Menace of police checkpoints
By Editorial Board
Monday, 7 Jun 2010
The frequency of accidents at various police checkpoints in recent times, has made the need for the disbandment of these barricades more urgent. Recently, a trailer crushed 17 people to death at a checkpoint some 300 metres from the popular ‘Unizik’ Junction in Awka, the Anambra State capital. The trailer, according to reports, was coming from the Enugu end of Enugu-Onitsha expressway when the accident occurred.
The trailer, said to have developed a faulty brake, had lost control while the driver started blaring the horn relentlessly with the hazard light on to alert road users of the impending danger. The policemen, who had formed multiple barricades along the road, were so engrossed in their “operations” until the trailer reached the spot and rammed into some of the vehicles at the checkpoint, dragging them along. When the trailer eventually pulled up, many lives had been lost.
Among other victims, a Peugeot 504 saloon car had its three occupants killed, while an 18-seater bus, which witnesses said was heading for Onitsha, had eight of its occupants killed while one policeman was also said to have died.
It is curious that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, believes that these checkpoints are indispensable in spite of the glaring danger they constitute on the highways and contrary to the position of his predecessors on the matter. Despite Onovo’s arguments that they are needed for curtailing crimes, the ubiquitous checkpoints have done more damage than good. Even by African standards, the nation’s checkpoints have cast a slur on the nation’s image.
The ever present sight of gun-wielding policemen on the nation’s roads can easily scare away tourists and foreign businessmen. The IGP himself once lamented the outrageous number of checkpoints on Seme-Lagos road. As police are busy extorting money from motorists, criminals often have a free rein. Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, Mr. Waje Yayok, was kidnapped in Kaduna and found in Delta, about 800 kilometres away. At none of the checkpoints were the victim and his abductors stopped.
South-Eastern Nigeria remains a haven of criminals despite the prevalence of checkpoints in the area. In many highways, particularly in the East, checkpoints line the routes at few metres intervals, stalking hapless motorists. In 2008, a former IG, Mr. Mike Okiro, arrested seven policemen with bags of crumpled bank notes at a checkpoint on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Apart from becoming extortion centres, checkpoints have also become a source of worry in the Police’s deplorable record of extrajudicial killings.
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights watchdog, in its 2010 annual report, declared that the Nigeria Police continued to commit, with impunity, a wide range of human rights violations, including unlawful killings, adding that some persons were targeted for failing to pay bribes. Reports have indicated that police shot and killed more than 8,000 people between 2000 and 2007. The figures showed that 785 people were killed in a space of three months in 2007. According to AI, many unlawful killings happen during police operations while they also shoot and kill drivers who refuse to give them bribes at checkpoints.
A report by Delta State Committee for the Defence of Human Rights cited one Peter Omisiri who was reportedly beaten to death by policemen for refusing to give a N20 bribe. In 2008, Modebayo Awosika was killed at a police checkpoint in Lagos. In April 2009, a three-year-old girl, Kausarat Saliu, was shot in the head and killed by the police at a checkpoint in Ketu, Lagos.
In February this year, a Lagos High Court sentenced a Police Inspector, Muslim Folorunsho, to death for killing one Perry Samuel in Lagos. Checkpoints have clearly become counterproductive in fighting crimes. It is unnecessary except when security agencies are acting on a tip-off.
Is there any alternatives to check points. Please suggest
When calamities happen at check point, you see Policemen who are there running away. They do not wait again to take care of the calamities they caused