- Extortion of poor citizens of Borno State by the military is despicable
Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum’s outburst as he confronted military men at a checkpoint just outside Maiduguri, the state capital, last week, has called attention to a disease that might be undermining the war against insurgency.
The governor was livid as he saw many travellers, his people, stranded at the checkpoint as they were unable to produce the identity card reportedly demanded by the soldiers. It thus provided the soldiers opportunity to fleece the already traumatised people of their hard-earned money.
Each person, according to the governor, was charged about N1,000. Are the extortionists unaware of the failure of the commission saddled with registering and producing national identity cards for Nigerians? What percentage of Nigerians even outside the war theatre has obtained the elusive card? Why, then, had it become a criterion for moving on the highway? This is nothing short of abridgment of people’s rights and it must stop forthwith.
This is one societal ill that has long been associated with the police. To obtain bail at the police station, to get the policemen take official reports, commence investigation into crimes or eventually obtain justice, bribes are usually paid.
This is one reason Nigerians are reluctant to have any transaction with the police. They feel better protected when the various operations into which the military have been drafted handle their reports.
Unfortunately, the experience of Governor Zulum who was at the checkpoint to see things for himself is not isolated. Everywhere, citizens are complaining that the burden imposed on them by security men being paid by the tax payers is becoming too heavy.
The Borno State governor deserves commendation for his passion to serve his people. His swift action in putting a call across to the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole saddled with the task of defeating and flushing out the insurgents from his state is worthy of emulation.
He would not accept attempts by the commander to rationalise the sordid act, and followed up with a formal report to the army.
We condemn the army for engaging in subtle blackmail suggesting that the sacrifice of the military was not being appreciated. It is obvious that one reason the insurgents remain strong in the area is that the people see them as an army of occupation, not liberation.
We are not oblivious of the price many of them have paid, but the troops should keep to the rules of engagement. Citizens’ rights must always be respected. We therefore call on the Chief of Army Staff to institute a thorough investigation into the governor’s accusation and get the culprits punished.
This is not one to take ages as the Theatre Commander promptly responded to Governor Zulum’s distress call and met him and the alleged offenders at the spot.
Prompt action on this matter could imbue confidence in the people that the troops were not receiving support from the high command for their nefarious authorities.
Where the men resorted to extortion because they were being denied their salaries and allowances, this should be immediately sorted out as nothing could be more dangerous than leaving arms in the hands of disgruntled soldiers.
We are aware that the Borno State Government has been supporting the military operations with hardware, so the army chiefs should ensure that their entitlements get to them early.
We also call on the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Defence, to take interest in this ugly development.
The minister cannot pretend to be oblivious of media reports on the issue. This war has been on for too long for such matters to escape attention of the government.
Many lives are being continually lost, tanks and gun trucks as well as other arms and ammunition are regularly captured by men of Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa.
President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 primarily because he was regarded as one in position to end the war expeditiously. This is the time to live up to expectation and free funds for social services and to fix dilapidated infrastructure.