Illegal Road Checkpoints : Destroy The Irritating Germ!

The multiplicity of checkpoints along major road corridors in the country may already be banal to some keen observers of land transport here; looking at its depth and length over the years, but the damage such illegality leaves on the country is such that throwing in the towel in the fight against the ill would be fatal for lives and liveliohoods. It is disturbing to hear again that old habits of harassing transporters on the country’s major road corridors in the name of checkpoints whose rationale is only known to the controllers and members of their network are finding it hard to die. Persistence in the illegality, regardless of what is being said and done to combat it, is suggestive of how large-scale the network of perpetrators is. 
Going by a trending missive from the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Defence to his colleague of Territorial Administration, an unannounced control has uncovered scores of illegal mixed control checkpoints along the road which is part of the Douala-Ngaoundere-N'Djamena corridor. In effect, some 66 checkpoints were discovered to be operating along the Douala-Maroua road alone. Underlining that of the number, 39 are irregular and 27 are regular mixed control checkpoints is telling of the gravity of the issue. Difficult to understand how the checkpoints are regulated given that a former Minister of Transport in 2012 told reporters after concerting with other stakeholders that, “There are only three official checkpoints for vehicles plying the Douala-Ngaoundere-N'Djamena highway. These are Yassa in the Littoral, Bertoua in the East and Ngaoundere in the Adamawa Regions. Any other checkpoint is tantamount to encouraging corruption which government will not tolerate.” How comes the number has kept progressing to now stand at 66 just for Douala-Maroua remains a million dollar question.   
Users of the road axis, like other corridors, have deplored the harassment they suffer in various forms on the stretch where the most important goods for import and export from Chad and the Central African Republic pass. The questions that come begging for answers are what would 66 different control teams be checking on an 887 km stretch from Douala to Maroua? Is it to pre-empt the transportation of illegal goods from one end to the other? Or simply to feed their stomachs and oil the lips of members of the seemingly sophisticated network? Can local authorities of the concerned localities wash their hands completely off the dirty but raging game? Is it the clumsy administrative tolerance even in an activity as damaging as illegal checkpoints on road corridors linking countries or complicity? Answers where are you!
Truth be told that what is decried along the Douala-Maroua road today is the same thing that has been going on along other corridors in the country from North to South and East to West. Users of the Douala-Bangui, Douala-N’Djamena, Bamenda-Ekok corridors among others will quickly tell anyone who cares to listen how much time and money they spend transporting goods along the corridors. It is even alleged that the control agents go as far as harassing road users to settle the illegal checkpoints in kind and cash. 
It is said that bags of rice, cartoons of drinks, jewelry and other valuable goods are forcefully extorted from the transporters by the checkpoint agents. What interests them is not the content of the trucks lined up along the road but what the drivers can cough out which goes into their pockets at the detriment of public health and national wealth. Little wonder contraband goods and even dangerous weapons continue to proliferate in the country. The danger they pose to national security and the economy have been forfeited on the altar of egoistic gain.
Added to the multiplicity of checkpoints is the abusive immobilization of trucks on the road, the bad state of access roads (destroyed largely by overloaded trucks which sadly pay their way through weighing stations), the permanent harassment of timber transport trucks drivers and the various malfunctioning of toll numbers. These constitute a non-exhaustive list of obstacles which stakeholders say impede the fluidity of traffic along most corridors and cause huge losses to the national and sub-regional economies. A situation which has caused delays in deliveries and led to non-competitiveness of products transported to or from the hinterland countries, despite efforts to facilitate the transportation of goods and transit in the CEMAC zone. In Central African Republic as in Cameroon, carriers deplore what they describe as racketeering, which makes them spend between FCFA 150,000 and FCFA 230,000, or even more on one trip transporting goods from one end to the other. 
What is worrying here is that as the road controllers swell their stomachs and wallets with what they collect in the controls, the population and the national and sub-regional economies suffer. The excessive transport cost masterminded by the illegal checkpoints increase the cost of the transported produce at its final destinatio...



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