Business Hilights
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Azman joins Arik, Air Peace to Asaba as Igbos running from 60 checkpoints swell

…Reports confirm embarrassing searches on citizens coming from abroad

Whereas more local carriers have shifted their air services to eastern Nigeria routes due to jumping number of travellers going home from Lagos for yuletide from Lagos and Abuja, existing ones have increased their flight frequency to the region.

Checks revealed that the diversion of services to the routes have surpassed frequencies in previous years due to many Igbos have resolved to avoid embarrassing delays and extortions by security agencies whose checkpoints have suddenly risen to over 60 in the last few weeks between Lagos and Onitsha.

Since Sunday, the Asaba International Airport hosted the inaugural flight of an indigenous airline, Azman Air to Asaba, the Delta State Capital.

This is as Arik Air recently joined Air Peace in servicing the airport after announcing raising its flight frequency to Owerri Airport to three daily.

Business Hilights South East Bureau Chief reports that Azman aircraft, a Boeing 737, marked SN-AIS touched down the airports runway at exactly 4.25pm on Sunday operated by Captain Ibrahim Mamman.

IGP Adamu
IGP, Mohammed Adamu, saluting President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after his decoration

Addressing journalists on landing at Asaba, the Managing Director of the Azman Air, Dr Faisal Abdulmunaf, expressed delight at the commencement of operations in Asaba airport, saying four flights a week to and from Asaba would be on Abuja route while two flights a week would be via the Lagos route.

Besides, complains from Igbos and other road travellers on the excesses of security operatives at the over 60 checkpoints’ showed that searches on vehicles carrying any person seen or observed to be coming from outside the country for the yuletide celebration to the east are very embarrassing and invoke sense hatred and intension to loot or extort as all their belongings are scattered on the highway without any form of explanation what they are looking for at every checkpoint.

Further investigations showed that even travellers phones are searched and if for any reason, they see your bank alert, you must explain why you got the payment.

Besides, if dare raise your voice and query why such embarrassing searches are not conducted on any highway between Lagos to any part of northern Nigeria where security situation actually demands that, you will be forced to disembark from the vehicle while other are allowed to drive off.

It would be recalled that last week, the Senate rose in its plenary to call on the IGP to dismantle the uncountable number of checkpoints on the route, but indications show that the order may have not been followed as the number of roadblocks continue to rise as yuletide approaches.

Customs Checkpoint
‘Deadly Customs officer’ at one of the checkpoints

Only recently, rights group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), sometime in its report, alleged that a whopping sum of N306 billion had been paid at gunpoint in the past 50 months, covering August 2015 and October 2019, by citizens of Eastern Nigeria to estimated 600 military and 6,300 police roadblocks in the Southeast and South-south regions.

Besides, a 2018 report by the group, claimed that the security agencies made over N100 billion in three years by extorting road users in those Southeast checkpoints.

This reports seem to have opened the eyes of the people of the region to know that they are not only on siege by armed security operatives, but are also being extorted of their hard-earned money by men who mount roadblocks in the guise of protecting them.

A national daily, Sunday Sun (15/12/2019) investigations revealed that the people of the Southeast are no longer happy over this.

Accordingly, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo had described as unusual the number of military, paramilitary and police checkpoints in all routes leading into and within Igbo land.

Painting a gory picture of the situation, Nwodo said that at least 60 checkpoints were between Lagos and Onitsha; a major route for the Igbo traders, saying the action explained that travellers from Lagos to Ore would confront 24 checkpoints, Ore to Benin-23 while there are 13 checkpoints from Benin to Onitsha.

Business Hilights gathered from a recent letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, the Ohanaeze boss noted that checkpoints in Enugu State alone were uncountable.

Nwodo said that the interpretation of Ndigbo was that these checkpoints which were primarily concerned with extorting money from numerous Igbo passing through them were mere toll gates.

Ohaneze N
Ohaneze President, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, addressing members at a function recently.

He, therefore, pleaded with them to use their good offices to bring to an end these “discriminating, intimidating and extortionist practices of our security agents on all routes leading into and within Igbo land.”

The Igbo leader argued that modern security was all about information gathering, digital monitoring and preventive mechanisms, not about Gestapo-like checkpoints.

Regrettably, he noted that in all other routes leading out of Igbo land to other parts of Nigeria, checkpoints of the nature that characterize the routes into the Southeast were nowhere to be seen.

“We have continued on our part to appeal to our young men and women to restrain their anger and outrage in order to ensure that they do not resort to self-defence,” aggrieved Nwodo averred.