal with the people.

“The presence of security agencies on the roads is important but their leaders have to find a way to control them so that they don’t do that which they are not sent to do”, Ezeife said.

Why are there checkpoints — Security agent

Defending the presence of the numerous checkpoints in the region, a security personnel, who spoke on grounds of anonymity said: “The killings that have been going on and are  the unprecedented savagery that attend these killings, keeps one wondering whether Igbo land is now populated by extreme brutes and savages.

“We have, on a number of times, seen ugly videos of decapitated human beings. It is not within the prospect of belief that a human being can severe the head of another and proudly  displays it with an equal sense of accomplishment.

“Similarly, we have also recorded a spate of kidnapping for ransom. The act has sadly become a very well organized and highly flourishing business. From the turn of events, it now looks like a sin of sort, to build a decent house or buy a car after many years of diligent toil and labour, because that is now an open invitation to those who like to fish from the boat, instead of the river.

“The Nigerian nation appears injured and helpless at this unfortunate new normal, as these killings, kidnappings, arson and decapitations no longer make news to most people.

“With time, the growing level of insecurity in the land gradually moved to the nation’s highways. This necessitated the posting of policemen on the highways. Apparently in a bid to stem the tide of these serious crimes, the  police high command decided to mount security checkpoints on the highways. We have since noticed that instead of achieving the aims for establishing them, they have turned out to be point of sales, PoS, and toll gates”, he regretted.

Lamenting on what he passes through on the roads, a commercial bus driver, Sunny Duru Onyegecha said: “The presence of armed security personnel on the roads, ought to enhance the safety of travelers. This has turned out to be a ruse. All manner of contrabands, illicit drugs, arms, ammunition and even kidnap victims pass through these checkpoints, so long as the drivers are prepared to part with money.

“Before, we shared our daily takings with the police men on the road, at every checkpoint. Today, soldiers on checkpoints have also joined their police counterparts in fleecing us of our money. Soldiers collect these illegal tolls either themselves or engage young boys to collect the money from motorists.

“The fact remains that any commercial driver that fails, refuses or unwilling to part his, will be forced to park his vehicle until he pays. These people no longer collect N50. The toll now is from N100 and above. These security personnel brazenly collect these tolls, stuff the pockets of their uniforms to bulging points and openly return the balance to the drivers”.

Another motorist, George Okoro said he will find it extremely difficult to believe that the superiors of these men at the checkpoints do not know about their unprofessional acts.

His words: “Will their superiors claim that they do not know what their men are doing on the road? Where does the money they collect, go to?

“We have severally heard about how hoodlums attack and kill policemen on roadblocks. Why won’t the criminals take them unawares, when their major interest is the money they collect from drivers”.

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