By Albert Akpor
WHAT would have resulted in a bloody clash between some policemen attached to the Lagos state police command and some army personnel was Tuesday night averted following alleged mounting of illegal check points along the Seme\Badagry road by some uniformed personnel in Badagry and OPS MESAH.Â
Impeccable sources disclosed that some police men attached to a new squad tagged, Anti_illegal Road Block (AIRB) along the route and some soldiers had a heated argument over policeÂ insistence that various illegal road blocks mounted by these army personnel should be dislodged in accordance with the recent federal governmentâ€™s order that the Inspector_General of Police, IGP Ogbonna Onovo, should ensure that traffic flows freely along the route.
This order, it was learnt,Â followed complaints by some chiefs of police from the neighbouring countries who visited Nigeria last year over several checkpoints that dotted the highway to the border.Â Â According to sources, the altercation between the police and the soldiers would have resulted in a bloody clash that night but for the quick intervention of the Commander of the squad, Mr. Emmanuel Ighodalo, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP).
The army personnel, reports say, have continued to mount illegal road blocks along the route brazenly, collecting tolls from both private and commercial motorists.Â Some of them were said to be escorting contraband like textile, rice, assorted canned foods and frozen chickens both day and night across the legal checkpoints.
Attempts to speak with the Commander of the Anti-Illegal Road Block (AIRB) failed but a source close to his office said that some of the army personnelÂ have taken solace in mounting illegal road blocks since all other check points except those approved by the Nigerian Customs have been dislodged by the AIRB squad.
The source further disclosed that since the birth of the Police task froce,Â there have been free- flow of traffic along the route until the uniformed personnel surfaced with their road blocks.Â According to sources, â€œthese soldiers operate six of these checkpoints at Aradagun junction, Church gate junction, Chef garden junction after Gbagi, MTN point, Mawo and Oke_Afo junctions respectively.
The operation of these illegal checkpoint starts from 6.00 am to 6.00 am the following day with the army men either collecting money brazenly from motorists or escorting contraband goods. Yesterday (last Tuesday), some policemen almost clashed with them at the points of these illegal road blocks because the police challenged them.Â But for the illegal activities of these soldiers, travellers from Nigeria-Seme coming to Lagos would not spend much time getting to their destinations.Â These uniformed personnel behave as if nobody can control them.â€.
Some motorists who spoke with Crime Guard painted very ugly and dehumanising pictures of their plight in the hands of the soldiers along the road.Â According to one of them who identified himself simply as Fatai, an auto dealer, â€œIt is better for the Police, Custom and other quasi- organisations to take over the road like we had than what we are presently going through in the hands of these armed soldiers.
Do you know that they do not stop at creating unnecessary traffic bottle-necks only, they extort money from us and in addition, flog us as if we are slaves.Â No motorist passes there now without receiving a cane from them and we have christened it our â€œSeme Blessing from soldiersâ€.Â That is our sing-song now.
We are sure that they come from either the army barracks nearby or they are members of the anti-crime outfit, Operation Mesa.Â We are therefore calling on both the Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo and President Goodluck Jonathan to act immediately by calling these soldiers to order. If not, the whole idea of setting up a task force against illegal; road blocks would be grossly defeatedâ€.
It would be recalled that the Inspector_General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo gave n express order early this year that illegal checkpoints along the Seme_Badagry road should be dislodged following bitter complaints by his visiting counterparts from the neighbouring countries last year.