Ogun Motorists Groan Over "Extortion" By Customs, Police Officers Along Idiroko Road - REPORT - THE ENCOUNTER NEWS


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Ogun Motorists Groan Over "Extortion" By Customs, Police Officers Along Idiroko Road - REPORT

Michael-Azeez Ogunsiji/
ABEOKUTA - Motorists, especially commercial transport workers, in Ogun State, South-West of Nigeria are agonising over alleged constant extortion by men of the Nigerian Customs Service and Nigeria Police along Sango -Ota to Idiroko area of the state on daily basis.

THE ENCOUNTER NEWS reportedly witnessed some untoward scenes during a recent visit to the Customs Area Command, Idiroko at the numerous checkpoints created on the roads from Owode, Ajilete, Oke-Odan, Ihunbo and Ajegunle to Idiroko by personnel of the aforementioned agencies, where civilians were exploited with impunity.

Between the very short distance of Owode and Idiroko, there were 18 checkpoints where illegal tolls of N100 were paid by motorists at gunpoint.

Non-cooperative drivers were forced to park their vehicles and alight before yielding were made to pay between N200 and N500 to secure their release.

The Customs officers charged either N100 or N200 depending on the operators of each checkpoint, while the Policemen were also charging N100 per vehicle at their own checkpoints.

The Police had at least,  five check points along the roads - in-between the Customs mounted checkpoints.

The Nigeria Customs Service had the highest number with 13 checkpoints created within the distance.

To the dismay of passengers and onlookers, the officers threatened to delay for hours any non-cooperative driver, but without threat of shooting.

As the disgraceful act continued with reckless abandon, the frustrated passengers grumbled and asked themselves whether Nigeria could be regarded as a country or a mere jungle.

THE ENCOUNTER NEWS recalls that, at a press conference upon assumption of office, the new Customs Area Controller in Ogun State, Mr. Michael Agbara told journalists that, he had reduced the checkpoints to the bearest minimum, but despite that, the officers along the road have forgotten their primary aim of preventing smuggling to extortion. 

One of the drivers, while speaking with THE ENCOUNTER NEWS complained bitterly that “We work from morning till night, and at the end, we are always left with nothing because after buying fuel and delivering to owners, what should have been our gain had been forced out of our hands by these officers. And this happens here every day."

According to Ajasa Nojeem, he sold his Mitsubishi car to buy motorcycle as another means of making livelihood since his take home from the transport business cannot sustain him any longer having paid N1,800 as settlement at these checkpoints. 

Nojeem explained that, the officers at each checkpoints usually give out tag number to their clients (drivers) to avoid paying twice, but any driver that forget or fail to remember the tag number given to him, will have to pay another N100 to get new number. 

"I have sold my car to liberate myself from the customs officers and the police checkpoints. Can you imagine that, every day, I had to pay N100 in 18 checkpoints along Owode to Idiroko. So, if you multiply N100 in 18 places that is N1,800. And by the time I get home after buying fuel and pay the union tickets, I'm left with few money. 

"Unfortunately, if you forget the number they give you at each check point after paying the N100, your daily settlement at these checkpoints will increase to N2, 000 or above."

They also accused their union executives of failing to fight for them.

They therefore, appealed to the Ogun State Governor-Elect, Prince Dapo Abiodun to liberate them from the Customs Officers and Policemen along the Idiroko road. 

They equally called on Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and President Muhammadu Buhari to save them from what they called ‘vicious extortionists’ on the roads of Ogun.

Meanwhile, the Customs PRO in Ogun State, Abdullahi Maiwada the Customs officers at the designated checkpoints were only stationed there for stop and search routine to checkmate smuggling along the axis.

He said, "there is no organization without bad elements. No system is perfect. The command is doing everything possible to sensitize our officers.

"Majority of these checkpoints are illegal because we have approved checkpoints which Include the Ajilete, Ihunbo you mentioned and I'm very sure, you cannot witness such unprofessional act in those approved checkpoints."

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