Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara, has alleged that soldiers and policemen manning Borno State highways are extorting his people.
The governor was apparently annoyed to find numerous motorists stranded on getting to Njimtilo where a gate has been constructed on the highway to check people coming into or leaving Maiduguri, the state capital.
Umara alleged that the military and police personnel collect bribes of N1, 000 from travellers who do not have national identity cards.
The governor, who could not but raise his voice on seeing the large number of people stranded at the gate, told the security on guard: “This is unacceptable.”
Speaking on top of his voice, he asked the officials: “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 N1, 000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID card.”
A soldier that tried to offer an explanation was shouted down by the governor, who 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 N1,000 as a fine for not having what the federal government has not provided for all.”
The governor said he had received several reports about the alleged extortion at the Maiduguri checkpoint and asked one of his aides to call the Head of the military counter-insurgency operation in the Northeast (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi.
The governor, who was still annoyed with what he saw, told Adeniyi on phone in the full glare of the public, “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?”
He subsequently ordered the security personnel at the gate to open the gates on both sides to allow all travellers to move.
Some of the travellers, who spoke to journalists, alleged that they had been held at the gate for several hours without any explanation.
One of them, a bus driver, Mr. Isa Adamu, said: “I left Damaturu since 9 a.m. and I arrive here about 11 a.m. But here I am being held till 3 p.m.”
A woman, who said she was 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 about 5 p.m. And I spent all the money I had on me.”
Adeniyi, who met the governor while ensuring smooth movement through the gate, explained that the massive traffic hold-up was not caused by soldiers at the checkpoint.
He said it was as a result of an attack somewhere on the highway early in the day.
He, however, promised the governor to investigate the allegation of extortion to find out if it was true.
His explanation further annoyed the governor, who insisted that the accusation was true, saying that: “I saw them with my eyes; I spoke with people that were asked to give money!”