By Archibong Jeremiah
The newly reintroduced stop and search operation by the Police in Cross River State has returned with its attendant challenge of extortion by policemen at different check points that they have erected around Calabar and environs.
It will be recalled that in a recent courtesy call to the State Governor’s office, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG in charge of Zone 6 in Calabar, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin informed the governor that In a bid to curb rising crime rate, the zone was re introducing stop and search operations to mop up illegal arms from circulation.
CrossRiverWatch also in its editorial last week reminded the police that such stop gap measures like ‘stop and search’ operations are no longer in sync with modern policing and should be dispensed with immediately the crime rate begins to go down before it becomes an avenue for unscrupulous policemen to begin to extort the public.
And those fears seem to have been confirmed as checks by CrossRiverWatch have revealed that men of the Nigeria Police, Calabar are taking undue advantage of the operations at the various check points mounted around town to extort money from commuters.
Motorists who spoke to CrossRiverWatch lamented their ordeal in the hands of some of the policemen to have been making brisk business on the streets.
One Mr. Ekemini Etuk, a cab driver told our reporter that, “When they meet you on the road you must ‘roger’ dem something, from fifty naira above, once they ask you for something you refuse they will mark your face which means something bad, at times even if your papers are correct they force you to give them something”.
Another cab driver, Ubong Ini, revealed that: “Like me I’m on the road daily, most of them know me but recently something happened that made me felt bad. One was checking my papers and noticed that I have no issue, he then said find us something for water, I reluctantly gave him twenty naira, you need to see the way he responded angrily that if I’m not ready to give him three hundred and above I won’t get my license back. I couldn’t hold myself but eventually I tried to squeeze out two hundred into his hand, without shame he confirmed it and smiled before handing me back my license”.
On his part, Mr. Lucky Archibong said, “For over a week now I can’t make good money because during the day you will give those touts money in the name of enforcement and at night the police collects their own, the annoying part is that as they are on the road their primary aim is to stop and search quickly but they rather would just peep into your car and stretch forth one hand which if you don’t comply they will delay your passengers or even ask them to come down and join another cab, it has happened to me once I couldn’t help but cried inside my heart”.
Eseh Mfon-Abasi a banker told CrossRiverWatch that he is disappointed with the level of indiscipline in the Police here in the State as he maintained that “I am a banker who closes very late in the night, between 10pm and 11pm. I’m always on the road back home what I see makes my heart bleed, in my very eye I saw police men deflate someone’s tyre of his Audi car just because he refused to tip them, imagine at about few minutes to 12am where will he get a vulcanizer to pump the tyre?”.
Another public transporter in Calabar, Mr. Okafor Obijiafor lamented bitterly that, “One fine evening after I had made over ten thousand naira, I saw a woman who chartered me to take her and her bags of Okrika clothes, on reaching the check point at Mary Slessor road by Bogobiri, I was pulled over and asked for my papers which I gave them and there were complete but because they noticed the load I carried they insisted that the woman must give them five thousand naira for carrying contraband.
“The woman who had just three thousand naira left with her which will be two thousand five hundred naira if she pays me pleaded to offer them the balance but they insisted or threatened to detain her and her load, and then hand her over to Custom. Out of pity I decided to join in begging but believe me you, as I tried being my brothers’ keeper I received a dirty slap, before I knew I was on the ground for no reason, even when good Samaritans tried intervening believe me these men still collected eight thousand from the woman. The woman had to call someone from her home to come and give her some money to make it up, I wept”.
Attempts by CrossRiverWatch to get the reaction of the Police authorities were not successful as several calls to the State Command Spokesman’s phone were not taken.
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