The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) had on 11th December 2011 released a report of its national investigation of the Police Roadblock Extortion across the country particularly in the Southeast Zone, where over 1,500 police roadblocks were maintained, out of over 3,500 police roadblocks across the country. The national investigation of police roadblock extortion covered a period of three years; June 2009 to December 2011. In the said national investigation, Anambra State was used as a case-study State and the Southeast Zone as a case-study zone. This followed the largest concentration of the police roadblocks and their graft practices in the State and the Zone respectively. In the national investigation, Anambra and Abia States had 400 police roadblocks or extortion points each, followed by Imo State with 300 and Enugu and Ebonyi States with 200 each.
At the end, we found that the existence and maintenance of over 3,500 police roadblock extortion points across the country criminally fetched the Nigeria Police Force a total sum of N53.4Billion in three years; out of which the Southeast Zone fetched the Force the lion’s share of N32.2Billion, followed by Southwest and South-south with N8.2Billion each; North-central N2.1Billion; and Northeast and Northwest with N1.2Billion each. Anambra and Abia States were also found to be worse hit by the police roadblock extortion scourge; as a result of their blue-collar or high commercial activities and large concentration of adult or commercial population with limited education as well as other inhibiting socio-cultural factors. The national investigation was built on the report of the Human Rights Watch of August 2010 (Police Corruption As Human Rights Abuse in Nigeria…); which was further built on past rights groups’ reports on indiscriminate killing of innocent citizens by Nigerian Police personnel on Nigerian roads over extortion; resulting to monthly average death of 200 Nigerians.
The major effect or result of the national investigation under reference was the country-wide dismantling of 90% of the police roadblocks particularly in the Southeast Zone. The dismantling was ordered and enforced by then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar on the heels of his IGPship appointment in January 2012. The dislodgement largely remained in force throughout the period of his IGPship and extended to, an extent, to the tenure of former IGP, Suleiman Abba, but was reversed when the present IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase took over in May 2015. The flooding of the Southeast Roads with police roadblock extortion points reached a crescendo in October 2015 following the widespread peaceful and non violent protests and processions embarked upon by millions of concerned people of the Southeast Zone, which extended to the South-south geopolitical zone; demanding for the unconditional release of Dr. Nnamdi Kanu as well as assertion of their constitutional and conventional rights to peaceful assembly, association, expression, movement; and existence, development and self determination. In other words, IGP Solomon Arase had cashed in on the widespread peaceful protests and flooded the Southeast Zone with at least 750 police roadblocks for the purpose of criminal enrichment through brazen roadblock extortions with perfected and highly organized return culture (from CP to IGP).
Re-emergence of Police Roadblocks in Southeast using Pro Biafran Peaceful Protests as a cover: The return of police roadblock extortion points in June 2015 in Nigeria, ordered by IGP Solomon Arase; particularly in the Southeast Zone, which reached its peak in October 2015; has further made mockery of the doubtful anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration. Findings from our recent zonal investigation in the Southeast, factually disclosed that there are at least 750 police roadblock extortion points mounted and maintained by IGP Arase-led NPF on federal, State and intercity roads in the Zone.
Of the minimum of 750 police roadblock extortion points presently stationed on Southeast Roads; there are 200 in Anambra State; followed by Abia State with 200; Imo State with 150; and Enugu and Ebonyi States with 100 each. Of these five States, Anambra and Abia are most illicitly lucrative; owing to their commercial environmental nature. They are followed by Imo State, owing to its strategic link between the two States. Enugu and Ebonyi States are lesser owing to their white-collar or civil service environmental nature.
