Flouting The Inspector General's Directive
Before the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Mr.Ogbonna Onovo was relieved of his position as the IGP recently and replaced with AIG Hafiz Ringim by the Presidency in the retirement that affected the Service Chiefs and the IGP, he gave a directive dismantling all the police road blocks in the South East. In Abia State , the announcement was made by the present Inspector-General of Police, who was then the AIG Zone 9 Police Command; Umuahia.According to Mr.Ringim, in the announcement, noted that the action became necessary because policemen instead of pursuing duties which they were deployed to the check points to perform use the checkpoints as avenue of extorting money from motorists.
Investigations by this publication reveal that some policemen are disobeying the directive of the former IG by reviving the checkpoints at dusk .At Ukpakiri, along Aba-Ikot-Ekpene road, the Police Mobile Force men camping at the primary school use the cover of the night to mount road blocks and extort money from the derivers.
According to a source who confided to this publication, this illegal road block begins by 6pm and ends between 9-10pm.The source further noted that drivers plying that route by that time see hell, as they would have to part with between N200 to N300.'It is hell plying that route by that time of the night because of the maltreatment we receive from the hands of the policemen who mount the road block.Youwill definitely have to part with at least N200.If you fail to do so, you are in for a very big mess because you will receive the worst beating of your life,' the source revealed.
At Ukaegbu Road Junction, along the same Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road, a team of policemen that patrols with anti-riot vehicle do not only mount this illegal checkpoint at dusk but in the broad day night. They steal one hour every day and in a commando-like manner extort motorists and speed off.
The scene on the Aba-Port-Harcourt Express Way is the worst. All the check points from Alaoji junction to Imo Gate are all alive and collecting their usual tolls. Some checkpoints are mounted by the by the red-capped police, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) who collect N50 per vehicle. According to a police source, retaining the road blocks became necessary because the road is prone to armed-robbery attacks. According to him, the directive is for them not to extort motorists.
On the other hand, motorists are now heaving a sigh of relief. According to Mr.Ekarika Bassey, a driver who plies Aba-Calabar route, the road blocks that are dismantled do not only relieve them financially, because of the amount of toll they were contributing, it has even relieved the passengers emotionally. According to him, the journey which was taking them donkey hours can now be concluded in less than three hours. 'The roads are now free. The artificial traffic jams created by the police road blocks are no longer there.Commutters travel at ease now and the accidental discharges by trigger-happy policemen are now reduced,' he noted.
Prior to the dismantling of road blocks in the South East, a lot of actions trailed which analysts believe are responsible for the directive by the then inspector-General of Police. The Coalition of South East Human Rights and Pro-democracy Activists in the communiquÃ© issued at its first summit at Enugu called on the government to dismantle the road blocks dotted here and there in the South East. According to the coalition, the road blocks were not serving any positive interest to the public rather serving the pecuniary interest of policemen, who use to extort motorists.
According to the Barr. Ben Ezeagu, the Convener of Coalition the high presence of police check points in the South East is not the solution to the crime situation in the region.' Unfortunately, I am sorry to say this; as a matter of fact some of the security personnel are even contributing to the increase in crime wave in Igbo land. Their only business is just to extort money and they are not bothered about how bet to tackle crime problems .Another aspect of it is that it is not just so easy for you to tackle crime without first of all tracing the root cause of the proliferation of these criminal activities . At the root of it is the failure of leadership,' he declared.
Also, in a recent study published by Human Rights Watch , an international human rights organization, the group condemned the level at which policemen extort road users at checkpoints .According to the group, most indecent activities of the police are carried out at checkpoints, such as murder of innocent Nigerians by trigger-happy policemen. The group also noted that between January last year and June this year that the Nigeria police have extorted huge sums of money from Nigerians in the checkpoints across the country.
In a similar study done by the International Society for Rule of Law and Civil Liberties (INTERSOCIETY), another human rights group, the group put the figure which the Nigeria Police have extorted in the road blocks across the South East states at N9.3 million. A week before the road blocks were dismantled, Drivers plying routes in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Cross River states, under the aegis of Inter State Drivers Association, went on strike to protest what they considered as the high level extortion by the Nigeria Police and the inhuman treatment meted on them. As Hafiz Ringim, who has just been elevated to the position of the IGP from one of the zonal commands in the South East region , assumes office, let us see how far he can go to address this issue of police extortion.