Lawyers Demand Dismantling Of Checkpoints On South-east Roads Ahead Of Christmas

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A group of lawyers
under the aegis of ‘Otu Ọka Iwu’
have condemned the incessant harassment, intimidation and extortion of
traveller’s by law enforcement
agencies on the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Expressway and roads in the South-east
region.
In a statement on Tuesday, the
lawyers decried a situation where the stretch of road from Lagos (in the south
west) to Onitsha (in the south east) is “invaded by all manner of security
agencies” including the Army, Police, Customs Service, Nigerian Drug Law
Enforcement Agency, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and Federal Road
Safety Commission operatives.
The group, in the statement by
its president, Chuks Ikokwu, said the countless road-blocks engender extortion,
delays and unacceptable hardships to travellers.
“It is recalled that the
respected and longstanding human rights group, Campaign for Democracy recently
issued a three-day ultimatum to the Inspector-General of Police demanding
removal of the innumerable road-blocks within the Onitsha metropolis,” the group
said, at the end of their monthly meeting in Lagos.
“Sadly, this malaise is not
restricted to Onitsha. It is widely believed that these road-blocks are
designed to extort motorists and dampen their travel experience, causing them
avoidable irritation and sundry losses both in man-hours and business opportunities.”
The lawyers demand came barely
three months after the police Inspector-General ordered a dismantling of road
blocks by police officers across the country.
But despite the police boss’s
directive, checkpoints, particularly those mounted by police officers, have
continued to be a common sight across the country, including in the Federal
Capital Territory where the police headquarters is situated.
According to the lawyers, the
situation had worsened along the Lagos-Onitsha-Owerri Expressway and intra
South-east roads, especially as Christmas approaches.
“The Inspector-General of Police
is advised to reintroduce mobile highway patrols than these stationary
road-blocks that have turned to ‘toll gates’ of sorts.”
The group also urged victims of
extortions and abuse of law enforcement powers to report such experiences to
the association, warning that it would “not hesitate to take immediate and
appropriate action to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The lawyers also called on
Babatunde Fashola, the Minister for Power, Works, and Housing, to immediately
commence palliative measures to fix the failed portions of the
Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Expressway.
They described several portions
of the road as “death traps,” adding that travellers now spend valuable
man-hours especially at the Benin-Asaba interchange and Onitsha-Awka-Enugu
Expressway.
“Those portions have become so
dilapidated and impassable that they have been taken over by trucks and
trailers as their parking lots.
“The Sagamu-Ore axis remains a
traveller’s nightmare due to huge craters that litter most portions of that
stretch. For starters, we call for an immediate removal of these trucks and
trailers from the expressway.”
Despite the huge budgetary
expenditure to improve the nation’s road infrastructure, according to the
lawyers, tales of woe and inhuman suffering by travellers are yet to abate.
“In fact, it is doubtful that the
supervising minister is fully briefed on the current state of these roads,
making an on-the-spot assessment imperative.
“We urge the supervising minister
to demonstrate his avowed competence and ensure that immediate steps are taken
to remediate these roads to ameliorate the suffering of travellers especially
during this yuletide season.
“No excuse is again tenable for
the highly deplorable condition of these roads, more so as the loss to the
economy is incalculable.”
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