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Thursday, 19 September 2019

SOUTH EAST: ROAD CHECKPOINTS AND THE EASE OF DOING BUSINESS.

 It is a common fact that the ease with which a business is conducted helps to speed up the growth of any economy. One of the issues which repel investors from accessing any place for business activities is the challenge of overcoming the numerous impediments that acts as a wedge to business process flow. Naturally no one would like to encounter stress in any endeavour from which he intends to reap some rewards especially when there are alternative uses to which he can deploy his resources. 

Two years ago or thereabout Imo State was rated among the worst and if my head remembers well ranked 34 out of 36 states in the ease of doing business. Does it surprise you that the economy of the state is at very low ebb? In an era of a deregulated economy where people are freeing obstacles to maximize opportunities we keep imposing more issues on ourselves and at the same time we are complaining. It is just like the case of a man who is cruising on a journey desirous of hitting his destination in a record time because of the numerous gains that accrues from the trip; he is firing and at the same time holding down the breaks.

That to me typifies the experience we have here in the South East. Has anybody ever thought how the numerous road check points that dot the landscape in the South East impact on business activity and consequently development. Unhealthy political reasons have been fingered as the cause of the numerous road check points that abound in the South East. This we learnt contrasts sharply with what obtains in the other regions especially in the northern area. Those who adduce political factors explain that there is a script to consciously slow down development and inconvenience the residents in the South East.

This explanation appears more plausible when you take into account that we have more insecurity ravaging the north than we have here. We have the dreaded but intractable Boko Haram, cattle rustlers, bandits, Islamic militants, street urchins, kidnappers, armed robbers etc snuffing life constantly more than exists in the other regions. Common sense would expect that government should deploy more security in those areas than any other.

A social commentator and critic, Iwuanyanwu EdisonFineman in his Facebook wall had queried thus, ‘from Onitsha to Owerri, 45 mins drive, 40km distance, 72 road blocks, what I our sin? I had queried him on this figure because sometimes ago, in 2017 to be precise I did a similar count grossing up 33 road check points. He has included the Army and the Federal Road Safety Corps checks as well. Perhaps, according to him this may be a renewed onslaught against ndi-Igbo. Thirty three or seventy two, the number is still alarming. Besides, there are no reports of arrests of offenders from the check points meaning that the security bits are there for the purpose of collecting tolls.

The poser coming from the social critic to the South East governors is leveraging on the courage of Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State who few days ago ordered the immediate dismantling of several road blocks from Kaduna to Abuja and vice versa, notwithstanding that this is a federal road operating within his jurisdiction. He had queried which of the South East governors would have the courage to dismantle roadblocks even in any of the streets of Eastern towns. Recently, I commended the SE governors for the security measures they have taken to ban foot movements of cows. Many had attributed the effort as resulting from the fear of Nnamdi Kanu whose IPOB boys earlier gave former Deputy Senate President a ‘VIP treatment in Germany’

They should take the initiative to tackle the issue without getting a kick at the ass. Many people have not forgiven them for their seeming complicity in the military attack that eclipsed the life of many IPOB boys at Afara Ukwu Umuahia. If the South East governors were patriotically committed to saving the lives of its citizens nothing says that it should not have challenged that unwarranted Federal/Military invasion of an otherwise peaceful community and quenching many youthful lives. They ended it up with proscription of the group leaving the dreaded Fulani herdsmen to run riot on the people.

The aggregate time wasted in stoppages result to huge man hours lost for those on business and official assignment. In the guise of policing and security the police merely constitute nuisance, and worst take joy and pride in doing so without realizing how they are destroying the general economy and business affairs of people. People who are involved in distributive businesses are likely to suffer more for the inconveniences. At each point the drivers drop money they seek to recover same by passing the burden to the passengers who in turn either bear it or pass it on through increased pricing of their products for those on business trips.  

Sometimes at some points, the drivers or their conductors must dismount to go and drop the money in a makeshift space housing the collector. They call the group Federal Police. They would give you change if you have higher bills. How can anyone be convinced that the Federal government is truly fighting corruption when its agency responsible for that is visibly neck deep in open corrupt practices and even helps to promote it.

This is the reason crime festers because people believe that police no matter their level have a price. At the same time it must be acknowledged and sincerely credit must be given to those anti-graft agencies like Economic and Financial Crimes Commission where the police men among them have distinguished themselves very well in tackling high profile financial crime. Without compromising securities the South East governors should rise to the challenge and assert their authorities positively to weave friendly business policies.

The Igbo man and the South East is the hub of business activities in Nigeria. Any avoidable challenge lined up on its path is bound to affect their fortunes in many inconceivable ways. The tolerant nature of the victims should not be mistaken for weakness. The time to right the irregularities is now. If the governors have found themselves in good stead, they should remember the age long Igbo philosophy of ‘Onye aghala nwanne ya’.

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