Most of the police roadblock extortion proceeds from Enugu and Ebonyi States come from highway and inter State road users; particularly users of Enugu-Port Harcourt, Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Nsukka-Oturkpa, Enugu-Abakiliki, Abakiliki-Okigwe and Abakiliki-Ogoja Roads as well as inter-State Roads within the two States. But in Anambra and Abia States, police roadblock extortions are concentrated on four major areas of Federal, inter-State, inter-LGA and intercity Roads. In Imo State, the criminal exercise is concentrated on its major inter-State and Federal Roads. Some of the Federal and inter-State Roads in Anambra and Abia States bearing the brunt of police roadblock extortions are: Onitsha-Enugu, Onitsha-Owerri, Atani-Ogwuikpere-Ndoni, Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe, Okigwe-Orlu-Owerri, Aba-Ikot-Ekpene, Uturu-Okigwe-Abakiliki, Ekwuluobia-Oko-Ibinta, Umuahia-Ariam-Ikot-Ekpene, Owerri-Elele-Port Harcourt, Umuahia-Obowo-Owerri, Umuahia-Bende, Igbo-Ukwu-Ezinifite-Uga-Umunze, Nsugbe-Adani and Umuahia-Port Harcourt Roads, etc
Patterns used by Police Roadblock Extortionists: In Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi States, which are relatively white-collar or civil-service States; police extortion is largely concentrated on road users and few other citizens that engaged in commercial activities in the three States. But in Anambra and Abia States, dominated by commercial population; police extortion is widespread. In Onitsha, Nnewi and Aba, for instance, intercity, inter-State, inter-LGA and Federal Road users are targeted and extorted with reckless abandon. In Onitsha and its environs, there are private vehicle police extortion, Keke-passenger police extortion, Keke-ware police extortion, Okada-passenger police extortion, Okada-ware police extortion, Datsun truck-ware and mini and long lorry-ware police extortion; intercity and highway commercial bus police extortion. These extortion categories are also indiscriminate or widespread in other commercial cities of Anambra and Abia States.
Further, for every private vehicle impounded for alleged traffic or incomplete particulars offense, at least, N3, 000/N5, 000 is extorted; and for average of five of them impounded daily by each extorting police roadblock team, N15, 000/N25, 000 is extorted. For every Okada caught plying or crossing any federal and designated State roads; N5, 000 is extorted and out of every five Okada or commercial motorcycles caught by each extorting police team daily, N25, 000 is extorted. This is widespread in cities and areas where their movement is said to have been restricted by Government including Onitsha-Enugu and Onitsha-Owerri Federal Roads; where upon corrupt police personnel backed by their superiors; brazenly use same to engage in extortion and related criminal activities.
Also, each of the intercity commercial bus is made to part with N50.00 note at every police extortion point; spending at least N500.00 at every ten police extortion points and N3, 000 per day in six trips. In other words, 100 commercial buses with six trips each per day spend at least N300, 000 in the hands of every ten intercity police extortion points; translating to N30, 000 per day for each police roadblock or extortion point. In our recent field checks, at least, ten police extortion points were counted between Nkwerre Junction and Onitsha Niger Bridgehead, situated along Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way in Anambra State and all of them were busy extorting commercial road users and impounding private vehicles under flimsy traffic and vehicle particulars’ issues, for purpose of forcing them at gun point to offer bribes; ranging from N3, 000 to N10, 000 per vehicle. The largest concentration of these graft practices of the NPF is Onitsha Upper Iweka and its environs including Aba Park, Owerri Road by Ezeiweka Road and Owerri Road by Obodo-ukwu Road all in Onitsha.
Each Keke (tricycle) and Okada (commercial motorcycle) loaded with goods on intercity roads is also made to part with N100/N200. On highways, each commercial bus with passengers is made to part with N50 note at every police extortion point, while each commercial bus with passengers and loads parts with N100 note at every extortion point. At each military or ATS checkpoint, N100/N200 is collected. At Navy Checkpoint located at Atani Road by Onitsha-Asaba Expressway in Ogbaru LGA, every commercial bus (small, mini and medium), Keke and Okada plying the Road and its environs mandatorily pays N50.00 per day as “Navy Fee”. It is collected by a civilian taskforce set up by the commercial transporters using the Road under the direction of the Navy personnel. At Onitsha Niger Bridgehead, soldiers of the Onitsha Military Cantonment have become a nightmare to road users in the area. Till date, pedestrians are barred from crossing the Bridge to Asaba or coming into Onitsha from Asaba. The murderous soldiers also engage in sundry extortion, torture and reckless killing of innocent and unarmed members of the public. The traffic jams created by soldiers at the Bridge, if not dismantled; will not only further threaten the ailing lifespan of the aging Bridge, but also bring about tortuous movement for 2015 Xmas returnees into Anambra State and the Southeast Zone.
