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SECURITY OFFICIALS FATTEN AS 100 LAGOS-BADAGRY-SEME HIGHWAY ILLEGAL CHECKPOINTS YIELD BILLIONS

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A Policeman collecting money from a commuter

To any doubting Thomas, encountering over 100 roadblocks on the Lagos-Badagry-Seme Expressway in Lagos State is unbelievable.

However, our investigations reveal this to be the sad truth on the international expressway that leads to the Republic of Benin.

Under the guise of using the roadblocks and checkpoints to checkmate smuggling activities and providing security along the expressway and around the Seme border and its environs, security agents including officials of the Nigeria Customs and men of the Nigeria Police Force had been allegedly subjecting unsuspecting members of the public to traumatising experiences all in a bid to extort them of their hard-earned money.

“From Badagry to the Seme border alone, we have more than 50 roadblocks on the road and you will encounter close to 20 roadblocks returning to Badagry from Seme.

“Majority of these illegal roadblocks are police checkpoints. The NCS also have more than the required roadblocks on the expressway. Other security agents also have roadblocks there. All they do is harass and extort money from people; the situation is dangerous,” a community leader, Amusa Ayodele, said.

Checkpoints and smugglers

The conundrum of smuggling activities across routes leading inbound and outbound the border towns in Nigeria is said to be alarming.

To nip the situation in the bud, the Nigerian Customs Service was commissioned to, among other reasons, stop smuggling activities, arrest and prosecute smugglers.

But in the line of carrying out enforcement duties, the agency’s officials and smugglers engage in bloody clashes that often result in human deaths, arrests and prosecution of smugglers. Seizures of contraband items worth billions of naira were also recorded.

Despite relentless clampdown on smugglers that usually caused tension that sent shivers down the spines of people in communities across border towns in Nigeria, the criminal smuggling activities have continued to wax strong.

However, the NCS and other intervention forces approved by the government to carry out specific functions at its borders have remained resolute in the campaign against smugglers and their illegal activities.

In the resoluteness, the security agents devised contingency plans to outwit criminal elements desirous of profiting from the smuggling business in the country.

Along various expressways leading to the points where Nigeria shares land borders with the Republic of Benin, Chad and Cameroon, and the Republic of the Niger, checkpoints are common sight.

It is absolutely impossible to ply the routes without seeing NCS officials, among others, flagging down suspicious vehicles for thorough checks.

But people, particularly indigenes and residents living across border towns have argued that smugglers still have their way as they alleged culpability on the part of some corrupt security agents, including officials of the Nigeria Customs.

While lamenting over the avalanche of roadblocks along the international expressway, Ayodele said all the mobile patrols operating along the route have created roadblocks.

“This is the reason we have multiple checkpoints (roadblocks) despite the government approving only two checkpoints on this route. The two checkpoints are at Agbara and Gbaji along Lagos – Seme expressway,” he added.

As the situation persisted along the expressway, and on some other roads leading to and from the country’s border, extorted victims, including commercial motorists, motorcyclists, traders and residents, who were angered by the illicit practice, tendered tons of complaints to the government and its assigned regulators.

This was as experts also argued that the proliferation of unapproved checkpoints/roadblocks at the various international routes along the country’s border was a disturbing sight, describing the situation as unwelcoming to foreign investors and very important personalities of local and international repute.

To curb the situation and in a bid to ease the ways of doing business in Nigeria, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, while acting in line with the directive of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council in July 2017, ordered the dismantling of unapproved checkpoints/roadblocks built outside 40 kilometres to the border.

A circular issued to that effect read in part, “For the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby emphasised that check-points mounted outside 40 kilometres to the border are illegal, while information patrols outside this point should not last more than 24 hours at any given time.

“To further clarify these issues, it should be reminded strongly, that only two checkpoints situated at Agbara and Gbaji, along Lagos-Badagry-Seme road are statutorily approved.”

Despite the government directive, the creation of roadblocks witnessed an exponential increase along the Lagos-Badagry-Seme international expressway.

Compounding the problem

In November 2019, the Federal Government banned the supply of petroleum products to filling stations within a radius of at least 20km from all borders in the country.

 However, while some border towns were granted waivers, others, including the Seme border in the Badagry West Local Council Development Area of the state were affected.

