Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
A civil rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), yesterday raised a shocking statistics alleging that a staggering sum of N306b or $1b (at official exchange rate of about N306 per US$) has been paid at gunpoint in the past 50 months between August 2015 and Oct 2019 by citizens of Eastern Nigeria to estimated 600 military and 6,300 police roadblocks in the Southeast and South-south regions.
The group in a special research project released yesterday in Onitsha, signed by its Board Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, said the extra increase or additional N206b from their Dec 2018 research figure of N100b was as a result of extension of their field trip research to the South-south or Niger Delta Region where additional 400 military and 3000 police roadblocks were discovered and examined.
The report said that in addition to further increase of military roadblocks in the Southeast from 150 and police roadblocks from 3000, as at Dec 2018, to 200 and 3,300 respectively.
The research covered the 11 states of Edo, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo, spanning from August 2015 to Oct 2019, a total period of 50 months while in its December 2018 report, only the five Southeast States of Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo were covered and examined.
The report partly stated: “While the 6,300 police roadblocks illicitly collected N250b from Easterners, the 600 military roadblocks criminally took home N56b.
“The report further showed that average of N6.4b was illicitly collected monthly, out of the N306b and N76b yearly in the said past four years and two months.
“The N250b illicitly took by the police constitutes over 80% of the annual budget of the Force, which is N300b or over 20% annually in the past four years at annual average of N61.5b.
“The forceful payments and their illicit collection took place between August 2015 and October 2019 at various roadblocks manned by not less than 34,000 armed personnel of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and Police stationed on Eastern Roads and other public arenas in the two regions.
“The special report was built on our 2018 report, which concentrated on Southeast. This special report further exposes the real motives behind incessancy of military build-up and police siege in the two regions.”
Giving reasons for the special report project, Intersociety recalled “that August 2015 marked the beginning of militarization and police siege of Southeast and South-south regions.
“This took place barely three months after Mr. Mohammad Buhari, a retired army major general was sworn in as Nigeria’s sixth elective or civilian president on 29th May 2015.
“The report is also in response to the proposed military operations in Eastern Nigeria, code named: “Operation Python Dance IV” and “Operation Crocodile Smile IV”, scheduled for 1st Nov to Christmas Eve of Dec 2019 as well as planned flooding of the two regions particularly the Southeast with alleged greater number of “Federal Road Tollgates”.
This is even as it is found that 70% of all Federal Roads in Eastern Nigeria are a death trap.
The group called for total accountability for the N306b criminally collected at gunpoint from the peace loving and defenseless citizens of the Southeast and the South-south and their collectors or perpetrators as well as an end to the age long systematic and well oiled criminal practices.
“The report restates the strong opposition by Intersociety to (a) militarization and police siege in Southeast and South-south, (b) seeming execution of ethnic and religious agenda in the two regions including deliberate gross lopsidedness in the location, composition, manning and management of key military and policing formations in the two regions, (c) brutal economic exploitation of the two regions and their peace loving and industrious people through series of unjustifiable and unwarranted war-like military and “internal security operations” and their attendant official roadway robberies and other corrupt practices, (d) needless, militant and provocative embarkation of the so called “Army Python Dance IV” and “Crocodile Smile IV” in the two regions and (e) further threats to the lives and properties of the People of the two regions and militarization and radicalization of their psyche