On 16th July, 2020, Nigerians on Twitter lamented the handing over of military checkpoints along the express roads to Nigeria police. It was both hilarious and disheartening to listen to the soulful laments of these young and old Nigerians. It was quite obvious that nobody wanted the police to man our roads and protect the citizens. Somehow, the Nigerian military personnel have won the hearts of many Nigerians.
It may be ironic to realise that Nigerians prefer men with guns to those with batons. Of course, mobile police and SARS officials are usually the police officers that mount roadblocks and they both carry guns. But then, their possession of gun spells doom instead of safety for Nigerians. So, instead of Nigerians rejoicing that the military men are going back to the barracks, they cried out in pain, seeking for their comeback.
One may wonder why Nigerians prefer Nigerian Army, Navy or Airforce to protect travellers on our highways. Well, below are some of the reasons Nigerians on Twitter gave.
It is well known that in Nigeria, police checkpoints are extortion points. Like someone said, if you meet one hundred police checkpoints as you travel, you will be extorted one hundred times. On the contrary, if you meet one hundred military checkpoints, you are likely to be extorted zero times. This is just to say that Nigeria police checkpoints are money making ventures. Increasing these checkpoints is just a way of creating more problems for travellers.
- Assaults and Killings
You hardly hear that a military man shot a civilian during an argument. But is there any week you don’t hear about a police officer killing a driver, a passenger, a passer-by or even another police officer because of N50? Most of the time, if drivers get into heated arguments with these officers, people like me will plead with them to release that money because no one knows what the officers have in mind. One can never tell what it takes to annoy these people to the extent of shooting someone. Worst is that most of these mounted checkpoints are illegal and thus, any officer that commits crime at an illegal checkpoint may disappear without trace. Nigerian police has finally succeeded in making themselves enemies of the people.
If you are travelling and you meet a military checkpoint, you can comfortably park your car around the area and even doze off because you are sure that your life is in good hands. But trust me, you won’t even dream of doing that at a police checkpoint. To start with, the police can pack up and dismount their roadblocks at any point in time. But the military checks are almost permanent – they don’t pick up random areas to mount their checks.
Another thing about military checkpoints is that they are mounted around areas where hoodlums attack motorists. For instance, the military checkpoints along Enugu-Onitsha expressway were stationed at Ugwu Onyeama and Uguwoba. In the evening, they set up monitoring checks at Mopol junctions. These areas are notorious for armed robbery at any time of the day. However, since these military came, no report of robbery has been recorded along Enugu-Onitsha Expressway. Now, it looks like we are going back to where we were before.
Calls for reformation of the Nigeria Police Force have been ongoing for a long time now. It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria police are giving us the impression that they can keep our roads safe when they know fully well that they cannot do so without the help of these military personnel. However, we have to give them the much support we could to see if they can really do the job. But then, something has to be done to ensure that illegal checkpoints, extortion and assaults by the Nigeria police are eradicated. Nigeria police has to do a lot of work to win back the confidence of Nigerians.