New Telegraph

Insecurity: MAN laments extortion on South East roads

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has alleged that its members operating in the volatile northern part of the country and South- East regions are losing large chunks of revenue running into billions of naira to extortion and bribery perpetrated by unscrupulous security and law enforcement agencies amidst numerous checkpoints. Particularly, the association emphasised the fortunes being lost to extortion and bribery to government’s security personnel in the course of movement across these listed regions’ roadsides following checkpoints. The association said it was taking a huge toll on local manufacturers’ revenue, bottomline and time, fuelling increase in cost of production. With this, MAN was now appealing to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, all South East and North East governors, members of both federal and state legislatures and all service chiefs to listen to the concerns of local manufacturers and promptly remedy this fast deteriorating situation.

The Director-General of MAN, Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, in a chat with New Telegraph in Lagos, explained that reports reaching MAN headquarters in Lagos from its members in the North and South-East regions, revealed that they were suffering enormously in goods distribution, transportation and logistics over the numerous road checkpoints being manned by government security agencies. According to him, the situation is affecting production cost, revenue collection drive and competitiveness, saying that local manufacturers cannot be paying huge amounts in form of bribes and extortions to security personnel at check-points without government coming to their aids.

Ajayi-Kadir noted that local manufacturers have had enough in terms of tariffs, duties and others already. In his own submission, the President of the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (ONICCIMA), Chief Sir Kevin U. Obieri confirmed that investors, traders and business owners were losing billions of naira to extortion and bribery in the South eastern part of the country alone. Obieri pointed out that a report by the International Society for Civil Liberties accused the Nigerian security and law enforcement agencies of pocketing as much as N100 billion in roadside bribery and extortion in the South-eastern part of the country alone over a three-year period. He said: “Any visitor passing through Anambra today is likely to wonder if there is an on-going war within the state that necessitates the need for the numerous checkpoints on its highways.

“Activities of security personnel manning these roadblocks constitute a nuisance to commuters and a stumbling block to ease of doing business within the state. With traffic gridlock stretching for miles on a daily basis, a journey that would ordinarily take 30 minutes now extends to several hours. “Travelers are subjected to all manner of discomfort, embarrassment, loss of man hours, and dehumanising conditions, especially where they are forced to alight from vehicles and trek long distances across these roadblocks while the drivers are forced to part with certain sums of money. “This additional discomfort of passengers being forced to alight from vehicle and trek across checkpoints is more prevalent along the Onitsha-Owerri expressway, specifically near Niger Bridge link road interchange at Obosi and Ihialla-Mgbidi axis, among others. “In addition to the fact that these roadblocks are an avenue for massive extortion by security personnel, they are also responsible for several avoidable road accidents within the state.”

The ONICCIMA boss added: “Last month, it was alleged that there was an accident at Azia junction on the Ihiala Onitsha road where a truck rammed into six vehicles at a police checkpoint. The law enforcement personnel manning that particular roadblock/ checkpoint were said to have quickly disappeared, leaving other road users to evacuate both the dead and the wounded. “Also, reports reaching us show that at the Niger Bridge link road interchange by Obosi, the road passing below the flyover bridge, which was recently opened up by the construction company, Julius Berger, to ease traffic flow, has already been blocked by some law enforcement agents with sand bags and other materials.

“As a result of this action, the intended relief for travelers on that road was circumvented, thus increasing the intensity of traffic gridlock and further subjecting commuters to excruciating pains and losses at that junction.” While speaking on the activities of the security personnel, Obieri explained that “one wonders why despite the heavy presence of security agencies on South East roads, violent crime within the zone persists. Of what use then are these roadblocks? “Why are commuters subjected to every form of inconvenience while valuable man hours are lost, especially in this painful period of fuel scarcity in Nigeria?”

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