The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. â€“ Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
IT is no longer enough for President Jonathan Goodluck to condole families of those who die at police check points. His call for investigations are inadequate. Denials that police check points cause accidents are insults to the dead and their family and a confirmation that the police would not dismantle them.
Deaths from accidents at check points and the ones the police shoot for refusing to pay bribes have increased over the years. The authorities ignore them, the police become more emboldened and more brazen at check points.
The policemen who cause these deaths disappear after the accidents. Nobody finds them, nobody is punished.
Before last Sundayâ€™s multiple accidents and deaths on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, there have been other deaths in similar circumstances.
The police did nothing â€“ the police does not keep tab of its men. They roam freely and set these illegal check points that cause deaths.
Last June 1, 20 died at a check point at the Obosi end of the Onitsha – Owerri road in Anambra State. The Network of Police Reforms in Nigeria , NOPRIN, called for abolition of check points. At the time of the accident check points had been banned for more than five years.
Check points are critical for the revenue they generate for the police. The high number of checkpoints has not stopped armed robbers and kidnappers particularly in the South East where check points are rampant. Roads like Owerri â€“ Mbaise and Onitsha – Owerri have about 30 police check points each.
Human Rights Watch, HRW, in its latest report stated the police extorted N20.35 billion between January 2009 and June this year at checkpoints.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, the chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law who presented the report gave the breakdown as South East N9.35 billion, South-South N4 billion, South_West N4 billion, North Central and Abuja, N2 billion, North East and North, West N500 million each.
Expectedly the police dismissed the report as â€œembellished innuendoes and suggestive graphics aimed at reaching a preconceived conclusionâ€.
Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, police spokesman, the force last year sanctioned 764 senior officers and 8,831 junior officers for various acts of indiscipline.
He did not state their offences and whether dismissing such a high number in a year did not indicate the type of police we have.
Figures for extortions are not secret. In most places, motorists and motor-cyclists know how much the police expect. Negotiations are not allowed. AÂ calculation of vehicles that pass these check points and pay the mandatory tolls could give higher figures than HRWâ€™s.
Policemen are so brazen at check points that they feel rightful indignation in shooting anyone who fails to pay.
Who takes the money collected? The police refuse to accept there are check points so they cannot sanction officers for offences at check points.
Some say the money is handy in supplementing the under-funded police. This argument is based on the fact that police authorities do nothing to dismantle check points.
Nigerians are more concerned with the loss of lives than with the money the police make. For the authorities to stop these deaths, check points must go: they can be mounted to check fleeing criminals, not as death points for innocent Nigerians whose major crime is that they live in a country where governments think words are deeds.
The President has a primary responsibility for the welfare and security of our people. The Constitution he swore to uphold expects him to save Nigerians from the plague the police constitutes.