The Political Economy of Lagos Police Checkpoints | The Guardian Nigeria News

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This talking point is not another seminal article on whether to adequately fund or reform the police service in Nigeria. It’s not about lessons learned or not about the controversial #EndSARS protest the Nigerian authorities failed to deconstruct, honestly. This is only a warning to the political authorities in Lagos, the economic capital of West Africa, that the time has come for them to pay attention to the implications of the many oppressive police checkpoints in downtown Lagos, our Lagos. Nor is this the time for officials in Lagos to bury their heads in the sand asking why this writer is focusing on police checkpoints instead of continuing to write about larger issues of insecurity and of rampaging corruption that have crippled the world’s most populous black nation. It’s time to draw attention to the little foxes that blighted the vines of Nigeria’s most important city, the Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU) last year, the second most stressful city in the world .

The EIU then noted that Lagos was second only to Mumbai in India, their research showing as the most stressful city in the world. Most media outlets in Nigeria oddly failed or refused to publish the story last year, but our failure to report the remarkable story as part of our social responsibility has not erased the reality of Lagos as a stressful city. Now is not the time to discuss the critical factors that have continued to make Lagos a city on a hill that cannot be ignored by any Nigerian. It’s a city that the media has continued to underreport even though most of us operate from the city. Please don’t ask me yet about a state whose economy is starting to compete with the central government economy in Nigeria and South Africa. I dream that with a real restructuring of the political economy of the commercial capital that Murtala Muhammed promised on February 3, 1976 when he proclaimed Abuja the capital of Nigeria, Lagos could be to Nigeria what California is to the United States. California, a state in the United States, is the sixth largest economy in the world.

Let’s get to the highlights: whether to regulate or eliminate obnoxious police checkpoints in Lagos. Like I said, before it’s too late for a worse outbreak of #EndSARS, the Governor of Lagos State should listen to us: he should gather intelligence on how the Police Command de Lagos deploys his men to oppress the road users of Lagos through daily extortion. The police officers of this extortion business in Lagos are very astute: they use the vehicles that the Lagos authorities provide them to go to the places where they carry out these heinous operations pretending to verify the details of vehicles of all categories of vehicles. They always climb the checkpoints in the corners and difficult corners where traffic jams are constant. They don’t care about traffic jams, which they make worse every day, everywhere. It is unconscionable that state officials are never there to ask why the police, who have a responsibility to help traffic flow in already congested Lagos, are now causing the traffic jam. They know viable routes from Apapa through Oshodi to Ilupeju and Mushin where the Ladipo markets are located. Saw active police checkpoints in the rain along Fatai Atere Way in Mushin, Lagos. Once, the police erected their checkpoints at the intersection of traffic lights on the same Fatai Atere lane. When we complained to their commanders in 2020 about why the police shouldn’t stop vehicles that the traffic lights had flagged down, they only moved a mere 200 yards from the same traffic light on a main highway. They are still there – at the front door of the Ladipo spare parts market.

What could be more embarrassing in Lagos than the police checkpoints along the new airport road from Oshodi? Right now, from Oshodi, just over the bridge, Lagos police are having the audacity to set up an extortion checkpoint on the new highway to the airport. They were there even yesterday. When you pay at the airport toll they are most of the time immediately there to check your vehicle documents. About a kilometer after the same FAAN toll, there is a police station before the air force base. The police at the roundabout there (before turning towards Mafoluku) and in front of the air force base, they set up another checkpoint to check the details of the vehicles. Most of the time, before you get to the airport toll, you find road safety officers who also stop vehicles. Besides the airport road, there is another lucrative bridge called Cele Bridge along the Apapa-Oshodi highway where Lagos police and vehicle inspection officers clash to extort excuses to check details of the vehicle. They stand opposite each other to check details and other documents of cargo delivery vans. They cause heavy traffic at the end of the bridge every day. No one controls their excesses. Road users are suffering and smiling and leaving everything to God like we do all over Nigeria. These are just a few examples of how Lagos can now be described as a police state.

