The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, has accused security personnel of the Nigeria military and police of collecting bribes of N1000 from travellers who do not have national identity cards.
The governor made the accusation Monday afternoon when he visited the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway where thousands of travellers were stranded because security officials manning the highway locked it down.
The highway is relatively the safest access in and out of Maiduguri, despite suffering repeated Boko Haram attacks recently.
Upon reaching the Maiduguri entrance checkpoint, located near the Borno State University, the governor met hundreds of vehicles queued up on both sides of the lanes.
“This is unacceptable,” Mr Zulum said speaking on top of his voice.
“How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of National ID card? And you are all here collecting N500 and N1000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID card.”
When a soldier tried to offer some explanation, the governor said “No this is not right. The federal government has not created an enabling environment for our people to get their national ID cards and you are here collecting N500 and N1000 as a fine for not having what the federal government has not provided for all.”
The governor said he has received several reports about the alleged extortion at the Maiduguri checkpoint.
Mr Zulum then asked his aides to call the Theatre Commander of the war against Boko Haram, General Olusegun Adeniyi.
On phone, the governor was heard saying, “Theater Commander where are you? …Right now I’m at the checkpoint near state university and we have thousands of people stranded and your people are here collecting money from people because they don’t have National ID Card. Why?”
Mr Zulum directed the security personnel at the gate to open the gates on both sides to allow all travellers to move.
Some of the passengers told journalists that they have been held at the gate for several hours without any explanation.
“I left Damaturu since 9 a.m. and I arrive here at about 11 a.m. But here I am being held till 3 p.m., ” said a bus driver who identified himself as Isa Adamu.
A woman travelling from Bauchi to Maiduguri said, “I was asked to give N500 because I don’t have ID card, but I had nothing to give because we passed the night in Damaturu yesterday, because the soldiers said it was late to proceed at about 5 p.m. And I spent all the money I had with me.”
Mr Adeniyi later arrived at the scene and tried to explain that the massive traffic hold up was not caused by soldiers at the checkpoint. According to him, the hold up was “because of an attack that happened earlier in the day.”
He said he would investigate the accusation to find out if it was true.
Mr Zulum insisted that it was true. “I saw them with my eyes, I spoke with people that were asked to give money!”
The exchange between the governor and the army general deteriorated to as both men argued over other security matters.
The governor left in anger for Jakana, a village 45km from where Boko Haram attacked on Saturday.
“You must know that the government and people of Borno state are behind you and your men, but you must call your soldiers to order, you must check their excesses,” Mr Zulum said.