Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
A civil rights group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), has alleged that Nigerian security forces and their heads have corruptly or criminally collected and pocketed total cash sums estimated at not less than N44 billion or over $120 million in the past 90 days or from March 30 to June 30 while enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown.
In an Executive Summary of a special report on the COVID-19 lockdown released yesterday in Onitsha, signed by Intersociety’s Board Chair, Emeka Umeagbalasi; Head of Campaign and Publicity, Damaris Amaka Onuoha, Esq, Head, Field Data Collection and Documentation, Samuel Kamanyaoku; and Head of Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Obianuju Igboeli, Esq; the group said their investigation covered lands and borders and did not include railways, coastal lines, waterways and airports.
The group said those directly or vicariously responsible for collection and pocketing of the bribes include officers and personnel of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps and Nigeria Customs Service.
‘Officers and personnel of Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Navy also got involved especially where they mounted roadblocks or were joined as members of ‘Joint Security Taskforce (JTF)’ and drafted to jointly man COVID-19 border post and boundary post security.
The joint security task forces under reference are generally maintained across the country by various state governments. Involved in the roadblock, boundary post or border post-COVID-19 bribery and extortion were the civilian COVID-19 task forces drawn from state or Federal Governments’ ministries of health and transport. At the state level, various vigilante groups represented by the ‘Vigilante Group of Nigeria’ also participated and are still participating.
Intersociety called for ‘the end or scrapping of the so-called “inter-state lockdowns” as they have become counterproductive and conduit pipe for the country’s security and law enforcement agencies and their chiefs-who are determined to continuously ‘recommend’ for their extension, as it is now “more extension, more billions in their pockets”.’
Giving a breakdown of the claimed figures, the group said from border post extortion, it is N8 billion, N2.7 billion from the military roadblocks across the country; N7.2 billion from the South-East, N6.5 billion from the South-South, N5.5 billion from the South-West, N4 billion from the North-West, N3 billion from the North-Central and N2 billion from the North-East.
Included also is N4 billion arising from ‘bail fees’ following mass and other unlawful arrests; totalling N44 billion or over $120 million from 30th March to 30th June (tomorrow) 2020. The N2.7 billion military roadblock extortion did not include criminal proceeds arising from military extortion at the border post and boundary post-COVID-19 security. In all, S/E takes the lead with N7.2b, S/S N6.5b, S/W N5.5b, N/W N4b, N/C N3b and N/E N2b.”
The group also renewed its call ‘on the authorities of the Federal Government of Nigeria to frontally address the chronic corruption and other service malpractices including abuse of power and brutality which have become almost intractable in the country’s security, defence and law enforcement or policing sector.
‘Nigerian Government must also end the long-suffering of the Nigerian road users owing to the counterproductive and corruption-prone interstate “lockdowns” and device better and result-oriented ways of preventing and managing the COVID-19 Pandemic,’ Intersociety said.