From Kainji Dam bridge in Niger State to Eiyenkorin in Ilorin, and then Odo-Oba in Oyo State, motorists are at the mercy of soldiers, policemen and armed robbers.
Between Niger State and Ilorin, there are no fewer than 11 military checkpoints, each manned by armed soldiers extorting drivers conveying night travellers from the north to the west, mostly Lagos. The soldiers had their name tags under overalls when this reporter travelled the route. They were from Sobi Barracks in Ilorin, Kwara State, I would find out.
Each military checkpoint was just about 20-minute drive from one another. Musiliu (not real name), my driver, like his colleagues, had different denominations, N200, N100 and N50, for bribes. He etched one out each time the rapacious soldiers stretched their hands.
He was driving to Ibadan from Mokwa, a city in Niger State, where he had picked passengers, including me. It was an 18-seater bus. At N2,000 each, we all paid Musiliu N36,000 for the ride. It was from it that he removed N7,000 to fuel the bus. “But wetin dey pain me na im be say I go spend almost N2, 000 for nothing,” he told this reporter. At each military checkpoint, he would part with N200. “Those ones (soldiers) go delay us if I no give them N200,” Musiliu told FIJ. “Dem no dey collect anything less than N200.”
By the time we left Eiyenkorin, the last checkpoint manned by soldiers, Musiliu had spent more than N1,000. After paying N200 at three checkpoints, other soldiers extorted him.
But the reign of soldiers ends in Eiyenkorin, this reporter would learn. In Odo-Oba and some adjoining points, Musiliu said, armed robbers take charge of the road, ransacking passengers.
“E go hard make dem no rob us on this road like two times in a week,” Musiliu said. The thieves emerge from ‘nowhere’ to attack motorists. Passengers in the bus, especially traders, buttressed the driver’s revelation.
“Many times on this road, we have lost money and goods to the hardened criminals,” a woman with tribal marks told FIJ.
“People give us things like television, phones and others to deliver. So, when the thieves rob us, we are forced to pay back or buy the goods,” Musiliu told me.
POLICE AND THIEVES SHARE CHECKPOINTS
The N50 denomination is for the police, said Musiliu. However, the money is saved for another night if the police do not operate. Musiliu said the police are in charge from Odo-Oba to Ibadan.
“But you no go see them for road on the day the thieves are robbing,” he said.
He sensed synergy between the police and the thieves. Not only him, other passengers chorused, “They are thieves.” Musiliu continued, “Thieves in uniform.”
Musiliu said both the thieves and police officers operate around potholes, but on different days.
FIJ made several calls to Adewale Osifeso, the Oyo State police spokesperson, but they were not answered. A text message sent to him had also not been responded to at press time.
When contacted, Onyema Nwachukwu, the Nigeria Defence Headquarter’s spokesman, said highway extortion by soldiers is forbidden and that the Sobi Barracks Commander would be contacted to prevent a recurrence.
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