The extortion racket in the Southeast

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A report released by the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law last month revealed that Nigerian security and law enforcement agencies pocketed as much as N100 billion in roadside bribery and extortion in the South-eastern part of the country alone over the last three years.

The report, titled: “Welcome to Southeast Region: Nigeria’s Headquarters of Official Highway Robbery,” was conducted in all the South-east states and some parts of Delta State. It revealed what many watchers of events in Nigeria and particularly in the Southeast have always known- that the security agencies, particularly the police engage in barefaced extortion in the Southeast and all roads leading to the Southeast, particularly in the yuletide season. Unsurprisingly, the group’s spokesperson revealed that the report was released to coincide with the Yuletide, a season bribery and extortion by security agencies are said to be at their peak as millions of people embark on holiday trips to the Southeast.

So brazen is the extortion that the police and security agencies have now designed specific levies for different categories of motorists across the region with strict enforcement, sometimes ending with police killing motorists and road users for failure to comply.

“For every shuttle or Mitsubishi L300 bus loaded with passengers (only) in Anambra state, it is N50 at every police roadblock, and extra N200 is paid if loaded with goods and passengers” the report found..

“For every commercial motorcycle or tricycle or Datsun or medium range truck loaded with goods, it is N200 at every police roadblock, and for every private vehicle owner accused of “incomplete” vehicle particulars, the least demanded sum is N4,000 or more, which must be paid randomly or on the spot to avoid being dragged to police station and have his or her vehicle impounded and indented as ‘stolen vehicle.”

Of course, those who failed to pay the illegal levy are detained and bailed with illegal bail fees, sometimes upwards of N10, 000.

The report stated that there were 250 police roadblocks in Anambra state between August 2015 and August 2016, and each made an estimated N40, 000 per day. These personnel manning these roadblocks illicitly collected N10 million per day, which translated to N300 million per month and N3.6 billion per year. Although bribes and extortions are higher in Anambra, the same thing applies to all the Southeast states.

A breakdown of extortion among security agencies shows that the police, as usual, were the lead takers. It was accused of pocketing N78.02 billion. It was followed closely other paramilitary agencies (Customs, Road Safety, NAFDAC, and NDLEA) who collectively were said to pocket N16 billion. The military (Army, Navy and Air force) apparently new boys in the game of road-side extortion, managed only N6 billion.

The report aside, we have always wondered about the sheer number of roadblocks and checkpoints in the Southeast and roads leading to the Southeast. During some periods, these roadblocks could be one kilometre apart and dot every nook and cranny of the region. If so many thousand security personnel are detailed to man these checkpoints, one then begins to wonder how many police and security personnel are left to provide security for people in the cities, towns and villages. Is it any wonder then why despite virtually all Inspectors General of Police since 1999 have issued directives for the dismantling of roadblocks, those directives were never obeyed or obeyed only briefly.

This has become a permanent feature on the roads in and leading to the southeast. It is no wonder virtually all significant study and survey done have demonstrated that the Nigerian security agencies, particularly the police, are the most corrupt institutions in the country. One of such is the report of a survey done by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the European Union, in 2017, which shows that the Nigerian police is the most corrupt public institution in Nigeria.

The government and all who wish the country well must be concerned with these damning reports on its security agencies. Security agents that are employed to protect the people cannot turn pry, extorting and harassing the same people while the government keeps quiet, pretending it does not know what is happening.

Sadly, police and security agencies’ extortions are now about the most significant presence of the government a large section of the country feel. Are we surprised then that many Nigerians do not have patriotic feelings towards the country?

 

By our Reporter

 

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