People who are leaving or entering Kumbo in Bui Division of the North West have decried an ongoing extortion scheme by officers of the Cameroon military along the Kumbo-Bangolan-Foumban road.
Since December 2022, many have been forced to use the road to and fro Kumbo, instead of the main road that passes through Ndop, because separatist fighters blocked the road linking North West regional capital Bamenda to Kumbo.
Apart from being long and more costly, the alternative road into Kumbo, which passes through Foumban in the West Region, exposes road users to exploitative military and checkpoints.
The officers will stop at nothing to extort between 500 francs and 1,000 from every driver or passenger who uses the road, even if it means using force, laments a road user who spoke to MMI on Sunday, January 15.
“Extortion from numerous other checkpoints from the military or council control points from the drivers along the stretch of that road through the West is really unbearable,” this passenger and victim of extortion said.
“This makes traveling very expensive and tedious because a one-hour journey now takes three hours with unnecessary brutality of passengers and drivers by men in uniform and council officials,” he said.
This ugly scenario has been going on for close to two years now, he added, and people who resist paying 500 francs CFA to bribe their way are unnecessarily delayed at the checkpoint, or they are maltreated or even brutalised.
He said military officers on patrol believe passengers and drivers must also bribe them, since they usually bribe separatist fighters when they are asked to.
Authorities seem to be well aware of the money extortion scheme operated by uniformed officers who have been stationed to maintain law and order in the North West and South West Regions.
Hardly has the government ever called them to order since numerous reports have been made about military-police extortion at check points.
In the North West Region, where government officials are sponsoring vigilante groups against separatist fighters, it is alleged that some Ministers have ordered the military to collect bribes from road users in order to run these vigilantes.
“At first they (the military) said Minister Paul Atanga Nji instructed them to collect 500 francs CFA and pay vigilante groups stationed in that place to check Amba boys crossing the area,” one of the road users told MMI.
Both the Cameroon military and police and separatist fighters have been accused of turning the Anglophone crisis into a money-making avenue through extortions at illegal checkpoints, kidnappings and threats of kidnapping.
Since separatist fighters blocked the Bamenda-Ndop road, transportation fare between both towns tippled from 1,500 francs to 10,000 francs. Still, people cannot dare travel unaccompanied by the military.
Ndop Municipal Council reportedly partnered with the military to provide cost-free transportation to people who were stranded and could not get to Ndop.
By Tata Mbunwe