16 July 2018

Nigeria: Roadblock On Expressway!


If you want to know the propensity of a man, put him in a uniform of any colour. White, brown, blue or black, the uniform has the effect of an overdose of codeine and tramadol taken together. The man in uniform makes his own laws and decides whether you will achieve what you have set out for the day or not. He is the law.

Whichever way you turn, you find that philistines hold you back from achieving your potential or even savouring momentary happiness. Nigeria must be the only country in the world where Vehicle Inspection Officers mount their roadblocks in front of traffic lights thereby rendering the purpose of the traffic lights redundant and worsening the traffic situation.

Take the case of Abuja, a beautiful city in dire need of proper administration. Although some of the highways in Abuja compare favourably with highways in some of the best capitals of the world, the way we use them differ. The median kerb designed for pedestrians to safely cross the roads is freely used for making vehicular U-turns, even by police vehicles! Anyone ignorant of the curious conversion risks loss of limbs.

When a government spends billions of Naira to build infrastructure, is it too much to expect the government to teach the people how to use the new facilities? Most motorists in Abuja, especially the tricycle operators, do not obey traffic lights because they have never heard of a highway code. If you claim to have the right of way simply because the traffic light is green, you may keep a date with the orthopaedic surgeon as a motorised missile suddenly materialises from nowhere.

What is true of Abuja is also true of many of our major cities. Pedestrians run across highways like stray goats whereas all they need do is go to the nearest crossing point and wait for the green light. The authorities have also failed to do their part. Zebra crossings have disappeared nationwide. In the few places where they exist, I won't be surprised if an impromptu interview with people reveals that they think the crossing lines are meant to beautify the road.

There are few road signs. Generally, the driving style has imitated our economic philosophy: survival of the fittest. When you have already joined a roundabout, a bigger vehicle, especially the commercial ones threaten to ram you from the side if you don't cede your right of way. All the government agencies established to enlighten the people and enforce order on the roads are at various checkpoints mounted to disrupt traffic flow.

In this age of technology, we don't have to go far to see how modern tools have made urban commuting less stressful. The trend in Nigeria is to sabotage technology so that the system can revert to the 'native-law-and-custom' manual method. When there is no major disaster or terrorist attack requiring a shutdown, why would all our cities spot so many checkpoints by virtually all the enforcement agencies who abandon the acquired technology in their offices to physically chase and sometimes shake down motorists?

To compound all these, customs men who are supposed to prevent the importation of contraband and dangerous cargo at the ports and borders now lie in wait on the road for cargo-laden trucks to verify their contents. We are specialists in double or triple verifications but achieve much less than countries that have put modern technology in place for one-stop vetting.

Imagine how much surveillance could have been achieved (with implications for interdiction of smugglers, traffic offenders, robbers, assassins etc) if our cities were covered by CCTV. Remember, sometime in 2014, a member of the House of Representatives, Saviour Udoh, requested a probe of the CCTV contract already awarded to a Chinese telecommunications company.

The contract was for the installation of 2,000 digital solar powered cameras, (1,000 each for Abuja and Lagos); 37 switch rooms; MW backbone; 37 coalition emergency response system; 38 video conference subsystem; 37 e-police system; six emergency communication vehicles and 1.5 million subscriber lines. The security system was intended to capture images on a 24-hour basis for the analysis of the relevant security agencies. To date, the cameras are as blind as a bat, that is, where they have not already been cannibalised.

One Hassan Saleh has noted that the huge number of security operatives at our international airports has slowed down the process of screening before the boarding gate. "These operatives are so shameless that they no longer hide this demeaning act of theirs (extortion), reason being that they are aware that a lot of the CCTV cameras at the airports are not working", he said.

People in uniform who make urban life hellish to satisfy personal greed give the impression that government is the single most formidable obstacle standing in the way of the people and the realisation of their goals. Uniformed personnel are the face of government. And they are bad news. Or, how do you begin to trust a government whose agents routinely mount roadblocks on expressways?


The police have resumed their checkpoint at the Galadimawa roundabout in Abuja where seven of their colleagues were massacred by armed bandits a couple of weeks ago. The traffic holdup caused by the checkpoint is simply insane! Police checkpoint on a roundabout? How much more desperate can our policemen get? Do we ever learn?


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