BY FUNMI ALUKO
In complete defiance of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of efforts to rid the Lagos-Seme express road of undue heavy illegal checkpoints by personnel of the police, military and other security agencies, which culminated in a raid last week, the illegal check points have returned full force.
As though the return was challenge the authority of the Nigeria Police Force, new heavy military checkpoints have been created around the Lagos State University of Education Ijanikin, one on either side of the expressway; and mounted by rifle wielding soldiers.
Men of the Morogbo Police Station Agbara-Badagry road have also returned full force, with three checking points within three electric poles, almost directly opposite the police station.
A detachment of Area K Command of the Nigeria Police are stationed at around Ibiye Town junction and the Magbon-Ibiye head bridge, harassing and extorting motorists.
Between its area office at a location known as Pure Water and a place, about three electric poles away known as Comforter Bus Stop end of Ako Afon, men of Area K Command have reconstituted four checkpoints, few meters from each other, with another checkpoint before the Elijah-MTN Mowe head bridge.
Same is replicated between Badagry roundabout and Gbaji head bridge, and onwards the Badagry-Seme axis, with a large number of the police checkpoints re-constituted.
Although a number of the Customs checkpoints vacated since the IGP Special Squad raid are yet to return, between Agbara –Badagry-Seme, there are also some numbers of Nigeria Immigration Service checkpoints, Nigeria Army and NDLEA.
The illegal checkpoints is believed to be perpetrated by security agencies operating at the Seme Border, which includes Customs, Army, Police, NDLEA, Immigration.
Pinnacle Time reports that while it is difficult to distinguish between illegal checkpoints mounted by the Customs, given that it operates under different command and control such as the resident Seme Command, Joint Border Patrol and Federal Operations Unit; the customs irrespective of jurisdiction have largely obeyed the directive of the IGP and most of the points they mount had remained empty since the raid.
Perhaps this is because the Customs leadership and management are said to be very concerned and want an end to the menace.
It will be recalled that the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR and the IGP, Kayode Egbetokun, at a strategic partnership meeting recently resolved to free the Mile 2- Seme axis which serves as the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor of illegal checkpoints.
While the raid last week followed that undertaking, it is not clear whether the military will respect the undertaking since it was not part of the meeting. Stakeholders think that if the Customs CG is able to meet with the Army authority, and given the commitment of the police and customs, the menace of illegal checkpoints on the axis can be brought under control.
On his part, the Seme Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni said since assuming control of the area command, which is the lead agency, he has regularly rallied his sister agencies heads to ensure bringing sanity to the menace; noting that changes is coming except that it is complicated and slow.
The Seme Customs boss assured that the Seme Agencies Committee is determined to reduce and control allowable the nuisance the checkpoints have become.“Everybody is sincere about the collective desire to reduce the check points here”, he said.
Despite the recalcitrance, maritime stakeholders have commended the IGP for commencing the cleanup of the axis and urged him not to relent but to take the action to its logical conclusion, until the axis is completely free of the illegal checkpoints.
They also appealed to the CGC and IGP to extend the cleanup to the maritime police whom they complain has also become a clog on the wheel of cargo movements.
Speaking on the menace the maritime police command constitute to trade, a budding maritime resource person and customs broker based at Tin Can Port, who does not want his name mentioned in print said “The maritime police command has since appropriated part of customs job by blocking manifests. They order shipping companies not to release manifests and such tendencies have become entrenched.
“They even impound containers along the road and take them to their premises around Obalande, we want the IGP to help us focus its searchlight here too. There is so much extortion going on at the maritime command, they should be fighting maritime crimes and should be stopped from taking over customs job”, he said.