In summation, it is our empirical finding that average of N30, 000 is illicitly pocketed daily by each of the 200 police extortion team stationed on Anambra and Abia Roads by IGP Solomon Arase since October 21st 2015. That is to say that some police extortion squads stationed on Anambra and Abia Roads illicitly pocket as much as N60, 000 each on daily basis, while others illicitly pocket at least N20,000 each, bringing the average to N30,000 per day. After consideration of the variables recorded above, it is also found that each police extortion team on Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi Roads, illicitly collects and pockets average of N15, 000 daily. That is to say that with 200 police extortion points on Anambra Roads, N6million is illicitly collected and pocketed daily and in Abia State, the same sum of N6million is illicitly made daily by its 200 police extortion points.
In Imo State with 150 police extortion points, N2, 25million is illicitly collected daily. And in Enugu and Ebonyi States with 100 police extortion points each; N1, 5million is illicitly pocketed daily in each of the two States; translating to N3million per day. In all, the Nigeria Police Force under the operational directive of IGP Solomon Arase had in the past 60 days; 21st October to 21st December 2015, illicitly collected and pocketed N360million from Anambra Roads; N360million from Abia Roads; N135million from Imo Roads; N90million from Enugu Roads; and N90million from Ebonyi Roads; totaling N1.03Billion. In other words, the Nigeria Police Force had in the past sixty days (21st October to 21st December 2015), illicitly collected and pocketed a total sum of N1.03Billion from at least 750 Police Roadblock Extortion Points in the Southeast Zone; hiding under the cover of Pro Biafran Peaceful Protests.
Purpose of the investigation: The purpose of this investigation is to bring the attention of the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, which says its major policy is to stamp out corruption in Nigeria; to brazen corrupt activities going unchecked by its largest security establishment: Nigeria Police Force; which is also its major anti corruption enforcement agency. As the saying goes “the best ways to ascertain how corrupt or less corrupt a civilian government is; is to take a critical look at the conducts of its police force”; we are compelled again to regard the anti corruption policy of the Buhari administration as a hoax. A Government that brazenly condones open and brazen corrupt practices of its police personnel oiled by command-structure return culture; is a government of profligacy. We dare say that this articulated report with pieces of pictorial evidence below, is a test case for the Government of Muhammadu Buhari and another challenge facing the Government’s doubtful anti corruption stance. That is to say that the way it responds to this report in coming days will prove to all Nigerians and members of the international community the seriousness or otherwise of its administration; concerning its anti corruption policies and actions.
It is in line with this that we resolved to forward this report via a forwarding letter to the trio of the Attorney General of the Federation, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Police Service Commission; seeking their requisite constitutional interventions including our demand that they should recommend to the President, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Police Council; for immediate removal of Mr. Solomon Arase as Inspector General of Police. The referenced forwarding letter was dated 21st December 2015 and referenced:
Part of our recommendations also is immediate dismantling of all the 750 police checkpoints in the Southeast Zone and reversion to special and skeletal highway police checkpoints created by former IGP, MD Abubakar; with effective measures to monitor and nip in the bud their possible relapse to extortionist activities. There shall also be total prohibition of all forms of police roadblock extortion and apprehension and dismissal from NPF of those found engaging in the nefarious conducts; be they members of the rank and file or operational AIGs, CPs, DCs/ACs-OPS, MOPOL commanders, DPOs and Area Commanders. The embattled Inspector General of Police must be given a matching order by the Presidency to direct with immediate effect, his Anambra, Abia and Imo State Police Commissioners, to immediately order their personnel out of roadblocks in the affected States so as to allow free flow of traffic and free movements for Xmas returnees in coming days. There should also be total ban all forms of vehicular impoundment in the guise of verification of vehicle particulars; leading to extortion and excruciating traffic jams.
The attached pictures, dated 12th of December 2015 are: (a) a Mobile Police officer holding N50.00 note in his left hand; extorted from a commercial mini lorry driver in front of him along Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way; (b) the same Mobile Police officer stepping down his left hand and pocketing the N50.00 note extorted; (c) another Mobile Police officer along same Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way receiving N50.00 note from the same commercial mini lorry driver; (d) another Mobile Police officer about collecting N50.00 note from the same commercial mini lorry driver; and (e) hand of a Mobile Police officer, flanked by his colleague, receiving N50.00 note from a commercial bus driver along Onitsha-Owerri Road on 19th December 2015.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons), Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor-Nwonu, LLB, BL, Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, LLB, BL, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Chinwe Umeche, LLB, BL, Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program