OPINION… Murder at the checkpoints: Staying safe as a motorist


Nigeria’s unenviable trend of extra-judicial killings rather than rescind, appears on the rise with two reported mortalities in Lagos State alone within two weeks. The two murders were allegedly at the country’s infamous but ubiquitous security checkpoints. The first casualty involving one Mr. Adeniyi Sanni, occured on 5th August 2023 and barely twelve days later, one Mr. Yusuf Lawal also, fell a victim.

Although every life matters, the late Mr. Sanni as a staff to Senator Solomon Olamilekun Adeola, is relatively a high profile victim – a fact that prior to his murder, must have been confirmed by his assailants. Yet, he was allegedly executed summarily by soldiers manning a security checkpoint. If being in the corridors of power conferred no immunity on him, it means no one is safe from suspected trigger happy Nigerian security agents.

In fact, the situation is very scary and portends grave risk! Even if you could invest on a bulletproof car, in a ruse, security checks could be used to lure you out of relative safety for mortal harm.

Worse, a month after the sad incident, identities of Mr. Sanni’s killers like those of most past victims of suspected extra-judicial killing, have been shrudded in mystery – anonymity on which criminality and all crimes thrive. In fact, criminals including rogue security agents, treasure situations enabling crime and denial or escape.

That criminal edge or cover conferred by all bureaucracies, is the Achilles heel of Nigeria’s bureaucratic approach to internal law and order maintenance; thin on intelligence-led policing and brute force driven – a panic or uncoordinated response to apparent loss of monopoly of violence to criminals who wield sophisticated weapons as national security agents. This does not only confer cover for extra-judicial killings readily blamed on criminals but fuels an illusion of more guns, greater national security that is putting a big gun in the hands of every security agent.

Ultimately, the illusion that national security is all about a mounting armoury of guns, is fueling a dangerous inter-agency rivalry as staffers of otherwise diverse security agencies seem to believe that no agency’s role is specialized and that they can dabble and double-cross themselves. A recent corroboration is a physical combat between prison warders and staffers of the DSS over custody of Mr. Godwin Emefiele – the immediate past governor of the central bank.

In fact, it is not uncommon to sight personnel from supposedly diverse branches of the nation’s security architecture including the customs, immigration, drug law enforcement agency, etc. who should patrol or stay at international entry points and borders, mounting multiple security checkpoints which although parallel in outlook, are opaque in activities, right in city centres. For example, it was right inside high-brow Ikeja that soldiers reportedly ordered the late Mr. Sanni to furnish documentary proofs of ownership of the car he drove.

By the way, is that the duty of the army with neither curfew nor state of emergency declared? Yet, for the same purpose and on the same route, the police, road safety corps, VIO, customs, etc. would usually take turns to check that same car. On that, no agency could be more culpable than the nation’s road safety corps that should be patrolling highways to guarantee motorists’ safety. In fact, they are on record as agitating for guns. And like me, you may wonder; to do what? Kill motorists for whom they are supposed to facilitate safe motoring?

Nigerian streets lack security cameras in the day and are pitch dark at night with no streetlights, heightening risks faced by motorists at the country’s security checkpoints. Hence a criminal anonimity for rogue security agents known to audaciously threaten wasting suspects’ lives with neither trails for their arraignment nor consequences.

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Their sense of no culpability for committing heinous crimes including homicide is what security measures should take away and instill a sense of consequences. And residents of Nigeria have a right to expect the Tinubu administration to rise to the challenge because security is the very essence of governance. In fact, the indirect violence on a Senator should be one attack too many and a wake-up call to address Nigeria’s worsening security now the proverbial stone which hauled into a crowded marketplace, is not selective as to its target and victim.

However, private security measures are the last layer of every national security architecture. For example, given Nigeria’s peculiar violent crime rate at night with neither streetlights nor security cameras, the two victims under reference ought to have realized the risk of driving new cars at odd times – early hours of the day by one of the victims and at dusk, by the other. That is part of security awareness and much cheaper than Senator Adeola commendably adopting the children of his late staff whose family, friends have similarly raised N55m. If that is good luck, you might not be that lucky.

Specifically, Nigerian motorists should join others in countries where although security agents’ brutality is not pronounced, they deploy security video cameras in their cars to deter impunity by security agents. The security camera popular as dash cam (dashboard camera), is capable of a discreet or secret 360 degree surveillance of both the interior and exterior of a car, even at night or under poor lighting.

Not only that the camera does both audio and video coverage of threats facing a motorist, it sends feeds real-time to your prior specified vested interests (acquaintances including organizations) to mobilize to your rescue. As well, a permanent record of a security breach is simultaneously created in a cloud storage for a post-incident advocacy or judicial process.

Those two foolproof capabilities – immediacy and permanency of reportage, counter brute force – the known nemesis of technology. It means hard evidence of any brutality would already have gone viral and recorded permanently in a cloud storage before any violent attempt to tamper with functionality of the gadget – a fact not obviated even if an entire car to which the device is deployed were to be destroyed like the two victims’ new cars still missing!

That is quite unlike smart phones not known to covertly transmit videos real-time nor would-be assailants or the typical Nigerian security agents knowingly allow you to record their excesses even as they themselves do not commit to wearing body cameras like in the civilised world. Yet, besides its security value, the dash cam validates car accident insurance claims and debunks false traffic offence charges.

With the huge advantages of the dash cam, murderers in last months’ suspected extra-judicial killings could not have been at large several weeks after their heinous acts. If the culprits are rogue security agents, their agencies would have since given them up hastily to face the music as otherwise, the 2020 EndSars and the July 2023 France riots combined, could be a child’s play. Needless to add that unlike what is filtering into our ears, there would have been no absurd allusions to persons in army uniform audaciously mounting checkpoints right inside Nigeria’s economic nerve-centre – Lagos State. Otherwise, the national security agencies are indicting themselves as clueless and the country’s days are numbered.

Agreed; the dash cam might be neither a silver bullet nor a panacea but it would substantially deter violent criminals and rogue security agents on Nigerian highways. After all, no one would allow a piece of technology indict and keep him or her behind bars for life or face capital punishment. Forget about boasts of damning the consequences. Even Yevgeny Prigozhin with a bravado fed by his escapades in Ukraine, could not carry through his threat to invade Moscow and die a hero if need be. Rather, midway, courage failed him – only to retreat and died unsung.

AUTHOR:John Uwaya

Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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