 The President, Hengo Badagry Youth Association, Felix Godonu, who, among other stakeholders in the division, had robustly engaged our correspondent on the challenges posed by the illegal roadblocks along the Lagos-Badagry-Seme road, said the police extortion through illegal roadblocks along the route became more rampant after the Federal Government’s directive.

He said, “After the FG’s announcement, filling stations along the 20km mark, down to the Seme border area stopped receiving PMS. So, people usually come as far as Badagry roundabout, Oloko or Aradagun areas to buy fuel and take it back to their various homes along the Badagry-Seme expressway and the border area for their domestic use.

“Also, because of the border closure, traders no longer go to the Benin Republic to buy goods and some other food items. They go to Badagry Market, Trade Fair and Alaba Market, among others, to buy things. On their way back, they also get extorted at these roadblocks that are over 40 on the expressway to the Seme border.

“Customs roadblocks are at Asipa, Gbethromeh, Agonvi Sea Beach, Ganyingbo Sea Beach (Yard), Atindeka House by a small bridge, Celestial Church at Gbaji, the approved checkpoints at Gbaji for the Seme Command and FOU Ikeja, Oloko, Iya Yafin, among others. But the police checkpoints are over 40.

“The extortion has been going on for about four years and the amount of money generated from the illegal roadblocks would have run into billions of naira. To know the illegal checkpoints on the Lagos-Badagry-Seme expressway, when top government officials are passing, you won’t see them on the road.”

In the daytime and at night, under the guise of using the checkpoints/roadblocks to stop smuggling activities, security agents, in a manner described as condescending, subject commercial transporters, motorists, traders, residents, among others, to different forms of suffering to extort them.

Ayodele and Godonu, alongside other stakeholders consisting of transport workers, traders, residents and indigenes in the Badagry division, bitterly expressed worry about the challenges they experience daily on the international road.

However, to confirm the number of roadblocks and to subject the stakeholders’ claim of extortion to a litmus test, our correspondent embarked on an audacious expedition that exposed how corrupt security agents had been using illegal roadblocks to extort money from people in the division.

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BUHARI BRANDS GOVS THIEVES OVER LG FUNDS

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President Muhammadu Buhari

•Accuses them of stealing councils’ funds, remitting half of allocations, stifling rural development

President Muhammadu Buhari has again knocked governors, accusing them of stealing local government funds and stifling development of rural communities.

The criticism came barely 24 hours after the Minister for State Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba had blamed the state executives for the high rate of poverty in the country by investing in the construction of flyovers and airports rather than improving conditions of rural dwellers.

President Buhari, who spoke after delivering his speech at an event hosted for members of the Senior Executive Course 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, flayed governors who collected money on behalf of council areas in their states only to remit half of such funds to council chairmen.

The president said he spoke from personal experience involving a governor he declined to name. He connected the vice to the issue of lack of integrity in many people holding positions like governorship and council chairmanship. He said such behaviour was reprehensible and spoke to the height of corruption in the country.

“I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is as a result of my personal experience. What they did, this is my personal experience, if the money from the Federation Account to the state is about N100 million, N50 million will be sent to the chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million. The governor will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.

“And then the chairman of the local government must see how much he must pay in salaries and to hell with development. When he pays the salaries of the big man, the balance he will put in his pocket. This is what’s happening. This is Nigeria. It’s a terrible thing; you cannot say the person who was doing this is not educated.”

The president urged public office holders to be guided by their conscience and personal integrity on their beats. He pledged that the recommendations contained in the presentation of SEC 44 would be painstakingly studied by with a view to implementing its recommendations.

Declaring that his administration has done so much in building trust between the government and the people, het noted that the report would largely assist in the provision of good governance to the people at the grassroots and by extension win back their trust in government.

“It is obvious that government cannot afford to pay lip-service to the recommendations contained in this report. I assure you that the report will be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. Government will study the report with the view to implementing the carefully detailed recommendations,” he said.

Commending the quality of the report and the commitment and dedication that went into it, President Buhari said the National Institute can always be trusted to deliver on critical and sensitive assignments of national importance. He expressed delight that the Institute has been exceptional in handling several assignments, and the current submission is a commendable improvement on the existing standards.

“The quality of the presentation, and the confidence with which they were made strongly attests to the quality of training the participants received during the course. I congratulate you for justifying the confidence and trust reposed in each and everyone of you by your respective nominations.

He added that he was convinced that they were all now well equipped for the strategic tasks, increased responsibilities, and positions of authority of trust.

