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Concerned about the alarming but what it described as “avoidable rate of tragic accidents and loss of lives at police checkpoints” in the South eastern part of Nigeria, civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has called on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to dismantle roadblocks manned by police personnel in Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and Anambra states.
HURIWA, in a statement issued on Saturday by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the menace of illegal checkpoints by policemen and their constant extortion of South-easterners must be checked.
The group lamented that the presence of corrupt policemen on extortion spree had been responsible for the extrajudicial killings of drivers in many parts of Nigeria because the drivers refuse to part with as low as N100 bribe.
HURIWA recalled the most recent horrific auto crash that happened on Friday, February 18, 2022, before Azia Junction, by the Ihiala–Onitsha Expressway, in which a truck rammed into six vehicles at a police checkpoint before landing on a bus allegedly filled with passengers.
A statement by the Federal Road Safety Commission, Anambra State Acting Sector Public Education Officer, DRC Margaret Onabe, said that 63 people comprising 52 male adults, 10 female adults, and 1 male child were involved in the crash. It however confirmed only two casualties.
The Friday accident was just one out of many. Some parts of Anambra including the Onitsha-Owerri Road, Idemili, Obosi, Oba, and other parts of the entire South-East are notorious for police checkpoints and extortions.
According to newspaper reports, no fewer than 30 persons had been killed at police checkpoints in the South-East between January and February 2022. Some of the killings were as a result of avoidable crashes while others were reportedly by gunmen.
Justice Ike Ogu of an Anambra State High Court in January 2022 had ordered the state government and the police to remove all roadblocks in Anambra but the police are still operating roadblocks without any restraint.
The judge had delivered a judgment in the case of Francis Moneke vs Anambra State Government and Others, saying the government and police had no legal justification whatsoever in erecting roadblocks on major roads in the state on the pretext of checking insecurity.
Justice Ogu held that such illegal blockage flagrantly violated the applicant’s right to freedom of movement and should be immediately removed to allow the free movement of persons and vehicles but the police in its lawless manner continue the usual checkpoints, causing a lot of pain to motorists as police personnel used the opportunity to extort motorists.
Commenting on the development, HURIWA National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged the IGP to follow the court order forthwith and disband the illegal checkpoints which serve no purpose but to hasten the death of innocent citizens.
Onwubiko said, “HURIWA is pained that security agents who ought to be the first law enforcement officers are flagrantly disobeying the judgement of a law court declaring the illegality of roadblocks in the South-East.
“It is even more lamentable that extortions go on at these roadblocks by police officers and the IGP has turned a blind eye to the menace.
“Without any iota of doubt, the police have not learnt any lessons from the EndSARS nationwide protests against police brutality and extrajudicial killings in October 2020.
“The Nigeria Police Force and the Police Service Commission must begin instant reforms to reposition the Force for better policing.
“Also, HURIWA calls for the investigation of illegal police killings of civilians and for the constitutional independence of the PSC to be maintained if we ever hope to build a professional policing institution in Nigeria that would operate by the principle of rule of law and adherence to fundamental human rights provisions of the Constitution.
“There must also be severe sanctions for corrupt officers who, whilst coercing drivers to purloin them of money, lead them to their early graves. The IGP should wake up from his daylight slumber and disband these good-for-nothing roadblocks and call his men to order!”, the statement read.