POLICE EXTORTION: Illegal checkpoints in Owerri.

Despite the order by the Inspector General of Police ordering policemen from mounting illegal checkpoints where they extort money from motorists, it must be noted that such checkpoints have started springing up almost everywhere in Owerri capital and Imo State in general.

The excuse for such would definitely be to curtail the rising cases of kidnapping in the Eastern Heartland but I ask, how many times have we heard that kidnappers or armed robbers were apprehended at these checkpoints? The answer would be none because the policemen are not interested in checking for guns or criminals rather, they are looking for ways to extort money from the motorists.

Take a drive along Fire-Service roundabout towards Egbu Road at around 7:30 p.m everyday and you’ll see policemen stopping only keke drivers to collect ‘settlement’ from them. They demand for it so boldly you can’t help but wonder if they do not have the blessings of their superiors to collect money from the motorists.

Policemen are not constitutionally charged with checking whether your drivers license has expired. As long as they confirm the vehicle belong to you, they aren’t supposed to hold you when you papers have expired. That is the duty of the FRSC but because we do not know that, the policemen at the checkpoints will threaten to take defaulters to the police station unless you ‘settle’.

Nigerians are also to be blamed for corrupting the policemen. If we adhere to traffic rules, pay all our vehicle levies, then the policeman at the checkpoint would not have any reason to hold us and thereby aid in stopping the trend of extortion at checkpoints. Commercial drivers are the worst defaulters and even when their papers are complete, they still bribe these policemen because they do not have the patience to show the policeman his papers.

That policemen are harassing Imolites would be as a result of advise given to the people in power to draft policemen to checkpoints to check crime even though that has not yielded any fruit yet.

In one of my posts, I advised government on better ways of controlling crime. Advanced countries control crime without mounting checkpoints so as to forestall extortion as is the case in Nigeria. The best way in Imo State to prevent and control crime is by creating job and entrepreneurship opportunities for our youths rather than leave the people at the mercy of corrupt policemen who rather than protect and serve as they are charged to do by our constitution will rather extort, harass, beat and on more than one case kill innocent citizens at checkpoints.

Even the state vigilante group (I believe that’s what they are) have also started abusing their powers. During the birthday of Gov. Rochas Okorocha when we had some children camping out at the ICAPS building (former Imo Newspapers Limited), I witnessed some armed men posted at the gate beating up a keke driver for stopping near the gate to discharge a passenger. For fear of being included in the beating which also involved kicking the poor man with boots, nobody snapped pictures but rather watched in horror as the man’s civil rights was abused in broad daylight. The men also were in the habit of shooting indiscriminately in the air.

All this abuse of the civil rights of the citizens of this state and causing fear and panic by law enforcement agents working under the directive of government must be put to a stop. We put the government into power and as such we should not be abused neither should our rights be trampled on my the people we put in power.The policeman is paid by the tax we pay and as such they are working for us. It is their duty to serve us not oppress us as is the case today.

Government should sit up to their responsibility to us and address this matter squarely before another innocent Imolite meets the same fate as the likes of Engr. Obiekea among others who have died in the hands of trigger-happy law enforcement agents.

When it happens, Gov. Rochas Okorocha will be blamed by the people as he already has been blamed by motorists for putting the policemen on the roads to extort motorists. Nobody will remember the adviser that ill-advised him so I urge our governor to act now before he is force to pay condolence visit to yet another bereaved family.

God bless Imo State.

 Obinna Akuwudike

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