The recent ban on police road blocks across the country by IGP Idris did not come to Nigerians as a surprise, It is ritualistic for very new IGP in Nigeria to place bans on police road blocks. Since our independence in 1960, Nigeria has had 19 Inspector Generals of police including the current IGP Mr. Idris. This history of ban on road blocks is as old as the Nigerian Police Force. A few examples would suffice, Mr. Louis Edet, the first indigenous IGP initiated the first move by ordering the cancellation of all police road blocks which according to him were allegedly used to make illegal extortion and other abuses.
In 1985–1986, IGP Etim Inyang in an effort to curb extortion or bribe taking ordered that no police man should have more than N500 in his pocket while on duty. In 2002, IGP Mustafa Balogun also placed a ban on police road blocks across the nation, he matched his words with some degree of action, as he enforced strict compliance to the no road blocks order. IGP Balogun set up an IG monitoring unit that patrolled the highways and secondary roads looking to arrest defaulting policemen, when he exited the stage, there was a lapse and the boys came back to the road. In august 2010 the new police boss, IGP Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovo ordered all his men to dismantle all the checkpoints on the road and pronounced them illegal. He created a new squad known as the Anti-illegal road blocks (AIRB) and banned all illegal road blocks. The new unit confronted army personnel along Seme/badagry road and insisted the army personnel dismantle the illegal road blocks.
Between 2012 and 2014, a new police boss, IGP Mohammed Abubakar was appointed as Inspector general of Police. In march 2012, he made a declaration banning all forms of road blocks and checkpoints across the country. Nigerians and all road users tormented by these fierce looking policemen on the highway greeted Abubakar’s pronouncement with jubilation. IGP Abubakar declared that his directives on road blocks would not be reversed. About 38 Policemen and 8 federal road safety corps were apprehended in different parts of the country. IGP Abubakar threatened to redeploy state commissioners whose boys were found mounting road blocks. The state commissioners in turn issued warnings to all area commands and divisional police officers, reiterating what the IGP told them. Most police personnel were afraid because some commissioners actually got the boot of Abubakar. The tenure of IGP Abubakar saw some degree of sanity in the police force but before he left the stage, there were reports that the road blocks and checkpoints had started to resurface.
His successor IGP Suleiman came on board in 2014 and as a routine with newly appointed IGPs, Abubakar Suleiman banned all police road blocks and re-emphasized that the order banning the setting up of police road blocks nationwide is still strictly in force. He warned all commands of the force that all semblances of police roadblocks and permanent check points reportedly re-emerging in some parts of the country should immediately be dismantled. He described the trend as a serious violation of the subsisting order on road blocks. IGP Suleiman warned that severe sanctions await any police commands, formations and personnel who violates the order.
He charged commanders, commissioners and heads of formations to ensure total compliance with the order on the ban of roadblocks. He ordered for extensive visibility patrol and effective surveillance on our roads. IGP Abubakar Suleiman was succeeded by Acting IGP Solomon Ehigiator Arase (2015–2016). On assumption of office in 2015, IGP Arase reinstated the resolve of the force to strictly enforce the ban on road blocks across the nations noting that in the place of road blocks which he said damaged the image of the force, highway patrol teams should be made efficient to instill confidence in road users.
He said the decision to enforce the ban on road blocks has been made, adding that 16 teams had been deployed to the six geo-political zones to make sure the ban on road blocks does not give a leeway for lack of civility in policing in terms of police motor patrols. IGP Arase described the road blocks as a point of corruption and nuisance to the public and threatened to deal with his subordinates in whose domain road blocks are found. He assured Nigerians that the motorized patrols will be introduced in places where road blocks have been removed without inconvenience to the people. He stated this resolve to hold the DPO, Area Commanders and Commissioners of Police in whose jurisdiction those road blocks are found, accountable.
This was the situation when the present IGP Mr. Idris took over from Solomon Arase in 2016 till date. His recent pronouncement on the ban of road blocks across the country is a welcome development. According to him, dismantling road blocks will enable the ease of doing business in Nigeria, safeguard and guarantee free passage of goods and travelers throughout the country. He further directed that no police department, section, squad or unit should mount road blocks without the express permission of the IGP. He also gave the directives that all patrol vehicles must have conspicuous and legible inscription, identification numbers and dedicated phone numbers. Police personnel involved in vehicular patrol on highways and major roads across the country must wear their uniforms with bold name tags and service numbers and finally the deployment of x-squad teams throughout the country.
IGP Idris’ comprehensive measures to ensure compliance are commendable but he needs to match his words with action, as this is not the first time Police road blocks have been dismantled in Nigeria. Some IGPS had banned roadblocks in the past but had no courage and political will to sustain it. They were all tall orders without any policeman obeying it. Sometimes the order will be obeyed for a few months and then they return back to business as usual.
Nigerians are however worried and await IGP Idris’ reaction to the counter order on the police road blocks as announced by the FCT Police Spokesperson Mr. Anjuguri Manzah and the continuous mounting of road blocks in Abia State after IGP Idris’ informed Nigerians of immediate dismantling of all road blocks across the country. This is a challenge on the authority of the IGP and a litmus test for him as neither the FCT police Abuja nor Abia state have informed Nigerians of their exemption from the IG’S latest ordinance to police formations across the country. The IGP must stick to his gun on the matter no matter whose ox is gored. It is unthinkable for any army officer to blatantly disobey the order of the chief of army staff. Why Should these two police commands have the courage and audacity to disobey the order of IGP idris?
The newly created special x-squad must be empowered and have the will and capacity to enforce compliance with the order of the IGP and ensure quick and adequate punishment against non-compliance. Nigerians need to support and encourage the IGP to sustain the ban.
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