Successive Nigeria Police Force management teams have insisted that the fight against corruption in the Force is real, particularly the vexed issue of extortion at road blocks. However, the issue continues unabated. IBRAHIM ABDUL’ AZIZ writes on experiences of motorists in Adamawa and Taraba states.
It was a market day and motorists were making their way to their destinations, just as on the roadside two police offi cers, mounted a check-point around WuroDole-Pariya Road in Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa state. Not far from the policemen, is a white Toyota starlet car; used by the police to collect traditional N50 from drivers, with the driver dutifully paying their ‘dues.’ However, trouble started for the policemen when they demanded extra N50 from a commercial driver and the passengers murmured that, ‘the government banned bribe giving or taking,’ leading to an argument between the passengers and the police. An eye witness account has it that one of the policemen, an Inspector, threatened to shoot the passengers if they did not keep quiet and persuade the driver to pay the balance N50.
According to the eye witness, who did not want to be named, when the driver failed to obey the directive, the policeman made real his threat and pulled the trigger; shooting two of the passengers, one on the stomach and the other on the buttocks. Speaking further, he said the passenger that was shot on the stomach died instantly and the trigger-happy cop attempted to run away.
He was, however, chased by a mob of by-standers and was paid into his coins, while his accomplice took to his heels and got away from the angry mob, while the other passenger was taken to Yola Specialist Hospital. Blueprint checks revealed that at the hospital, the police refused to foot the medical bills for the injured, claiming the Culprit, a policeman, also died hence the command has no liability.
Th e injured passenger, simply identifi ed as Mallam Umar, was said to be responding to treatment at the time our correspondent visited the hospital, however, the issue regarding his medical bills of about N6,840 was yet to be resolved. Investigations by Blueprint revealed that the incident was just one of many skirmishes commercial drivers have had with policemen and soldiers.
The case is no diff erent in Taraba state, where armed policemen and soldiers were found to be in the habit of accosting commercial drivers, market traders, as well as passengers, and demand bribes from them in addition to other human rights abuses, in a bid to extort them. Investigation further indicated that on market days of Ngurore,Mayo Belwa, Mayo-Lope, Iware, Dan Anacha ,Tella , Zing or Apawa, they set up road blocks, ostensibly to combat crime, but they are primarily used to extort money from the public. Some residents, who spoke to our correspondent, insisted that, ‘’Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm.’
’ Speaking on the situation, a commercial bus driver, Michael Richard, said Policemen on Highway patrol extorted N500 from his last Friday along Mayo-Lope Road. While corroborating Richard’s, another commercial driver, who identifi ed himself as Musa Gentleman said they have similar experience on Ngurore, Mayo Belwa or Zing market days. According to him, “Every morning these officers of Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad known as SARS and soldiers mount check points at Yola-Numan or Mayo-Belwa Zing Express Roads.
“Th ey extort money from road users. Th ey usually demand from N200 to N1000. Some days ago, I witnessed how one of them stopped a Tokunbo car and demanded N10,000. “Th e driver presented all the valid car documents and tried to settle for N2000. After arguing for about an hour, the group of ‘policemen’ in black attire took the driver to their Hilux truck, searched him and took all the money he had.” Similarly, a truck driver in Jalingo, alleged that both the military and police check points in the two states have become ‘money milking Machines.
’ Th e truck driver who pleaded for anonymity stressed that, ‘’without any remorse the soldiers and police at their checkpoints peg money to be given depending on your truck. ‘’At every checkpoint you must cough out huge sums of money or else you will not move an inch. Th ey keep brandishing their guns at us, as if we are criminals,’’ he fumed. In another development, a policeman was said to have shot two persons to death because they refused to bribe him at a checkpoint in Taraba some months ago.
The two persons killed in the incident which took place in Chediya village along Wukari- Benue Highway, Blueprint gather were a codriver of a trailer fully loaded with cattle and the man in charge of the cattle. Policemen attached to the Police Mobile Force (PMF) better known as mobile policemen, were said to have stopped the trailer driver at the checkpoint and requested the sum of N1,000 bribe to allow him pass.
A witness, Mallam Babba, told our reporter that the head driver begged the policemen to collect N500 instead, claiming he had exhausted his money at other checkpoints. According to the witness, the police offi cers refused to collect the N500, saying the trailer driver was disrespecting him and when the driver attempted to come down from the truck in a bid to plead further with the offi cers, one of them opened fi re on the truck, killing the co-driver and another occupant of the truck. Our correspondent gathered that angered by the action of the policeman, youths in the community went on rampage and killed the policeman as well as burnt the police patrol vehicle at the checkpoint.
A visit to local markets in Taraba and Adamawa states, respectively, confi rmed that virtually on every local market days roadblocks are mounted and the offi cers dutifully collecting their ‘revenue’ from motorists ranging from N50 to N100; N100 to N200 as N200 well as N200 and above depending the offi ces the policemen are attached to. In what could be described as deviance, some police offi cers who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion, declared that nobody would stop them from mounting check points or Stop and Search.
Th e claimed their actions were justifi ed because of ‘lack of welfare and prompt payment of salaries.’ When contacted, Police Public Relations Offi cer (PPRO) for Adamawa, SP Othman Abubakar, and his contemporary in Taraba, ASP David Misal, they denied knowledge of such development. SP Abubakar warned that the era of impunity and corruption among cops was gone stating: “It is embarrassing to see policemen collecting bribes.
To check mate this problem in Taraba, the command had issued phone numbers through which it can be contacted.” On his part, Abubakar, who confi rmed that a mob killed a police Inspector along the Wuro-Dole-Pariya Road in Girei, said the late Inspector was mobbed to death and the police had recovered his corpse and gun with eight rounds of live ammunition.