By Emmanuel Unah

Just last week, a truck crushed a mobile policeman at a roadblock at Akamkpa. He used his body to barricade the road and the truck brakes failed and he was eventually crushed.

According to reports, he was not trying to stop the truck because the truck or its driver committed any crime but he wanted to extort money from the driver.

Anyone familiar with what is going on along our highways knows that the roads have the outlook of a country fighting a war. All sorts of security agents with all sorts of nomenclature have turned the roads to war zones by  mounting a deluge of barricades on the highway just to extort money from motorists.

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The Army, Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, Immigration, Customs,  Vehicle Inspection Officers, anti-deforestation officials, forestry personnel, produce collectors, touts and all sorts of “officials” bearing outlandish nomenclature feast daily on the highways.

These “security” agents  mount barricades ranging from concrete slabs, logs of wood, abandoned motor tyres, sand bags, spikes, speed breakers and some of them go to the extent of bizarrely using their bodies to serve as barricades.

Most of these crude  barricades were imported into Nigeria by soldiers who went to Liberia and Sierra Leone on  peace keeping. These have since been phased out in those countries but still in effective use in Nigeria.

To say the least, those barricades are a big hazard on the highways. Accidents occur daily with precious lives and properties lost. Traffic flow  is slowed down while these “official” extort money from motorists.

Checkpoints and rates

For example, between Calabar and Ogoja, there are 11 FRSC checkpoints where commercial drivers cough out N1,000 naira each and trucks N2,000 while heavy duty vehicles pay upward of N5,000.

If you put those monies together, it amounts to several millions; burdens daily  passed to the ordinary man through high costs of goods. Yet we blame government for high prices of goods. The FRSC men smile to the bank while the man on the street bears the burden of high costs of goods.

The police collect N200 for light vehicles, trucks from N2,000 based on bargain. They even collect from okada and Keke. There are over 20 such checkpoints between Calabar and Ogoja, where motorists cough out money.

Soldiers that were in the past seen to be a little cautious now  brazenly collect money  and in some instances make outrageous demands for money from motorists who convey goods.

The produce and anti-deforestation agents are on the road to enforce payment of sums agreed  by the loggers and officials of government and to enforce the war against illegal logging.

Once you are a forestry or anti-deforestation personnel you are an instant millionaire. Daily, truck loads of timber are scurried  away to other states and stamped as produce from such states and exported to the detriment of Cross River.

At most of these checkpoints, cudgels are handy to attack hapless motorists should any of them proves “stubborn”. They are inflicted with wounds and their vehicle wind shields  shattered  just for driving on the roads.

In all these, there is no one to cry to for help. This country is in a state of war and the ordinary citizen is at the receiving end.

Vanguard News

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