Our Borderless Borders and the Policemen’s Bazaar

By Jude Atupulazi

Last Monday, May 18, a lorry from Jos, Plateau State, was intercepted in front of Government House, Awka. Inside it were about thirty-three able-bodied young men from Plateau State.

The lorry was ostensibly conveying goats, motorcycles and other stuff and the occupants
claimed they were heading to Onitsha for business. Mind you, the vehicle had just cleared the state’s border with Enugu State where security officials were supposed to effect the directive of both the presidency and the Anambra State Government that borders should remain closed to everybody except those on essential duties and vehicles conveying food stuffs and medical products.

Granted that the vehicle carried goats which meat was needed, what were those young men doing in the vehicle? How come they crossed many borders, including the last one in Awka, and entered into Anambra State all the way from Plateau State? Was it that the hordes of security officials scattered across all the borders did not see them? How could so many young be found in a truck at a time such movements were forbidden?

These are questions I expected the Anambra State Government officials to have asked. But shockingly, they merely escorted the vehicle and its occupants back to the Amansea Border from where they would probably try to reenter the state.

You see, many people down here are worried that something sinister is cooking in the country. There is palpable fear that some people are cleverly using the opportunity of the situation in the country to plant terrorists in hitherto peaceful areas of the country so that later, they will be able to execute whatever agenda they have against certain parts of the country.

While some people may see this suspicion as unnecessarily alarmist, what has been happening in the country under the Buhari Administration has not helped to douse such fears and suspicions and it will be foolhardy of anyone to close their eyes and sleep while all this goes on.

Indeed, the feelers I’m still getting remain worrisome. If after the northern states have sacked urchins (almajerai) from their streets and we suddenly start seeing them here in their numbers, as well as many able bodied young men sneaking up on us, hidden among goats and bags of rice, only the overly optimistic will fail to read alarming meaning into the developments.

And this alarming feeling isn’t helped by the actions of our security agents at the borders who are doing the best business of their lives at the moment. Stories of how they collect money from travelers abound, as well as stories about the porosity of our borders.

Last Tuesday on my way to work, I met a friend who told me he came in from Enugu State the previous day. I was curious to find out how he did it when the borders were manned by security officials who were not supposed to let anyone in or out.

He laughed and told me a most incredulous story. According to him, he had driven across without any hassles. No one stopped him or even demanded money from him. He wasn’t finished yet. He told me how other vehicles passed without hassles too at the very place such should not be happening!

This got me real mad. Was it not the other day that the state recorded two more cases? Was it not here that an Hausa man came in from Kano and was diagnosed of COVID-19? Wasn’t it the Amansea Border he crossed in the full glare of security officials? Yet, we are here being told that the war against COVID-19 is being fought well. Who’s really fooling who in this supposed war?

Rather than man the borders, the police are harassing innocent people in town in the name of curfew; a curfew which should not have been in the first place if those at the borders had been doing their work.
To say that the police have been betraying the various states by their compromising attitude at the various state boundaries is to state the obvious.

For the police, and perhaps, some other security agencies, this situation is one big harvest and bazaar. Passengers in every bus that passes at the Amansea border in Awka are charged N200. When you calculate the number of buses that pass through there every day, you will begin to see how rich these policemen are becoming at our expense. Of course, those in private vehicles are also charged.

What happens at Amansea happens at other border points in the state, including the Onitsha Head Bridge, where people troop in and out every day.
Inside the state, policemen chase people about at night, collecting money from them for breaking the curfew directive. The police are not even allowing essential workers like journalists free passage, despite the presidency and the Inspector-General of Police clearly stating that journalists should be exempted from the curfew.

This has led to suspicions that perhaps, the police want the journalists out of the way in order to effectively continue extorting money from hapless citizens.

In Lagos, the doctors, under the aegis of Nigeria Medical Association, had threatened to go on strike following the refusal of the police to accord them the status of essential workers. They complained that even when they carried patients in ambulances they were turned back!

The police have just seen the prevalent situation in the country as one big opportunity to fill their pockets. Last Wednesday, a youth in Enugwu Ukwu, an only child, was killed by a vehicle as he was chased down by a policeman from the Nimo Police Division at a few minutes after eight in the evening. The policeman is said to be notorious for acting with impunity and giving Nimo Town a headache.

The next morning, Enugwu Ukwu youths expectedly mobilized and were said to have planned to storm the police division to avenge the death of their brother. The police also mobilized and a face off ensued, causing traffic to divert to other roads. The situation was worsened after a stray police bullet hit a woman in the leg in front of her shop.

It is indeed, shameful, opprobrious and downright provocative that the police should be acting this way during a period they are supposed to be heroes. It is regrettable that while the coronavirus is yet to claim any victim in Anambra State, three people have died from police bullets so far.

One can comfortably say that the entrance of coronavirus into Anambra has been due to the laxity of the police. This is because all the index cases that brought it in were said to have come in from outside.
I’m sure Gov Willie Obiano knows the police have been letting him and the state down. I’m equally sure that he knows that once he visits the borders and turns his back, business resumes in earnest for the police.

Really, nothing has provided the police across the country the best opportunity of making money than the so-called border closure and the curfew. Indeed, the borders are the places to be for any person in uniform who wants to smile to the bank.

They do not care what or who comes in or goes out as long as good money exchanges hands. This is why all manner of people are coming into Anambra State daily, including those suspected to be terrorists.

In a country where eye brows are raised at the slightest actions, and where the Federal Government has displayed obvious bias for certain people and elements, who will blame the conspiracy theorists when they interpret what is happening as a plot by some people to infiltrate the ranks of certain states with terrorists?

Only the fool hears and sees dangerous signals such as these and plays the good Nigerian. The truth is that Nigeria, as presently constituted, is one big farce. The country is indeed sitting on a keg of gunpowder, waiting for the moment when a match will be struck.

But I tell you, when the country goes up in smoke, it may be difficult to separate the victim from the manipulator. Nature has a way of balancing things and, who knows? The things happening now, or about to happen, may just provide that platform.

Life is really an ass. It does not respect anyone because of rank and strikes without looking. Ask Abba Kyari, who, but a few weeks back, sat astride the country like a colossus. Today, the country is sitting on him. It is said that it is disrespectful to speak ill of the dead, but this man is one of those that brought us where we are. Others will do good to learn from his fate.
I rest my case.