Some extortionate military personnel stationed at a checkpoint along Kainji-New Bussa highway in Mokwa, Niger State, have become inescapable monsters to motorists and passengers using the road, WikkiTimes can report.
For two months that our reporter monitored the extortion scene, the soldiers would not mount the highway until it was getting dark. Despite operating in the dark, they hid their name tags — some of them wore overalls to protect it and some (not wearing sweaters) removed it completely.
In some instances, civilians are partly recruited to aid the process. One of them (civilians) who pleaded anonymity told WikkiTimes he had helped the military personnel in extorting motorists “on many occasions.”
The source revealed how a military officer close to him would leave motorists at his mercy. He confided that the soldier would assign him to extort motorists on the highway.
Whenever drivers refused to pay, he called the soldier’s attention. “Oga, this one no wan pay oooo“, he restated in Pidgin, his statement to the officer.
According to him, commercial vehicle drivers pay N50, while truck drivers part with N500.
‘With NIN and Voter’s Card, You Are Safe’
Onboard passengers also share the drivers’ dilemma. They would be exonerated either by National Identification Number (NIN) paper or voter’s card.
“Only passengers with NIN or voter’s card at times escaped the extortion,” the source said, adding that the soldiers often go ruthless in the process.
“On every night of their operation, soldiers usually assemble passengers like criminals, searching for ones without NIN or voter’s card to extort them,” he added. “They collect not less than N1,000 from them. And when they don’t meet any of the criteria, the soldiers beat them up.”
Mohammed Gana, a driver who conveys passengers from Mokwa to nearby villages had once faced brutality by soldiers on the road.
“Out of six passengers in the car, he asked only one of them, a Fulani man, to present his NIN or voter’s card,” Gana told WikkiTimes. “But luckily he presented his voter’s card.”
“What is this?” Gana quoted the soldier to have said.
“Is this not what you want to see,” he recalled his response to the officer.
Before Gana could make a move, the officers had descended on him. According to him, he sustained internal injuries.
“Please, what is my fault there?” he asked WikkiTimes’ reporter.
Unchecked Human Rights Violation
Barely four months ago, a truck driver was gunned down by a soldier at the checkpoint, “just because he refused to pay an additional bribe of N500,” said Mallam Kabiru, one of the aggrieved drivers.
“The deceased driver was en route Lagos from Sokoto State,” Kabiru told WikkTimes. “When he got to the checkpoint, he gave the soldiers N500.”
The driver was asked to double the money because he was conveying motorcycles.
“When the driver was set to drive off, the soldiers discovered he was carrying motorcycles in the truck and they told him to pay another N500 for that,” Kabiru added.
Vexed by their request, the driver zoomed off, according to Kabiru.
“The corrupt soldiers chased him down to roadside trees around Abattoir and shot him”, he recalled.
To protest his death, truck drivers blocked the highway for days before a senior military officer came to address them, WikkiTimes learnt.
The incident forced the officers to go on ” two weeks” recess before returning to the highway.
One of the union leaders who did not want his name in print, for fear of being victimized, lamented the rate of extortion on the road.
The union leader corroborated Kabiru’s account of the gory incident that claimed the truck driver’s life.
“Nobody dares to speak on their inhumane act,” said the union leader. “In fact, intending to speak about soldiers’ illegal acts may cause you anything. Whenever one attempts to speak, they beat him mercilessly.”
When contacted, Onyema Nwachukwu, the spokesman for the Nigerian Army pledged to look into the matter.
“Acknowledged with thanks,” he responded to an inquiry sent to him. “This will be treated.”