Drivers and commuters who ply the several roads in the South-East zone have spoken out against the manner Nigerian soldiers harass and extort money from them at checkpoints.
Is using phone at checkpoints illegal?
Some passengers who spoke to local media said that if anyone is on a call as the vehicle approaches the checkpoints, their phones will be seized or smashed. They will be forced to pay from ₦500 to ₦1,500 to get their seized phones back.
You dare not make a call or answer one while at the checkpoint!
Naijauto also gathered that the vehicles whose passengers were caught making calls were, in some cases, detained for some hours before being released. That is after they must have pleaded with the soldiers.
A commuter named Victor Okonkwo narrated how the soldiers came for the car he was traveling in.
"On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, I was returning from Owerri in a Sienna car and there were seven passengers in the vehicle. When we got to the Ihe community, one of the passengers received a call and he was on that call till we got to a military checkpoint near the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital.
The man got the shock of his life when a soldier spotted him and seized his phone for answering a call while passing by the checkpoint. He paid N500 to retrieve his phone after we had spent over an hour begging the soldiers. There were more than 10 mobile phones seized from other commuters by the soldiers, while the owners were there begging for leniency."
Victor also noted that some soldiers at that same checkpoint have committed the same atrocity way back in 2014 when he was plying that route. He went further to say some commuters attested to being meted with the same harassment and extortion by soldiers that mounted checkpoints around the boundaries of Enugu state.
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Soldiers at these checkpoints use various ways to extort money from passengers
Innocent man appointed to collect money for soldiers then got killed
There were reports that the soldiers have come up with another way to extort money from motorists and passengers at the checkpoints. They now appoint youths from the communities where their checkpoints are mounted to collect money for them.
Another commuter who witnessed where it happened told the story of how soldiers shot a young man from Isiala Ngwa South LGA, Abia.
He said trouble began when military personnel saw the young man collecting money for the soldiers at the checkpoint. He accosted the soldiers who quickly denied their involvement with the young man.
"One of the officers immediately ordered one of the soldiers to shoot the tax collector for denting their image and he was instantly shot dead. My greatest surprise is that till today, those soldiers have not been held accountable for the gruesome murder of the young man. Many of such cases have gone the same way without anyone being held accountable."
For the military checkpoints mounted along the Enugu-Obollo-Afor, Enugu-Nsukka, Enugu-Awka-Onitsha and the Enugu-Ebonyi, similar stories of intimidation, corporal punishment and extortion were also told about them.
The Deputy Director, Public Relations of the division, Col.Aliyu Yusuf, when contacted to confirm the claims replied via a text message,
"Good afternoon, inform the affected persons to call and give details for further necessary action immediately."
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