“I challenge you to go back to your various establishments, units, posts, beats, departments, directorates, Ministries, Parastatals, commissions, commands, agencies to revitalise, reinvigorate, reform and rejig your various platforms and spheres of influence, responsibility and leadership,” he said.

After listening to some demands by the leadership of NIPSS, President Buhari promised to look into some of the challenges facing the Institute, adding that no government establishment exists without challenges.

He assured them that his administration is poised to complete the review and passage of the NIPSS establishment act and condition of service before handover in May 2023.

To this extent, the President directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Office of the Head of Service of the Federation to take all necessary steps to its actualisation.

Director-General of NIPSS, Prof Ayo Omotayo, said the Course participants undertook study tours of 14 States of the Federation, six African countries and six countries outside Africa.

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OGUN POLICE NAB TWO BROTHERS FOR CAR THEFT

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Ogun-State-Map

The Ogun State Police Command has arrested two brothers who reportedly stole a Toyota Camry in Lagos.

The suspects were arrested on Wednesday by its officers on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway while trying to escape with the stolen car to Imo State.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, SP Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

Oyeyemi explained that the suspects, who worked at a car wash, stole the car from a customer who took his car to them for a service.

He said, “Police in Ogun State on the 30th of November 2022 arrested two brothers, Emanuel Nwachukwu 28 years. and Sunday Nwachukwu 24 years, for stealing a Toyota Camry with registration number JJJ 661 GJ while on their way taking the said vehicle to Imo state.

“The two suspects were arrested by men of the Federal Highway patrol, who were on a stop-and-search duty along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

“The vehicle was stopped by the policemen for routine check at about 11:30 pm, but while the officers were asking questions from one of them who drove the car, the two brothers who were the occupants suddenly abandoned the car and took to their heels.

“They were hotly chased and apprehended by the policemen, who there and then took them to the Ewu-Oliwo divisional headquarters for proper interrogation.

“On interrogation, the two brothers who live at No 2, Onifade street, Fagba Lagos confessed to stealing the car from one Bello Muyideen Kolawole of Arobaba street, Idimu Lagos.

“Upon their confession, the DPO Ewu-Oliwo division, CSP Toyosi Bello, quickly got in touch with the said owner, who confirmed that the two brothers were working at a car wash very close to his shop, and that he took the car to the place for wash, only for the two brothers to run away with it.”

The PPRO, however, said the Commissioner of Police, CP Lanre Bankole, had directed that the two suspects be transferred to State Criminal Investigation Department for onward transfer to the Lagos State Command, where the crime was originally committed.

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POLICE ARRAIGN CRYPTOCURRENCY MARKETER OVER ALLEGED N51.7M FRAUD

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Cryptocurrency

The Lagos State Police have arraigned a cryptocurrency marketer, Temitope Longe, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos for allegedly obtaining the sum of N51,789,222 by false pretence and fraud.

Longe was docked before Justice Tijjani Ringim on the alleged offences by the officers of the Police Special Fraud Unit Ikoyi, Lagos.

The PSFU’s prosecutor, Mr Justin Enang, told the court that the cryptocurrency operator and others now at large, committed the offences in Lagos sometimes in 2017.

Enang told the court that the defendant fraudulently obtained the sum of N25,894,711 from one Dr. Abiodun Adefunrin with false pretence of investing same in cryptocurrencies and forex trading.

He further told the court that the defendant fraudulently obtained the sum of  N25,894,711 property of Francis Aremu, and converted same to his personal use.

According to the prosecutor, the offences committed contravened Sections 8(a) and 1(1){a) and punishable under Section 1(3) of Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.

He also told the court that the offence was contrary to and punishable under Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as Amended in 2012.

However, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the allegations levelled against him.

Following the defendant’s plea, the prosecutor asked for a trial date and also urged the court to remand him in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services until the determination of the charges against him.

But the defendant through his counsel pleaded with the court to admit him to bail in the most liberal terms.

His counsel told the court that his client was a first-time offender and that charges against him were bailable ones.

Justice Ringim, after listening to the counsels’ submissions, admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.

The Judge further ordered that one of the sureties must be a civil servant not below Grade Level 14, among others.

Justice Ringim ordered that the defendant be remanded in NCS custody until when he is able to meet the bail conditions, and adjourned the case to March 30, 2023, for trial.

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