POLICE ROADBLOCKS: How IGP Ibrahim Idris Failed Nigerians - By Justin Akpovi-Esade - Welcome to Julia Blaise Blog

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

POLICE ROADBLOCKS: How IGP Ibrahim Idris Failed Nigerians - By Justin Akpovi-Esade

Every new Inspector General of Police in Nigeria’s first statement is usually a ‘ban’ on police roadblocks. This perhaps makes him look like one that is ready to work for the good of the people, but it was disgraced former IGP, Mr. Tafa Balogun that actually followed his words with some degree of action and since then, although, the ‘boys’ still mount check points, but they stopped using heavy woods and causing traffic on major roads.


Balogun did not issue the command and stayed in his Abuja Force headquarters like others before him did, he set up the IG Monitoring Unit that patrolled the Highways and secondary roads looking to arresting defaulting cops. The police boss who later went to prison for corruption related crimes argued that it was uncivilized for police to mount roadblocks in this century unless there was an emergency, and I agree.

After Balogun left, there was a lapse and the ‘boys’ came back to the roads. Why do Nigerian policemen love roadblocks? Because it is the opportunity to extort monies from motorists. Nine out of 10 people the police stop on the way is a potential victim of extortion. Reports have it that Nigerian policemen actually bribe and or curry the favours of their superiors so that they are posted to roadblocks and at the end of the day, just like salesman, they give ‘returns’ to their superior. A cop at a police station once told me I should give him N500 naira before I could see a friend who was arrested on a minor domestic squabble offence because, “Na my roadblock be dis Oga, I nor dey go roadblock like odas wey dey make money.” This statement gives credence to the allegation of roadblocks being a money spinner for cops.

Roadblocks and police extortion is as old as the Nigerian police force. Maybe the former is older even.

And enter former IGP MD Abubakar, who just like his predecessor, Tafa Balogun ensured the police stayed on the sidewalks on city roads and laybacks on the highways. He enforced strict compliance to the ‘No Roadblocks’ order and in a veiled protest, the police decided to stay away from the highways leaving motorists at the mercy of daredevil armed robbers always on the prowl especially on the stretch of road from Lagos to the South East/South South and Abuja. Motorists and travelers complained and Abubakar ordered them back on the roads, still insisting they had no business blocking the roads. Nigerians were happy, the police were not. They waited grudgingly, and some impatient ones, still steal unto the roads, fleece the little they could from motorists that will always not have correct driving papers by the way. But they were cautious because Abukakar had threatened to redeploy any State Commissioner whose boys are found mounting road blocks and in turn, the states commissioner had issued a warning to all Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers reiterating what the IGP told him. So everybody was afraid because some Commissioners actually got the boot of Abubakar. So all the years that IGP Abubakar was at Abuja, there was some degree of sanity, although this did not in any way stop the massive corruption going on in the force. When you get to any police precinct, you will be nauseated by the way police officers flaunt corruption and boast about it when you raise an eyebrow.

A DPO of a division in Lagos that I will not name was the one I saw one night collecting N2, 000 each from people his boys raided on the street, innocent people, some even coming from work at about 9.30pm. I was called that four of my friends who were waiting for me by a chartered bus we were supposed to take to a burial vigil were accosted and bundled into a police van and down to the station even when the arresting officers saw they were in ‘Ankara’ uniform popularly called ‘Aso Ebi’. I got there and saw over 100 people all hurdled together and stripped to the waist. My friends were kept in a ‘special corner’ because they told the DPO that their friend who is a journalist was on his way. This perhaps made the DPO to be cautious. I drove from Ikoyi like a bat out of hell down to the Mainland and when I got there, the DPO with a big stick was coordinating the ‘bail’ of each person. A giant of a man who dwarfed my six feet, I almost felt intimidated by his size. The scene reminded me of a Nazi concentration camp I have seen in movies. I felt dehumanized on behalf of the poor innocent Nigerians whose worried families were frantically raising N2, 000 to ‘bail’ their loved ones that committed no crime.

