South-Eastern people of Nigeria are becoming endangered species. The police, the customs and the military use them to show off their strength at every given opportunity, especially at festive seasons. When you add this to the marginalisation of the region in the country’s security forces, the intimidation is complete. The question remains, what have the people of the South-East done to deserve ill treatment in Nigeria?
The answer may still be blowing in the wind. An average Igboman does not depend on government, or anybody for that matter, to provide for him. He struggles all through the year to put food on his table and provide for his family. At the end of the year, he wants to visit his ancestral home to relax and enjoy the fruits of communal life.
Some of them return from abroad and drive home in exotic vehicles. This is part of what attracts the security agencies. They mount roadblocks in the guise of checking crime but, in most cases, it is to extort, intimidate and harass innocent travellers.
On the Ore-Benin expressway, there is a police checkpoint at almost every pole. If you are lucky, they smile and ask you to do Christmas for them. If you are not too lucky, they stop you to ask for all manner of car particulars. No matter how current your particulars are, they must find one reason or the other to delay you and extort money from you. If you are about two or three young men travelling together, your case is worse. They will search your bags and phones looking for real and imaginary things they will use to nail you.
The customs problem is the worse. When they stop you, you must “scratch their hands.” They don’t collect anything less than N1,000. That is if your papers are genuine. Otherwise, you must part with huge sums of money to regain your vehicle. A brother of mine who travelled last week gave customs operatives at Benin N200 when they stopped him. They scoffed at him and said it must not be less than N1,000 or he should park for them to thoroughly examine his vehicle papers. And this is not a new car. Not wanting to be delayed, he gave them the money and moved on.
When you consider the number of roadblocks on the route to the South-East and the ones in the North, you begin to wonder if there is a sinister motive behind all this. There are more security challenges in the North. Terrorists, kidnappers, armed robbers have made the Abuja-Kaduna road a nightmare. Most people now prefer to travel by train to avoid the road marauders. But you don’t find the number of checkpoints there as in the South.
In civilised societies, you hardly find police stopping people at random. If they stop you, there must be a reason. They only patrol to ensure there is peace and order in the society.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, actually warned police personnel, especially those on the highway during the Yuletide, to stop the harassment and intimidation of motorists. He also warned against abuse of rights of Nigerians, calling for adherence to laid down rules and standard operating procedures of the force. According to the IG, reported cases of unprofessionalism such as extortion and intimidation of road users would be investigated and punished. But has the extortion stopped? Has any police operative been arrested and punished? Will the extortion ever stop?
Could the intimidation of South-Easterners be because they lack influential people to speak for them both at the hierarchy of the force and the Police Service Commission (PSC)? Senior police officers from the region, as a civil society group calls it, now face extinction in Nigeria. The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), recently, sent strong protest letters to the chairman of the Police Service Commission, Musliu Smith, IGP Adamu, the Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, over what it called gross lopsidedness in the recent promotions in the Nigerian security forces.
Intersociety reminded the police authorities of the stipulations of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. This section states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character (sectional balancing) of Nigeria and need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies.”
From the detailed findings of Intersociety, the South-East may not produce the country’s IGP in the next 10 years, if not permanently. The zone also stands the risk of being wiped out of existence in the senior ranking cadre of the Nigeria Police Force.
Here are a few examples: IGP is from the North-Central state of Nasarawa. He is to retire February 1, 2021. There is regional balancing in the Deputy Inspector-Generals of Police allocation. All the six regions produced one DIG each except the North-West, which has two, making it a total of seven. Even, the DIG from the South-East, Celestine Okoye, retires in December 2020.
But in the other ranks, there is a serious problem. In the Assistant Inspector-General of police cadre, for instance, the South-East is totally absent. Out of a total of 36 AIGs the North-West has nine; North-East has 14; North-Central has four; South-West, five; South-South, four and South-East, none.
Of 37 serving state commissioners of police, North-West has 12 (Katsina, four; Kebbi, three; Sokoto, two; Zamfara, one; Kano, one; and Kaduna, one). North-East has eight (Adamawa, two; Taraba, two; Borno, one; Gombe, one; Bauchi, one; and Yobe, one). South-West has seven (Osun, three; Lagos, two; Ogun, two; Ekiti, one; Oyo, one; and Ondo, one). South-South has three (Cross River, one; Akwa Ibom, one; and Edo, one). SouthEast has only one who is from Imo State. His name is Uche J. Anozia (CP, Bayelsa State). He retires on September 19, 2020. Thus, the South-East is constitutionally deprived of five additional state commissioners of police. In the other senior cadres of the police force, the situation is the same.
The PSC had, at its seventh plenary meeting held on Friday and Saturday, 20 and 21 December, 2019, respectively, approved the promotion of 40 Deputy Commissioners of Police to Commissioners of Police. There were other promotions. Out of the 40 promoted CPs, Intersociety claims that 17 came from the South-West region, where the PSC chair comes from. The South-East got only five. With this, South-West now has 29 serving CPs in the country.
Intersociety then avers, “The PSC chair and the IGP are by their condemned discrimination in ‘the recruitment, promotion and posting of senior police officers in the Nigeria Police Force,’ dangerously undermining the 1999 Constitution and the Acts of National Assembly establishing the PSC and the NPF. The actions of the duo also threaten the country’s peaceful coexistence as a country with multiplicity of ethnicity and religion, with over 370 tribes, dominated by three major tribes of Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani and multiple religions dominated by Christianity, Islam and traditional worshippers.”
There is nothing more to add. For equity and peace to reign in the country, authorities of the police should correct the anomalies already identified here. You cannot harass and unjustly cage a group of people and expect them not to agitate for their freedom and self-determination.
Reactions to Anambra 2021 governorship
Dear Casmir, I concede that brilliant writers like you can and do amuse and amaze their readers. In paragraph four of your last article on the above subject, you graciously mentioned someone from near me, Dr. Godwin Maduka, a billionaire philanthropist, among candidates interested to run in the Anambra 2021 governorship election.
But in your tacit summary in paragraph 11, this name, and few others, disappeared from your radar of six serious candidates. The reason for this omission may not be lost on us as the movers and shakers of politics in Anambra South Senatorial Zone, whose turn, in no legal order, it is now to produce Anambra governor in 2021.
Zoning or no zoning, Anambra politics is so dynamic that, even if PDP or any party zones the office to any zone, it does not guarantee victory or stop strong candidates from other zones from making a stronger run in the primaries, campaigns, and the shenanigans of voter victory. As it is said back home, let all the guys file out for us to inspect their anus. Or anuses!
– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645
Casmir, most Nigerian politicians are ‘bread and butter’ politicians who are destined to enrich their pockets and not the electorate. They do not have ideologies and are always to be branded as ‘any government in power,’ AGIP. I believe in zoning, as it decreases rancour and acrimony. Every zone can produce quality candidates in each party. It is easier for the zone to produce a good candidate in each party and present to the entire state to choose on election day.
– Pharm. Okwy Njike, Nawfia, Njikoka, Anambra, +2348038854922