Nigeria Police Force, NPF, has a unit called ‘Safer Highways’. The idea behind its establishment is to ensure that our highways are safe and secure so that road users can freely move from one part of the country to another, anytime of the day, without fear. But this seems to be a tall dream as the highways have become death traps and a haven for all manner of criminal activities ranging from policemen/soldiers extortion of motorists, to armed robbery and kidnapping. These happen daily along major highways particularly, Benin-Sagamu, Abuja-Lokoja-Okene, Makurdi-Lafia, Makurdi-Jos, Bauchi-Gombe, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Warri-Sapele, Onitsha-Asaba-Benin, Damaturu-Maiduguri, Kano-Maiduguri, Katsina-Kano and Zaria-Kano roads to mention but a few of the crime-prone roads.
This new wave of criminality is blowing away the lives of many Nigerians. State-supported raids on Nigerian roads are happening. Drivers and other road users are passing through harrowing experiences and there is no evidence that those with the constitutional authority to stop their oppression on the roads are doing anything.
Nigerian soldiers and police mount road blocks anywhere and anytime only to extort money from drivers at gunpoint. And they make little or no effort to hide their mission, which is to extort as much money as possible. The brutality and disdain with which they treat common Nigerians require either urgent intervention by relevant authorities or vengeful self-help by Nigerians. The second option is not pleasant, which is why the authorities must take stern action against armed robbers that call themselves security officers.
To say the least, these police officers and soldiers are very inconsiderate, mean and wicked, forcing drivers and sometimes, passengers to part with their hard-earned money.
While they are doing this, they close their eyes to the task for which they were posted to the road-which is to prevent armed robbers and kidnappers from harassing road users. The inefficiency of law enforcement agents has given rise to daily reports of attacks on motorists and passengers. Last weekend, three of such cases were reported including the kidnap of a twin at Kabba junction along Lokoja-Okene road.
Do we not have a government in this country? Are we not a country of laws? Does the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, and state Commissioners of Police not know about these abuses on our roads? If they truly don’t, then it should be clear that Nigerians have no intelligence cover or security. We are certain that these police chiefs know about the hardship their officers inflict on road-users and could it be that because they get their share of the road loot they have conveniently looked away.
When we were growing up in the 80’s, we were made to believe that soldiers were more decent than the police and you dared not offer them a bribe. But today, they work hand-in-glove in the national robbery on our roads. Do commanding officers not know that their soldiers have also joined in this dishonourable act?
To stop the extortions that have reached epidemic proportions on our roads, we propose that police area commanders in whose jurisdiction crimes such as the aforementioned happen should be dismissed. In this regard, the Criminal Investigation Department, CID, should dispatch undercover intelligence officers to monitor the conduct of police officers and soldiers at checkpoints and arrest those that engage in extortion. If such arrests are made within a police area command twice, the third time, the area commander and divisional police officers should be summarily dismissed from service.
Furthermore, at checkpoints, notices should be placed informing drivers what specific documentation is required. It is not the responsibility of soldiers to ask for driver’s license, vehicle insurance, certificate of road worthiness, vehicle license, customs documents and the likes. What kind of country are we running that government officials would push their noses into other people’s businesses? The ‘papers’ that these pretentious soldiers and police officers are really interested in are those multi-coloured naira notes.
Nigerians deserve to be respected. They must travel in peace and enjoy the respect of security officers on the roads.
Come to think of it, what if a suicide bomber comes upon one of the long queues usually engineered by soldiers and police on the roads, and decides, “This is a good opportunity to make a great statement,” and then blows himself up and those Nigerians that have been forced into this situation by the ‘tight security’ make-belief? God forbid.