The DPO looked at me and bellowed, “Na you be the jonalist wey dose pipu dey wait for so”? I said yes, “Na me Oga”. And he looked at me with prying eyes as if trying to see the journalist in me. “Anyway, dem don reach station, go meet my boys make you resolve the issue with dem”. I knew instinctively that he did not want to be the one to take money from me with his hands, that is, if I was willing to part with any in the first place. Very smart of him yet his face did not show his smartness. Mr. DPO wanted to be in a position of plausible deniability. He left almost immediately, I mean drove away. Anyway, I was asked by the ‘boy’ now in charge to bring N20, 000, “oga, you no say dem be four people”. I was forced to laugh very loud. It was past midnight by now and when I knew this guy will not bulge, I had to call in a favour from a very senior police officer. I was afraid he would be asleep and he actually was asleep but the call woke him up and he spoke with the Inspector and my friends were let go. One of the arresting officers however ran to me as I was about driving off and said: “Oga, you nor go jus go like dat na.” I gave him N200. I was so exhausted by then so I had to excuse myself from the vigil.

That short story was just to show the kind of corruption that goes on in the police force, so back to the issue of roadblocks. Abubakar retired from the force and the police waited for about a year before one after the other, they started crawling back onto the road. Do I need to remind you that the present IG, Ibrahim Idris, through the force spokesman had issued a similar ‘order’ banning roadblocks, on assumption of office? IGP Idris, after the order apparently went to bed because at the moment, police roadblocks are back with venom.

Last week, I took a trip to Awka, the capital of Anambra State. It was a Wednesday and from the Sagamu Bypass  till I got to Awka, I counted 22 roadblocks, all actually blocking the road with woods. This are aside the ones by Customs personnel, Road Safety Corps, NDLEA operatives and some guys in a weird black uniform, I don’t know the agency they represent. Ogun and Edo States have the highest number of police roadblocks. I am sure the states commissioners have expressly given his boys orders to block the road in flagrant disobedience of the IG directive.

If the Ore-Benin Expressway roadblocks did not bother you because you hardly take that route, then you should be concerned about the same situation in Lagos. There is one rickety police van that is now stationary under the National Stadium, Surulere bridge. The cops are seen in the day and early evening just sitting around the van but they are lions from 10pm as they busy extort money from Lagosians. I left my car inside the stadium last week Saturday and took a walk to the spot where they had barricades across the road and they were in the middle of an argument with a young man driving a Honda Accord, metallic blue color. One of the cops was asking him to produce the receipt of purchase for the laptop found in his car boot or he would follow them to the station. I stood at a safe distance watching the drama. The man said he was coming from work and he had never had the receipt of his work tool with him since he bought it and it has never occurred to him to be carrying it about. “Ehen,” the officer, a slim man in his late 30s said, adding: “Na today you will know that you need to have the proof of ownership of every item found on you.” The young man was adamant. He was a bad customer no doubt and the senior officer among them let him go with a warning: “See Oga, next time dey hold ya laptop receipt o. Nor be all dis English you dey speak so o. If we see you again hia and you nor hold the receipt, you go reach station o. I don tell you o.”

So folks, please be guided, next time you are taking your laptop with you in Lagos, hold the receipt of purchase. And very soon, policemen will be asking for the receipt you used in purchasing your mobile phone; that is after they have found out your car papers are in order.

The most notorious roadblock in Lagos is perhaps the one at the end of Omilani Street in Ijesha area. They are always there from 7pm and just last night, one of the cops was chasing an Okada man who refused to stop to collect ‘number’ after he must have ‘dropped’ the usual N100 ‘roja’, I nearly ran him over. “Oga, take am easy o, nor injure yourself o,” I told him. He waved me on while his concentration was on another ‘okada’ man.

These are the permanent roadblocks in Surulere area of Lagos now: Oduduwa Street, Itire; Mogaji Street in Ijesha; Omilani Street, also in Ijesha. There is the one at Lawanson Bus stop, no night you won’t find police from Itire division causing long traffic there and of course, the strategic one on Babs Animashaun, closed to Rita Lori Hotel.

The rate at which the roadblocks are springing up, I am afraid, we will soon get to the point (like in the distant past) when we had barricades and armed policemen at every kilometer extorting monies from Nigerians under the guise of policing.

Akpovi-Esade, a journalist and media lobbyist, lives in Lagos

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