August 24, 2020, Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the most populous black nation on earth was just waking up when I approached the gates of the sleepy but serene estate tucked inside one of the outskirts of the city.
A cab man I had arranged to convey me to an agreed location, along the ever-busy road leading to Berger, arrived a few minutes later. His task was to drop me off where an old friend would pick me for an onward trip to Abuja. My mission- to observe how motorists cope with security checkpoints mounted by various government agencies along the tortuous routes to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Unlike an earlier trip in June, when I had to spend two days on the road to Abuja during the COVID-19 lockdown, this trip held the promise of a more comfortable one, as I was travelling in the company of an acquaintance in his private vehicle.
A short wait of 30 minutes and we would be set for the long road trip to Abuja. My friend, coming from another axis of town, had been held down by the usual Monday morning traffic. When he eventually arrived and picked me, the Berger axis of the city was now fully awake, with hustling and bustling already fully underway!
Since we were close to the exit point from the city of Lagos, we had little trouble kicking off the journey in earnest, a voyage that was another eye-opener to the many stress Nigerian motorists go through across the country.
Checkpoints, tough to discard?
Motorists plying the nation’s highways between Lagos and Abuja have continued to groan under the heavy burden placed on them with over 50 security checkpoints.
This is despite persistent orders by successive Inspectors-General of Police (IGP), instructing police formations across the country to dismantle the checkpoints.
These orders, Ripples Nigeria observed, have become unarguably the first major directive every new police boss hands down when they assume office.
From Suleiman Abba (2014 – 2015), Solomon Arase (2015-2016), Ibrahim Kpotun Idris (2016-2019) to the incumbent IGP, Mohammed Adamu, dismantling of checkpoints or, as popularly known in local parlance, road blocks, have always attracted glowing orders that had remained largely unheeded.
In a September 26, 2017 statement, former IGP Ibrahim Idris had ordered: “To this end, no Police department, section, squad or unit should mount roadblock without the express permission of the Inspector-General of Police.”
His successor in office, Mohammed Adamu, made a slight modification of it. On 21st of December, 2019, the new man directed Commissioners of Police in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure that only checkpoints and nipping points that are operationally expedient for crime prevention and other forms of key duties must be in place.
These directives have, however, remained unheeded.
Extortion, begging, delays
The trip from Lagos to Ibadan was smooth and without any police or security checkpoint noticed on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. This was, perhaps, the only road this reporter had plied in recent times without a single checkpoint. At least, that was the experience of August, 24.
However, as the trip progressed, I counted 54 checkpoints between Ibadan and Abuja, with the police, army and occasionally men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), manning them separately.
Curiously, despite the large number of checkpoints on the roads between Lagos and Abuja, incidences of armed robbery and kidnapping have continued to be a common feature in news reports. Flash points have remained the axis between Kabba, through Obajana, Okene, Lokoja and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
This Reporter also noted during the road trip that the security agents manning these checkpoints were more concerned with how much motorists, especially commercial vehicle drivers were ready to part with, devoid of any serious probe of traffic infractions.
The checkpoints, especially those located inside Ondo and Kogi states have been turned into extortion and or begging points, where security agents, especially policemen, openly canvass motorists to part with money.
In some other cases, the security agents are more daring, ordering the driver to alight from the vehicle, take a long walk to the ‘drop points, where an already fixed sum is submitted.
Ripples Nigeria also observed that, at many of the checkpoints, especially between Ibadan and Akure, it is common place to find several commercial buses and unregistered vehicles ‘detained’ as haggling over what to be paid for release of the ‘arrested’ vehicles take place.
Between Lagos and Abuja, fifty-four of such checkpoints were noted by Ripples Nigeria on the 24th of August, 2020. The number of security details manning them were also captured.
1. Ibadan toll gate (Ife Expressway) – 2 Regular policemen
2. Ikire, Osun State – 2 Highway patrol officers
3. Ipetumodu, Osun State – 2 Mobile policemen
4. Ile-Ife, Osun State – 3 Mobile policemen
5. Osu, Osun State – 6 Mobile policemen
6. Ilesha, Osun State – 4 Mobile policemen
7. Erin Oke, Osun State – 3 Mobile policemen
8. Owena, Osun State – 3 Mobile policemen
9. Owena, Ondo State – 4 Soldiers
10. FUTA Gate, Akure, Ondo State – 5 FRSC officers
11. Akure Airport Junction, Akure, Ondo State – 5 Mobile policemen
12. Uzo 1, Uzo, Ondo State – 2 Regular policemen
13. Uzo 2, Uzo, Ondo State – 2 Mobile policemen
14. Owo, Ondo State – 3 Soldiers
15. Inaun, Owo, Ondo State – 4 Mobile policemen
16. Ose – Oba Akoko 1, Ondo State – 2 Mobile policemen
17. Ose – Oba Akoko 2, Ondo State – 3 Mobile policemen
18. Abule Ebira, Akoko, Ondo State – 5 Mobile policemen
19. Oba Akoko 1, Ondo State – 3 Soldiers
20. Oba Akoko 2, Ondo State – 3 Mobile policemen
21. Oba Akoko 1, Ondo State – 3 Mobile policemen
22. Oka Akoko, Ondo State – 5 Mobile policemen
23. Ikare Akoko 1, Ondo State – 4 Mobile policemen
24. Ikare Akoko 2, Ondo State – 4 Soldiers
25. Ago Jimoh, Akoko, Ondo State – 4 Soldiers
26. Ipelle-Iyere Akoko – Ondo State – 2 Mobile policemen
27. Auga Akoko 1, Ondo State – 4 Soldiers
28. Auga Akoko, Ondo State – 3 SARS officers
29. Akunu Akoko 1, Ondo State – 4 Soldiers
30. Akunu Akoko 2, Ondo State – 3 Mobile policemen
31. Ayere, Kogi State 3 Mobile policemen
32. Kabba 1, Kogi State 4 Regular policemen
33. Kabba 2 (Okene Junction), Kogi State – 3 soldiers
34. Okebukun – Kogi State – 4 Mobile policemen
35. Odo Ape, Kogi State – 4 Regular policemen
36. Oshokoshoko, Kogi State – 3 Mobile policemen
37. Obajana 1, Kogi State – 4 Soldiers
38. Obajana 2, Kogi State – 3 Mobile policemen
39. Obajana 3, Kogi State – 4 Mobile policemen
40. Kabba Junction, Kogi State – 4 Higway Patrol Officers
41. Lokoja 1, Kogi State – 5 Regular policemen
42 Lokoja (After Nataco), Kogi State – 4 Mobile policemen
43. Asenyo, Kogi State – 4 FRSC Ofiicers
44. Murtala Muhammed Bridge 1, Jamata, Kogi State – 5 Mibile policemen
45. Murtala Muhammed Bridge 2, Kogi State – 5 Soldiers
46. Kotonkarfi, Kogi State – 3 Regular policemen
47. Gegu Beki, Kogi State – 3 – Regular policemen
48. Abaji 1, FCT – 5 Mobile policemen
49. Abaji 2, FCT – 6 FRSC Officers
50. Abaji 3. FCT – 5 Soldiers
51. Kwali, FCT – 4 Mobile policemen
52. Gwagwalada, FCT – 4 Regular policemen
53. Giri Junction, FCT – 6 Soldiers
54. Airport Junction – 3 Mobile policemen
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