A video surfaced online recently where the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, was seen berating soldiers and policemen for collecting N1,000 bribe from stranded travellers who do not have national identity cards.
The governor was on his way to Jakana to meet residents over a recent attack by Boko Haram insurgents and passed through the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway. Upon reaching the Maiduguri entrance checkpoint located near Borno State University, the governor met hundreds of vehicles queued up on both sides of the road with stranded travellers unable to continue their journey because the security men had locked down the highway. A miffed Zulum was seen in the video lambasting the security personnel for collecting money from the travellers.
“This is unacceptable. How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of National ID card? And you are all here collecting N500 and N1,000 from poor travellers who don’t have National ID card,” Zulum said.
The governor then called the theatre commander to report the shameful act of the security men. “Theatre Commander where are you? …Right now I’m at the checkpoint near state university and we have thousands of people stranded and your men are here collecting money from people because they don’t have National ID cards. Why?” he asked the commander.
Zulum thereafter directed the security personnel to open the gates on both sides and allow all travellers to go through.
It is shameful and inexcusable, to say the least, for soldiers and policemen deployed in the area to help maintain the peace and ease flow of traffic now turn around to exploit the situation to fleece longsuffering Nigerians during the festive season when many of them had to travel.
That it was soldiers who were at the forefront of this disgraceful conduct is shocking.
This explains the scepticism of some people to the deployment of soldiers in checkpoints or for duties otherwise earmarked for the police. Clearly, the army has been infected by the virus of bribe-taking. The fear of such sceptics was that the police will introduce soldiers to unsavoury conducts. Apparently, that is what has happened. Indeed, it can even be argued that this trend is not a recent thing.
Another issue is the fact that the security men were extorting money from stranded travellers for not having the National Identity cards. The question is how many Nigerians have the National ID Cards? And who instructed the soldiers and policemen to demand IDs before allowing travellers through the checkpoints?
Interestingly, the issue of getting the IDs has become not only a vexing one, but intractable. Many Nigerians have registered for the ID cards for over five years and are yet to receive them due to the ineptitude of government. The process of getting the ID cards are tedious and cumbersome, so it is curious that Nigerians who were on a journey could be made to bear the brunt of the failings of government. And Governor Zulum also made allusion to this fact during his confrontation with the security men in Borno when in response to a soldier trying to justify their disgraceful conduct, he declared: “No, this is not right! The Federal Government has not created an enabling environment for our people to get their National ID cards and you are here collecting N500 and N1,000 as a fine for not having what the Federal Government has not provided for all.”
The governor’s action elicited prompt reaction from the Army authorities who said there would be an investigation to unravel what transpired and punish officials involved. This prompted another reaction from the governor who said he holds the Nigerian Army in high regards.
A statement by the spokesman for the governor noted: “Zulum acknowledges and respects the sacrifices of these soldiers and the fact that they put their lives on the line….
“However, he also knows that civil-military cooperation will be better enhanced when certain conducts of a few are addressed in order to preserve and protect the integrity of the majority of security personnel who not only do the right things, but make the ultimate sacrifices of giving up their lives for Borno citizens, while others abandon their families for months and years fighting at the front lines.”
The governor’s initial action, which prompted the army’s decision to investigate and the governor’s subsequent response show a dedicated public servant who places high premium on the welfare and interest of his people.
We commend the governor for tackling the soldiers and policemen involved in the shameful act, but even much more, we commend him for getting in touch with the relevant Army authorities and for coming to the rescue of the stranded travellers. We also want to especially commend Zulum for his forthrightness in declaring that the Federal Government is to blame for not making it easy for Nigerians to get the National ID Cards and so the poor masses shouldn’t bear the brunt of that failing.
We enjoin other governors and top public office holders to emulate Zulum in putting the welfare of their people ahead at all times.