A group of lawyers under the aegis of ‘Otu Ọka Iwu’ have condemned the incessant harassment, intimidation and extortion of traveller’s by law enforcement agencies on the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Expressway and roads in the South-east region.
In a statement on Tuesday, the lawyers decried a situation where the stretch of road from Lagos (in the south west) to Onitsha (in the south east) is “invaded by all manner of security agencies” including the Army, Police, Customs Service, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and Federal Road Safety Commission operatives.
The group, in the statement by its president, Chuks Ikokwu, said the countless road-blocks engender extortion, delays and unacceptable hardships to travellers.
“It is recalled that the respected and longstanding human rights group, Campaign for Democracy recently issued a three-day ultimatum to the Inspector-General of Police demanding removal of the innumerable road-blocks within the Onitsha metropolis,” the group said, at the end of their monthly meeting in Lagos.
“Sadly, this malaise is not restricted to Onitsha. It is widely believed that these road-blocks are designed to extort motorists and dampen their travel experience, causing them avoidable irritation and sundry losses both in man-hours and business opportunities.”
The lawyers demand came barely three months after the police Inspector-General ordered a dismantling of road blocks by police officers across the country.
But despite the police boss’s directive, checkpoints, particularly those mounted by police officers, have continued to be a common sight across the country, including in the Federal Capital Territory where the police headquarters is situated.
According to the lawyers, the situation had worsened along the Lagos-Onitsha-Owerri Expressway and intra South-east roads, especially as Christmas approaches.
“The Inspector-General of Police is advised to reintroduce mobile highway patrols than these stationary road-blocks that have turned to ‘toll gates’ of sorts.”
The group also urged victims of extortions and abuse of law enforcement powers to report such experiences to the association, warning that it would “not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The lawyers also called on Babatunde Fashola, the Minister for Power, Works, and Housing, to immediately commence palliative measures to fix the failed portions of the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Expressway.
They described several portions of the road as “death traps,” adding that travellers now spend valuable man-hours especially at the Benin-Asaba interchange and Onitsha-Awka-Enugu Expressway.
“Those portions have become so dilapidated and impassable that they have been taken over by trucks and trailers as their parking lots.
“The Sagamu-Ore axis remains a traveller’s nightmare due to huge craters that litter most portions of that stretch. For starters, we call for an immediate removal of these trucks and trailers from the expressway.”
Despite the huge budgetary expenditure to improve the nation’s road infrastructure, according to the lawyers, tales of woe and inhuman suffering by travellers are yet to abate.
“In fact, it is doubtful that the supervising minister is fully briefed on the current state of these roads, making an on-the-spot assessment imperative.
“We urge the supervising minister to demonstrate his avowed competence and ensure that immediate steps are taken to remediate these roads to ameliorate the suffering of travellers especially during this yuletide season.
“No excuse is again tenable for the highly deplorable condition of these roads, more so as the loss to the economy is incalculable.”