Every 500-metres stretch has a checkpoint, every arm of security is found on these roads. Army and police have the highest number.
The issue of security checkpoints is becoming another serious matter of concern to a good number of our countrymen and women. Whether we should use the security checkpoint approach in crime prevention has been a controversial issue. The debate has been there for a long time, and each time the citizenry rose to express some worries, the government in power reacted in the most predictable manner. They either offered explanations following similar patterns or express desire to do away with the option entirely. In each instance it is the citizens that are left confused, not knowing what the position is on the matter, even when government has by statements taken a position. Recently the matter gained renewed currency and that is because our administrative system is symptomatic of policy misconceptions and somersaults.
Most of our leaders have been known to come to power without vision; they get to power and then the process for solutions commences. This is the case where a few of them are imbued with little ability for deep rationalization. In instances where the thinking ability is not there, such leaders are known to do nothing. They don’t initiate anything but they create a lacuna, which is seized by mediocre aides. The result often is bastardization of system and process, churning out of ill-conceived policies and programmes. Putting in place sound and creative security architecture has suffered from the challenge expressed earlier. I recall that the police authorities rose up one morning to say there won’t be policemen attached to private citizens. The directive contained no distinction, something I considered absurd given that it is commonsensical to know that in every society the station of life must differ on the basis of attainments or job description.
Some achievements in life even though personal would require the state to offer personalized protection. It would amount to recklessness to allow Innocent Chukwuma, the great industrialist and motor vehicle manufacturing giant in Nnewi, Aliko Dangote, the manufacturing Icon or Femi Otedola, the oil magnet, to walk into Alaba Market or on Onitsha streets unprotected. These are elementary things any security chief ought to know and take into consideration before announcing a policy statement. Our officers don’t think and the consequence is what we see, going back and forth on what are very serious matters of state.
This omission or is it commission, is proving costly in terms of human lives, economic losses, political instability and further destruction of what should be cherished public institutions. Today we agree the presence of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, in our country is inimical to our general interest in all ramifications. There is a consensus that the dastardly killings associated with their misplaced activities is repugnant to human dignity and as such should be challenged and done away with. In truth, our troops are fighting and giving their best and the government on the other hand is appropriating and spending huge public funds on the conflicts but as you read the troubles seem to be increasing rather than abating and one big question that has come out of this is: have the country’s leaders done all they should reasonably do to permanently halt the menace? Why has it taken us time to make the conflict a citizens’ war? We have not because we have leaders who don’t think.
The other matter is that of checkpoints. It is the core issue in today’s discourse. As I observed earlier, this has been an issue with every administration, like the second Niger Bridge, it has grown to become a political matter. Going by prescribed standards there seems to be an agreement that what we do here is below what it should be and from diverse dimensions it infringes on inalienable and constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens as well as retard economic progress. Many of us have also come to know that checkpoint duties, the way it is organized and operated in the country is not only destroying the police and military institutions, it is as well creating a siege mentality among the citizens.
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By now those who lead us ought to know that one major disservice they have done to this country and the people is the introduction of the military into direct civil duties. I don’t know the regime that started it, both the one that started it and those that have sustained it, should be challenged, if possible arrested and subjected to judicial trial on charges of treasonable felony. Their unpatriotic venture which we all know serve their survival in power, has gone a long way to subvert our sovereignty and render the citizens very vulnerable. I will not bother so much about the police because what we did with it and the collective harm we brought on that institution is well known to us. What is not clear is why we had to bring in the army be destroyed again like the police.
Today the military chaps are virtually everywhere, especially in the South East. They have become so civilianized that they speak the language of the “bloody civilians” and in nearly all the ways, act like them. In pursuit of some mobilization objectives I have been opportune to be in so many areas in the South East and what I saw made me weep for Nigeria and those who lead us cannot claim ignorance of this sordid development. Every 500-metres stretch has a checkpoint, every arm of security is found on these roads. Army and police have the highest number. They provoke long queues, thereby imposing hardship on road users. They openly collect money. The military boys have become more creative, they have civilian fronts that collect the security tolls from vehicles. In the rural communities, I understand they now intervene on social conflicts and this is on the basis of the bigger spenders’ game. Rural residents compete to compromise them with various gestures and gifts. With what I heard our country would soon not have an army worth the name.
My demands are: pull out the army. Secondly, recreate the police and build a formidable mobile police force. Let them take over the responsibility given to the military. This was the pattern before and it is still very relevant. Remove checkpoints in the entire South East, security forces can stay on standby positions and not to block the roads and inner city streets as is currently the case. Anyone interested in knowing that there could be politics of checkpoints and checkpoints could be used to punish a people, should read the two books, “Topography of Terror” – a German documentation of the Hitler era and the world war years edited by Reinhard Rurup and “The Jews and Arabs of Israel”. In the second you will see how Israelis effectively used checkpoints to disorientate, humiliate, torment and emasculate the economic growth of the Palestinian people and state. Many in the South East who know believe that massive checkpoints in the area is not about Biafra agitation or our challenges of insecurity but deliberate attempt to torment and humiliate as well as stunt the economic growth of the people and the area. I honestly think this is the case.