Clear and present danger – The Nation

  • Troopers that take bribe to scuttle COVID-19 travel advisory and citizens, ever eager, to bribe their way

Two governors, Anambra’s Willie Obiano and Rivers’ Nyesom Wike, have lamented how corrupt security agencies have frustrated their fight against COVID-19, despite strict travel advisory instructions to these agencies by their employer, the Federal Government.

Indeed, so bad was the travel leak that Obiano erected an iron gate, bang at the Asaba end of the Niger Bridge, causing a provoked Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, to order the barricade pulled down.

Wike also erected a barricade at the Rivers’ end of its Imo River border, with Imo State, in Rivers’ Oyigbo Local Government Area.

But with the bribery bazaar on those highways, and security operatives and their no less seedy patrons thoroughly debasing themselves, the gates could well have been a basket, through which water easily flows! Indeed, the Rivers/Imo border, from a news report, witnessed an absurdity that would have been so funny, if not so regrettable and tragic.

Each time Gerard Oforji, the host local government chairman from the Rivers end, visited the area, the troopers reportedly behaved themselves, and made a show of enforcing the travel advisory, as to the vehicles to pass or to turn back.

But with his back turned, the security agencies went, with a frenzy, on their illicit pastime, collecting tolls ranging from N500 (from the Rivers end), to N1, 000 at the Onitsha/Asaba interface. It is such a national disgrace and an unmitigated travesty.

Indeed, such recourse to cheap bribery by security agencies, at a time of a grievous national health emergency, is unpardonable. Elements involved should be tagged irredeemable, tried and summarily kicked out of their respective services.

Such unpatriotic elements could, in more dangerous times, cheaply trade off their motherland for a pot of porridge. It is a dire security concern that should worry everyone; and depress the services which uniforms these troopers wear, and so scandalously debase.

Unfortunately, however, such illegal highway tolls are so rampant: the troubling case of abnormality becoming the not-so-new normal. Sad!

Clearly therefore, these security elements could be beyond redemption. But no less debauched too, is the general population that tends to view cheap bribery as a core way of living, thereby fuelling that illicit market.

Before COVID-19, the Police, Customs, Immigration and even the Army, on highway checkpoint duties, almost as routine, bully and extort commercial vehicle drivers.

But this COVID-19 road travesty exposes common bribery as a much more integrated road culture: the troopers eager to take and the travellers eager to give, both sides united in a seedy market.

The instruction was clear: don’t travel, if you are not ferrying essential commodities or an essential worker. Yet, a good percentage of the population would willy-nilly travel, knowing full well they would bribe their way through.

Primed too are transport companies that frenetically load at night, but jack up the fares to cover the bribe they would pay, through highway checkpoints, manned by colluding troopers.

That is the ugly, brazen face of an unscrupulous Nigeria, which glories at absolute lack of values; and is so stupid not to care that that reckless behaviour erases Nigerians’ basic capacity to save themselves from harm. This mass decadence, therefore, compels a multi-sided approach to correct.

So, no matter how endemic or entrenched the practice may be, it behoves the heads of these agencies to fashion out some shock treatment, that would make a loud and harsh example of as many as possible.

A thoroughly and irredeemably corrupt band of security operatives is hardly a pride to any country. Indeed, such operatives are a clear and present danger, which must be faced down and defeated.

But as it is, these hustlers-in-uniform are no more than a tiny fraction of the overwhelmingly hustler-in-mufti corrupt population, from where they are recruited — a population raised on the cynical quip of the end justifying the means!

So, as the security agencies fight the demand side of this ugly market, the government, in concert with other concerned lobbies — which really should be everyone — should come up with strategies to fend off and crush its supply side.

That double-sided attack would be a common rally for societal good. It would be attacking petty corruption from both ends of that monstrous candle. The society can only be better off for it.

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