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Group fights extortion, abuse by security agencies in Imo, Abia

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Yolamchi Ukaga, Aba

Youth and Students Advocates for Development (YSAD), a non-governmental organisation, has launched a campaign tagged “No dey give, follow traffic rules”, aimed at ending the menace of extortion, harassment and other forms of abuses by security personnel in Imo and Abia states.

The campaign would also stop extortion of motorists, by law enforcement agents.

Obinna Nwagbara, chief executive officer, YSAD, in an address at the launch of the campaign, held Tuesday in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia state, stated that one of the scenes of everyday corruption and reckless display of impunity in the whole world is on the Nigerian roads, where officers of various security and paramilitary formations brazenly extort and harass road users into parting with various sums for known and other undefined offences. 

Consequently, YSAD has elected to take the bull by the horns in fighting this age-old cankerworm which had eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigeria’s society, especially on South-East roads where motorists (bus drivers, taxi operators, tricycle riders, commercial motorcyclists and even individuals, who drive their private vehicles) are randomly exploited just for driving on the road. 

He explained that YSAD is presently collaborating with government agencies and members of the organised private sector and other critical stakeholders to challenge the tradition of extortion, by officials paid from the public treasury. 

Nwagbara said also that they would partner with road transport workers, engage the security and paramilitary agencies to make their case that exploitation, extortion and harassment, such as the type they see on the roads daily, have no place in a modern society. 

According to him, “it is our conviction that Nigerians have a right to drive on the road without harassment so long as they have been licensed to operate the category of vehicle they have been found in, have no incriminating objects and follow the stipulated traffic rules

“We would engage Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, and the hierarchy of road traffic management agencies in the states to explore ways of moving away from the current system, where punitive measures are applied first without seeking to ensure that the offenders appreciate why certain regulations are in place.” 

He emphasised that traffic management is not a platform to raise revenue either for the government or private individuals and described as bizarre that so many of these agencies are now competing with proper revenue generating agencies on who raises more money periodically. “This should not be tolerated”.

He recalled that the ENDSARS protest, which engulfed Nigeria in October 2020, and threw the country into confusion was triggered by this same menace of extortion by men in uniform, noting that Nigeria does not need to experience such again to address this abnormality. 

While focusing on fighting the menace of extortion and the strange practice of turning Nigeria roads into illegal cash points, he said YSAD, shall also encourage Nigerians, especially road users, to be law abiding, obey traffic rules and be courteous to the officers when accosted in order not to create some ground for extortion as presently seen on the roads.

The campaign according to Nwagbara shall also be vehement in opposing acts of official irresponsibility and gross indiscipline, such as the recent event in Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, where a police officer, reportedly, raped an 18-year-old student, leading to a peaceful protest, by students of the institution after police fired live bullets at enraged students which took to the streets to demand justice. 

“YSAD would insist that Nigeria must be a nation of order and those assigned with the sacred task of enforcing the law must do so decently, responsibly and with a good sense of accountability, to the people. 

“We shall use tools of traditional and new media to engage in this campaign, which is expected to run until June 2022. We shall also organise events starting with our Youth Summit on human rights and police brutality, coming up this October, here in Aba. 

“We shall also adopt any measure we consider legitimate and relevant in this very important campaign aimed at restoring sanity on our roads and the society at large”, he stated.

Nwagbara said YSAD would enlist the support of stakeholders in Abia and Imo states, such as notable politicians, traditional rulers, religious leaders, transport unions, market unions, students’ union officials and interested members of the public for the purpose of successfully executing this campaign.

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