The authorities in Lagos just need to be warned to be prepared to face the consequences of evading their responsibility to the residents who are already complaining to God alone about the burden and yoke of multiple taxation in Lagos. Lagos residents and people doing business in Lagos have given up the opportunity to be sane due to the perception that Lagos is not good service delivery or sanity on the road. This is revenue mobilization bluster. It is just curious why this particular government turned the city over to the police to damage the reputation of the state and the police. How do you expect foreign direct investors to come to a city where there are multiple police checkpoints harassing commuters from the international airport to the local airport? Today is not the day to contextualize the political economy of Apapa’s multiple port checkpoints. It’s just a day to talk to the Lagos State government to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the arrival of a new Lagos State Commissioner of Police – to do what the new Commissioner of Police of Ondo State did ahead of the Christmas and New Year festivities. I had then reported here that the new Ondo State Police Commissioner reduced 42 checkpoints to three in December 2021. I reported this feat while preparing for my father’s funeral. When I used the same route on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 for the burial, the Sagamu Interchange checkpoint in Ore had been reduced to just two. It made my trip from Lagos to Ore in less than two hours. It was unprecedented. Before, it was for four hours.

I’m old enough to know the value of policing in any country. The police officers we are talking about are no strangers. They are our brothers and sisters. I know enough about public affairs to believe that internal security cannot be managed without an effective and well-equipped police force. In fact, I benefited from the police services during my father’s funeral in Ajagba, Ondo State last week. The Ajagba Divisional Police Officer was absolutely excellent as he mobilized his own officers to maintain security in the town and our premises throughout the ceremonies. They were impressive. I remain grateful to the officers of the Division. Don’t get me wrong, we need the police but not the one who will deploy their officers on the highways to extort the people they are tasked with protecting through unbearable checkpoints that make traffic worse in a big city like Lagos . They weren’t like that even at the beginning of this republic 22 years ago.

The vexatious issue of police checkpoints dominated some security and media talks and there were reassurances from law enforcement officials. There must be fundamental economic reasons why they cannot dismantle the checkpoints on the highways. There must be serious reasons other than security why checkpoints in Lagos keep increasing. I had asked the other day why the policemen manning the 42 checkpoints along Sagamu-Ore, for example, were not deployed on the Kaduna-Abuja highway, which had become a deadly axis. The answer to this question continues to blow in the wind. There are police checkpoints causing problems in the Southeast. But my concern today is Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria and the economic capital of West Africa. There is no doubt that the city is under relentless pressure as a commercial capital hosting Nigeria’s only two functioning seaports. We understand that the Police Security Fund, managed by the Lagos State Government, is working well. Additionally, the Rapid Response Branch (RRS) of the police in Lagos has received several accolades for its efficiency and effectiveness in delivering services in Lagos. They recovered lots of stolen goods and even electronic gadgets for the victims in Lagos. Thus, the current status of harassment of residents and road users has become a blight on the excellent service of RRS.

And here is the thing, the Lagos State government should put its own house in order. Everything must be done decently and in order before police excesses can be checked. The Lagos State Government should note that there are too many local government touts extorting motorcyclists and tricycles for some local politicians and chiefs every day. There have been rumors that the police should have taken inspiration from these touts that got out of control. They are all over Lagos oppressing these vulnerable cyclists who are not obeying the rules of the road anyway because their oppressors are protecting them.

However, I do not understand why Members of the Lagos State Assembly and even Lagos State Representatives in the National Assembly do not always deconstruct and mention human rights issues , including the political economy of police checkpoints, among other critical factors that have made even global media to label Lagos, our Lagos, as one of the most chaotic and stressful cities in the world. My specific appeal here is to the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to come out today and give us a New Year’s gift by dismantling all police checkpoints in Lagos – before that it’s not too late. The police can monitor without extortion checks. In the digital age, they can acquire modern software to check vehicle details without stopping road users.

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