They said that multiplicity of roadblocks and checkpoints mounted with logs of wood, sand bags, solid concrete and all sorts of unsightly materials especially on the Sagamu-Benin-Onitsha Expressway and on all major roads in the South East and South South were simply extortionist centres.
Those at a world press conference in Lagos, yesterday, to highlight the issue, were Chief Emmanuel Chuks Ikokwu, President, Otu Oka Iwu, Major Gen. Obi Umahi (retd); President General, Ndigbo, Lagos, Mr. Oscar Onwudiwe, President, Aka Ikenga and Mr. Ngozi Odumuko, Coordinator, Nzuko Umunna.
While not questioning the constitutional role of the agencies to combat crime, the groups bemoaned that serious abuses and negation and curtailment of human rights and civil liberties pervaded their operations at these roadblocks and checkpoints.
They therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to dismantle the roadblocks, particularly at this festive period when the Igbo had commenced mass movement to the South East.
Describing the roadblocks as a national disgrace for which the operators and perpetrators ought to be ashamed, they wondered why IG Adamu had returned roadblocks even when his predecessors dismantled them because of their ineffectiveness in combating crime.
According to the groups, “Our citizens are routinely harassed, intimidated and extorted of their belongings at these checkpoints. Huge man-hours are merely a fraction of the economic losses occasioned by these roadblocks, as journeys that ought to take a few hours are punctuated at every few 100 meters stretching the journey to four times the normal hour it ought to take. In many instances especially on the Sagamu-Benin-Onitsha Expressway, the roadblocks are barely a pole apart. Ohanaeze Ndigbo lists 24 checkpoints between Lagos and Ore, 23 checkpoints between Ore and Benin, and 13 checkpoints from Benin to Onitsha, accounting for a total of 60 checkpoints on that narrow corridor alone. This is replicated throughout the South East and most of the South South zones. Aside from the mental torture that travellers now go through, turning an otherwise routine activity into a nightmare, the impression of an economic siege and blockade is inescapable.
“Instructively, the Sagamu–Benin, Benin–Onitsha, Otukpo–Enugu and Enugu–Port Harcourt expressways were specifically listed among the roads affected by this directive. Sadly, instead of building on this brave and well-intentioned initiative, the current Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who was on assumption of office viewed as reform-minded, has taken the police force and the country backwards with the reintroduction of these illegal roadblocks that truncate the ease of doing business policy of the Federal Government and cause huge economic losses among others.
“However, very disturbing, is the recent statement credited to the current Inspector General of Police Mr. Mohammed Adamu to the effect that these illegal roadblocks would remain. We consider this statement as highly insensitive, provocative and unacceptable, especially in light of constitutional breaches occasioned by these roadblocks and the hardships which our citizens are subjected to at these checkpoints. Aside from the fact that there is no empirical study to show that these countless roadblocks are more effective than highway patrols in combating crime, we note that even in the North East including Maiduguri which is the hotbed of insurgency, the roadblocks are curiously fewer than those on the Sagamu-Benin-Onitsha expressway and other South East roads. We therefore find the position of Mr. Adamu as untenable and unacceptable. We reject it in its entirety.
“We ask President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to direct the Inspector General of Police and other heads of security agencies to comply with the Senate resolution and immediately dismantle these roadblocks. In place of these illegal and debilitating roadblocks, the security agencies should immediately commence high visibility patrols and effective surveillance of the highways. Further, security personnel who engage in such vehicular patrols on highways and major roads must wear bold name tags and service numbers to foster accountability.
The Igbo groups urged all citizens travelling on those routes to remain law-abiding and polite to law enforcement agencies while asking them to also report incidents at the roadblocks to them through their town unions and other cultural organizations.
“We hereby serve notice that continued abuse and curtailment of peoples’ fundamental human rights on the highways will be strongly challenged in the court of our land, ECOWAS Court, and presented to International Human Rights Commission, the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps in Nigeria and other International Organizations and will be requesting for sanctions accordingly on those who openly or tacitly encourage or condone these harrowing conditions on citizens.”