By Charles Kumolu
The hellish experience businessmen and other commuters plying the ever-busy Mile Two – Seme Road go through on daily basis, cannot be blamed on the deathtrap nature of the trans-boarder road alone.
The numerous road blocks mounted by security agents on the road, ostensibly to nab those who smuggle goods into the country, has been fingered as the major reason why there is near traffic crisis on that axis.
Although the Nigeria Police has banned mounting road blocks on the nation’s highways, investigations by Vanguard Metro VM, shows that the ban is being observed more in breach by the police.
A drive from Mile Two to Seme Border shows that contrary to the orders of the Inspector -General of Police banning roadblocks in the country, roadblocks mounted by the police and other security agencies adorn that stretch of the expressway.
Between Seme and Mile 2, one could count over 20 check points manned by different security agents.
The security agencies present along that route include the Quarantine, Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Federal Road Safety Commission FRSC, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA and Nigeria Customs Service, NCS. Others whose presence is very visible along the road are the Port Health Control, Standard Organization of Nigeria SON and State Security Service SSS.
But the most visible among these law enforcement agencies on that axis is the Nigeria Police.
It is a common sight to see these uniformed security personnel at checkpoints extorting money from hapless drivers plying the dilapidated expressway.
Apart from those traveling on the highway, the practice is also meted out to commercial motorists plying some roads off the expressway.
For instance, passengers and drivers going through LASU/Iba road, are daily being subjected to undue delay as a result of illegal checkpoint at IyanaI-Iba bustop.
The major victims of these illegal roadblocks on that highway, are traders travelling to Seme Boarder or other West African countries.
Some aggrieved traders told VM, that this illicit act hinders trade within the sub-region. According to them, it makes goods produced within the region more expensive, especially on the Nigerian side.
Apart from the harm it is causing road users, VM learnt that the practice is against the protocol of free movement of goods and services in the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Those involved in the roadblock on Lagos Badagry Expressway are mainly members of the Regular Police Division, Special Anti-Robbery Squads and Anti-Terrorism Squads.
Speaking to VM on the issue, a stakeholder in the maritime industry, who is also into haulage, Mr. Donal Chukwuma, lamented that the police has taken over the Mile 2 to Seme route. Fuming with anger, Chukwuma called on the Police High command to call its men to order.
Chukwuma regretted that despite the Minister’s warning that agencies should limit checkpoints on the road, in order to facilitate trade and easy movement of goods, the highway is still populated by the police.
“Despite the Minister’s warning that agencies should limit checkpoints on the highway, the police has taken over the express road from Mile 2 to Seme and it is affecting free movement of goods and people on the road. From Seme to the Auto Spare Parts Market, ASPMDA, located at the International Trade Fair Complex, we have about 10 checkpoints.
“They stop every vehicle carrying goods, thereby causing heavy vehicular and human traffic on the road. At nights, the checkpoints are up to 25 and it cripples movement. All the vehicles can stay on one spot for almost ten hours for a journey that is supposed to last an hour and thirty minutes,” he fumed.
According to the businessman, “the Customs have only two checkpoints which is what was approved for them but the Police has remained adamant to the instruction.”
The Customs checkpoints are located at Gbaji and Agbara . VM was told that the Customs office in Seme has two checkpoints which are supported by three roving teams tactically designed to checkmate any attempt at smuggling through the creeks and bushes.
“These two checkpoints are located at Gbaji and Agbara respectively. They are supported by three roving teams tactically designed to checkmate any attempt at smuggling through the creeks and bushes. So they are there to perform customs statutory anti – smuggling functions and not the derogatory remark of extortion. Any other checkpoint or patrol team other than these two is not from the command”, Seme Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Olotah said.
Similarly, the Lagos State Police Command dismissed the claims of extortion and illegal road blocks. The Command’s spokesperson, Mr. Samuel Junaidu, who debunked the allegations in a telephone chat with VM, insisted that the Police has obeyed the Federal government’s directive on the issue.
“Our men are no longer on that highway. It is not true that the police are still there. The Federal government gave a directive and we have obeyed. Even recently the Lagos State Police Commissioner also emphasised on that directive. So, we don’t have our men on that road,” he stated.