Should police checkpoints return on roads?

Should police checkpoints return on roads?

By Maria Famakinwa
The banning of security checkpoints across Ondo State in 2012 by the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, was greeted with wild jubilations especially by commercial drivers and commuters claiming that the decision was long overdue to check excesses of policemen who seized such as an opportunity to extort road users.

   The checkpoints hitherto, a common feature on Nigerian roads were removed following massive complaints of alleged unwholesome activities of some police officers.  However, the increasing rate of insecurity across the road seven years after the banned of checkpoints in the country as generated mixed reactions on whether or not checkpoints should be re-introduced.

    In his submission, the Senior Special Assistant to Ondo State Governor on Security, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo explained that checkpoints have always been on express roads across the country only that they are not as much as it were before it was banned as he added that it is one of the steps taking by the present administration to prevent crime. “The primary duty of any government is to protect lives and property and one of the proactive measure put in place to address insecurity is the police checkpoints to stop any suspected vehicle and check. So they have always been on the roads only that they are not as much as before but, it is good to have checkpoints across the road for crime prevention.”

   A Nigeria Civil Defence Commission who prefered not to be named opined that it is better the Federal Government return checkpoints across the nation to resterm the rising cases of robbery and kidnapping daily experienced by road users. ” Police mount roadblocks to stop and inspect all drivers and vehicles plying the road. There is need to return checkpoints on roads now to deter criminals, especially in flash points around the country. The checkpoints are more desirable now than ever, they should be stationed after every kilometer in the flash points because their mere presence is enough to scare criminals.”

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    Reacting to the question that checkpoints were used by the police to extort money from commercial drivers he accepted but pointed out that any complaints against it were nothing compared to the usefulness of the checkpoints to Nigerian society. “My advice regarding this is that the Inspector General of Police should have an internal mechanism for punishing such unwholesome attitude and unethical behaviour by a few of them and should not be used as a yardstick to deny Nigerians the desirability of having policemen on the highways to protect lives and property.”

    Sharing similar sentiment, a private car owner, Mr Jamiu Adio also blamed the massive insecurity on the absence of the police on the roads and decried a situation where criminals could travel very long distances unleashing mayhem on road users without being accosted with their loots or illegal arms. “It was in a bid to arrest this ugly situation that checkpoints ideas came into being. The country is in dire need of checkpoints now than ever to fight the increasing crime rate.”

Speaking differently, a commercial driver, who travels daily to Lagos from Akure, Mr Oluwole Babade, said that there should be more of patrols than mounting of checkpoints and called on the Inspector General of Police to pay more attention to the states where police checkpoints have persisted in spite of the ban. “Checkpoints mounted by policemen across the state have been responsible for most accidents on the highways. The sole aim of the policemen on checkpoints or roadblocks is to extort money from road users.

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   “If they stop a driver, check the documents and could not find fault, they would ask if there is anything for the boys. This act is an embarrassment to a country like Nigeria. Many innocent souls have been lost because of this unethical behaviour of most Nigerians policemen. Many of them killed because of N100. We do not want checkpoints on the highway again, it is an avenue for extorting road users.”

    Another commercial driver, Mr Kayode, who ply Akure-Ado road who also did not want checkpoints return on the highway hinted that the sight of the Nigeria police on the roads ordinary should usher in feeling of relief and assurance that one’s life and property are well protected but according to him, the contrary has been the case all over the country which make many citizens of the country kicked against checkpoints or roadblocks. “Instead of fighting crimes and checking suspected vehicles, policemen on duty at checkpoints check pockets of motorists only. Drivers who refuses to pay bribes are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention and threats until they negotiate payment for their release”.

    “Extortion -related confrontations between the police and motorists often escalate into more serious abuses. Mostimes, it was reported that police officers on numerous occasions severely beaten, or shot to death ordinary citizen who failed to pay the bribes demanded.”

   Reacting to the point that checkpoints are needed to fight crimes which is on the increase in the country, Kayode disagreed,” Even with checkpoints and roadblocks in most highways then, it never addressed the crime rate. The police even contributed to it because sometimes, arm robbers who were usually clad in black uniforms just like that of the police also block the road with heavy woods, pretending to be policemen. Several motorists have fallen victims to these unscrupulous individuals. Despite thousands of police checkpoints then, kidnapping, arm robbery, accidents continue unabated on our roads, so the roadblocks or checkpoints should not return otherwise, it will worsen the already tense security situation in the country.”

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A passenger, Mrs Itunu Oladuni also disagreed with the return of police checkpoints but instead called for police patrol to address insecurity. “Happenings recently had shown that we do not need police checkpoints any more but police patrol. Have heard of a situation that arm robbers were robbing not too far from police checkpoints and instead of the police men to attack the robbers, they ran away to safety. Why then will anyone clamour for the return of checkpoints when road users are not benefitting from it.? I am of the opinion that when we have more police patrol across the highway, it will help to fight insecurity and not police checkpoints or roadblocks.”

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