Onovo, It’s Time To Abolish The Checkpoints


Although accounts of the number of lives lost differ, at least 30 people were believed to  have died in the multiple accident which occurred at Shangisha bridge on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway on Sunday. While some eyewitnesses said more than 20 people were roasted to death, some survivors said more than 70 people perished.

The accident, it was learnt, occurred in the morning  in Lagos, Nigeria when a trailer driver lost control of his vehicle and rammed into a line of commuter buses and cars at a police checkpoint. The impact was so severe that it sparked off an explosion and a huge fire which consumed lives and many vehicles. More than 21 vehicles were reportedly burnt at the scene.

Again, we are being made to witness the horror caused by indiscriminate location of a police checkpoint on a major expressway. Sunday’s horrific incident was not the first of its kind by  policemen who prefer to mount checkpoints in the middle of the road where they extort money from motorists and commuter bus drivers.

The Sunday incident was not the first time accidents have occurred as a result of checkpoints mounted in the middle of the road by policemen. Numerous accidents which resulted in loss of lives have occurred along the Lagos-Badagry expressway as a result of the numerous checkpoints mounted along the ever-busy road which links the country with the Republic of Benin. Similar accidents have been witnessed along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway which resulted in loss of lives and property.

Even though there have been claims and counter claims as regards who was responsible for the tragedy in Lagos State on Sunday, we want to believe the accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors who blamed policemen at a checkpoint mounted in the middle of the road.

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For how long are we going to watch policemen kill innocent commuters on the highways at checkpoints? The culprits always get away with their crimes because they are sent to the checkpoints by their bosses who expect ‘returns’ at the end of the day.

Police authorities in the past have had reasons to ban checkpoints on the highways to prevent extortion but this ban is merely on paper and it is never enforced. During the administrations of Mr. Sunday Ehindero, Tafa Balogun and Mike Okiro, checkpoints were outlawed throughout the country, but despite the order, some unscrupulous policemen continued to mount checkpoints on the expressway to collect N20 from drivers. To many policemen, being posted to checkpoints is like being sent to a goldmine. That is why they can go to any length to mount checkpoints, whether legal or illegal.

The activities of these corrupt policemen led the police bosses to set up monitoring teams to look out for erring policemen. Indeed, many policemen were arrested during this period and dismissed from the force. But when the new Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo came on board and decided to reintroduce the checkpoints, ostensibly to check the activities of car snatchers and other criminals, many were skeptical about the wisdom behind the move but then decided to give the police boss the benefit of doubt.

Following the Sunday incident, it should be clear to Mr. Onovo now that his good intention has been defeated by his men and therefore the checkpoints should be dismantled nationwide. The havoc they are causing is too much for Nigerians to bear. We believe there are other better ways of checking crime that will not result in people losing their lives as a result of the corrupt tendency of some law enforcement agents.

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