By Malachy Uzendu
It is a shame about goings on in the name of road blocks being mounted by security agencies across the country. Those are despicable points where atrocities are being committed. Military and Police personnel posted at such places have no shame at all. Officers who are supposed to monitor their activities and ensure they fall to national, if not international standard, are either sons of the devil or they have sold their consciences to satan!
Otherwise, how could it be that inspite of all the reports being made about the denigration of our national pride by these young men and women drafted primarily to maintain law and order, turn the very essence of their assignments upside-down? Those guys at the check-points are not any different from known criminals! With our national pride, which is now a source of sorrow to Nigerians, they force fellow citizens to cough out various sums of money at these check points. Reports have had it that several citizens have met their untimely death at such check-points, yet, their commanders and their superiors, are not aware that such atrocities can never be forgiven by God Almighty.
And for sure, those guys at such posts know they are committing crimes. That is why they conceal or remove their name tags. The unfortunate thing is that superior officers move along these highways, see them improperly dressed, but decided to turn a blind eye – who knows, maybe they also fear for their own lives. After all, it is now heard that discipline has taken a flight among our security agencies.
My journey to Abagana, Anambra State, penultimate week, during the burial of the dear wife of my Executive Director (Business Development), Mrs. Jemi Chuks Akunna, brought me face-to-face with these despicable stark realities. I decided to travel by road for three reasons: one was to savor nature with the opportunity of consuming as much of nature’s gift for the stomach as possible. The second reason was to get first-hand reality of the state of our roads, across several strata of states in the federation. The third reason was to see if, having shut down airports for several months, our Very Important Personalities (VIPs), who were forced to ply the death trap called roads in Nigeria ever got first-hand knowledge of the level of desecration of our national uniforms by operatives posted to provide security at check-points. But, these VIPs chose to look the other way, even as they witnesses first-hand these stamping on the head of our constitution and national pride.
As I travelled, I chose to go by public transport. Fortunately, some children who were on a private journey with their parents were in the same vehicle as I was. They were the ones who will shout “hey, look at that policeman; loot at that soldier; see SARS, they will collect bribe. They have collected it. They even give change to the drivers”. Those children were scandalized. They couldn’t believe that those were happening in their Nigeria, in which their teachers had taught them in Civic Education, about the responsibilities of a good citizen. Questions upon questions the inquisitive children asked their parents could not be answered. They all said “I won’t be a policeman; I won’t be a soldier. I won’t collect bribe. Those people are shameless!”. All these voiced out by our children.
Even at the check points mounted at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), right within the nose of the President, Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and their Service Chiefs, these low-rank security personnel subject commuters to the despicable acts of extortion. They shamelessly demand and receive MONEY or other gift item which serve as toll pay for passage. The primary duty of screening suspicious vehicles to ensure that contraband, small arms and light weapons or to halt movement of insurgents or bandits, are completely not part of their assignment, given their attitude and demeanor. From the look on their faces, even a pupil psychologist will see greed, lack of patriotism and tendency to brutalise on the faces of those security personnel. And they show no mercy. They are a killer squad on their own.
These sons of darkness are more daring in the South-East. Almost one or no less than two kilometers apart, there will be road-block. When you see soldiers, 500 meters ahead, you will see Mobile Policemen, the next 100 meters, Federal Road Safety personnel, then 200 meters ahead, operatives of the Federal Highway Patrol or Anti-Bomb Squad (those adorning red berets), even operatives of the VIP Protection Squad are not left out. They too mount their own check point. So, what you find are situation where these people use hefty logs of wood to block off the road completely like armed robbers on rampage. They would line up vehicles on both sides of the road and sluggishly allow them to pass one at a time so they can do their toll collection. All these contribute to the time one gets to one’s destination and quantity of fuel burnt off. These go on day-in; day-out, yet, none of the X-squad of these agencies act. It has become crystal clear that the booty would be shared with their superiors. After all, some daring ones will tell you that if they fail to make enough returns, they will lose such ‘lucrative’ posting. TUFIAKWA, but truth!
No wonder some analysts have said that the ordinary citizens lose no fewer than N5 billion to uniform personnel posted to highways, especially in the South-East zone in which, from observation, the despicable denigration of rights and of the constitution is at its peak. As from 6.30pm such road blocks increase in intensity and number, all to extort more money from those who have the audacity to travel at night.
It is instructive that all those so-called Revenue boys, who we know are nothing but touts, who use all manner of wood laced with six-inches nails to block our highways, do so because they take a cue from our security agencies. Sometimes, like we have seen recently, they are lent support by the police, who often are on illegal operation, but are not apprehended or punished due to the rot in the system. These are terrible acts going on along our highways and successive IGPs have issued half-hearted ban on such. Because they never really meant to halt such, it is still business as usual in that respect.
And I ask, between these men and women who engage in ‘official’ extortion and bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, armed robbers, who is the worse felon? It is a question which only the military or police top hierarchies could provide answers to. The ball is in their respective courts. If a dog consumes bone hung on its neck, as the Igbo says, that dog is a despicable one. On which side of the divide are our security agencies?