Last View on Sun 19th April, 2009 Last Modified on Fri 19th September, 2008 10:38:50 am Author: Posted by Admin Sahara By Edu E. Aniobi POLICE roadblocks are back with renewed vigour in Nigeria especially in the Southeastern states. There is no part of the Southeast geopolitical zone today that the pains of road travels have not increased because of reinforced police roadblocks sometimes mounted very close to each other. In some areas, the distance between one roadblock and another is less than one kilometre. This means more hazards for travellers who must face harassment or delay or extortion or the danger of accidents at each roadblock. The police may claim, as usual, that these reinforced roadblocks are for the purpose of fighting crime, but from all indications, nothing could be farther from the truth. A close look at where and why and how and when these roadblocks are mounted leaves no one in doubt that they are weapons of a vicious war now being waged against particularly the people of the Southeast geopolitical zone by a soulless and remorseless section of the police. For instance, another place where similar roadblocks are mounted very close to each other now is along the dual carriageway leading from Onitsha in the Southeast to Lagos in the Southwest. The way police roadblocks are mounted on this federal highway is very instructive. You see none on your way from Onitsha to Lagos; the entire lane leading to Lagos is free of roadblocks. But on your way back from Lagos to Onitsha, the lane you make use of is full of roadblocks often mounted less than two kilometres from each other. Again, the roadblocks are seen only within a section of the road. The section from Lagos to Shagamu is free of roadblocks. Roadblocks appear only from Shagamu to Onitsha where it is certain that almost every vehicle is southeast bound. One of the roadblocks, located in Ogun State, is so notorious that it is called Aso Rock. According to investigations by this author, the situation is so bad that Igbo people living in Lagos no longer travel to the Southeast in their private vehicles especially if such vehicles are of high class. This is because they could be delayed on the road for days. What sin have Ndigbo committed to deserve this selective inhuman treatment? Based on the experiences of Nigeria over the years, the police have no reason to continue to mount roadblocks in any part of this country. The police may claim that they use roadblocks to fight crime but it is a claim they will always find difficult to prove. From what we have seen so far, in Nigeria, police roadblocks are purely for the purpose of extorting money from members of the public. The police roadblocks we see in Igbo land and a section of the federal highway from Lagos to Onitsha today are purely for the purpose of extorting money from the people of the Southeast geopolitical zone. They are purely for the purpose of plundering the resources of Ndigbo. They are among the jackboots designed by some evil forces in Nigeria for holding the Igbo people down. I challenge the police to show Nigerians and the world evidence of criminals they have arrested or criminal activities they have foiled by mounting roadblocks in recent times. On the contrary, the situation especially in Anambra State in particular and the entire Southeast in general, is that the more we see police roadblocks, the more violent crimes are committed especially along the roads. In fact, Nigerians know that in most cases, policemen purportedly using roadblocks to fight crime are the first to disappear from the roads when criminals especially armed robbers appear on the scene. One is bound to recall the situation in Anambra State when Mr. Oliver Osuchukwu was the commissioner of police in the state. Until recently when Osuchukwu was redeployed, there were no police roadblocks in the state, but this did not stop him from reducing the crime rate in the state. Instead of using roadblocks, he recognized the effectiveness of using community-based vigilante services to fight crime. But today, we have roadblocks everywhere, and yet, criminals especially armed robbers are once more operating with impunity in the state. Every informed person in todayʼs world knows that the police need something better than roadblocks to fight crime effectively. A prominent investor, Mr. Chuma Obi, of the O. G. Chuma Stores Nigeria Ltd, highlighted this fact as follows in a recent newspaper publication: ʽIt is archaic for the Nigeria police to continue to do their checkpoint policing. In the western world and the modern world, it is spy policing that is the vogue. In overseas, I know some policemen are taxi drivers; some of them are working in the factories; some policemen also open bars; some policemen are barbers. Their job is to get information, to prevent crime. That is what policing is all about. See the way we lose some gallant police officers in the name of fighting crime. We are just wasting human lives. You see some youths who have been intoxicated highly by all these narcotics and they are in action and you go there to fight them. Of course, that is suicidal. But if there is spy policing, you can always pick them like ripe fruits. Thatʼs the way it is done overseasʼ. True, there are some other countries in West Africa where policemen are seen along the roads. But they do not mount roadblocks. They only maintain police presence along the roads for the purpose of preventing crime. It is such police presence that is required in some of the places where we have police roadblocks in Nigeria today, such as Ogun and Ondo States where some sections of the Lagos-Onitsha federal highway are in a terrible state of disrepair, and often, armed robbers take advantage of the poor condition of the road, caused by many years of neglect by the federal government, to attack travellers. Unfortunately, despite all the awareness we have about better ways of preventing and fighting crime in todayʼs world, we still have police roadblocks in Nigeria. One of the major causes is corruption. In Nigeria, police roadblocks have always been an index of corruption. Everywhere in the world, policemen get a lot of information. In Nigeria, they always know when those at the top are neck-deep in corruption and they waste no time in reflecting the ugly trend in their own conducts. From time to time, you come across orders purportedly issued by the police authorities against mounting of police roadblocks in the country. But in most cases, policemen hardly pay attention to such announcements. Apparently, why they disobey such others is that they know what those controlling their affairs and the affairs of the country from the top are doing that are worse than mounting roadblocks. They know that those giving such others cannot enforce them because their own hands are not clean. Apparently, police roadblocks have become a part of the ʽchop I chopʼ syndrome in Nigeria. But one must condemn the practice of using any of the corrupt organs of state in Nigeria to terrorize, intimidate, exploit, traumatize, oppress and subjugate a particular section of the country. I call on Ndigbo to rise like one man and fight this latest ungodly move to subjugate them in Nigeria by using police roadblocks as a cover to plunder their resources. Ndigbo have people purportedly representing them at various levels of government. Such people should come out and defend the rights of their brothers and sisters now being trampled upon by a gang of vampires in the police. The governors of the five states in the Southeast geopolitical zone should join forces and wage a total war against all forms of inhuman treatment directed specifically against the people of their zone. So should all those currently representing Ndigbo in the National Assembly and other arms of government and in other leadership positions. The current Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, is purportedly an Igbo man. When he was appointed the Inspector General of Police, the claim was that he was the only person that could sanitize the force and redeem the battered image of the police. It is time Okiro showed that he could deliver on these promises. In a democratic system, the police have a duty not only to maintain law and order, but also to protect, defend and preserve the rights of citizens. Police officers and men serving under Okiro should start showing that they can play such a role in the affairs of Nigeria instead of looking for only avenues to plunder the resources of vulnerable groups like Ndigbo. Ndigbo have the capacity to stop most of the atrocities that are committed against them in Nigeria today. Our only problem is that we are not organized. We are too individualistic. We donʼt realize that where any Igbo man is devalued, it is every Igbo man that is devalued. This author calls on Ndigbo to change their mindset. I am among those who feel very strongly that whatever is not good for any other section of this country is not good for Ndigbo. This should be the stand of the entire Igbo people in todayʼs Nigeria. And others should be made to see clearly that this is our stand and respect it.
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