In developed countries; the police is a civil service work, and an agency of the executive arm of government that maintains and enforces law and order in the society. But in Nigeria, it is a militarilized force, that carries gun, the same way the military go about with it, as if we are at war in Nigeria. They are expected to enforce law and order, and equally play a vital role in ensuring peaceful coexistence among the citizens.
The Nigerian police, though a necessary evil, has lost the confidence of several Nigerians because of poor attitude to work, unethical conduct and ominous disregard for fundamental human rights that they commit everyday on a broad day light. About 98% of the members of the Nigerian Police Force never had interest in the job at the time of recruitment but they just applied because they needed job to earn a living. Few of them are frustrated Nigerian graduates, while greater percentage are uneducated Hausa/Fulanis, even repented Boko Haram recruits.
But, countless ordinary Nigerian graduates who after school have nothing to do, attempting to make precarious livelihood, end up as taxi drivers, market traders and shopkeepers are accosted on daily basis by marauding armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them through money extortion. Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm.The case of Chimaobi, a young Biafran from Abia State who was killed by the Nigerian military personnel, because he refused to give him ₦100.00, is still fresh in our mind. Meanwhile, victims of crime are forced to pay the police from the moment they enter a police station to file a complaint until the day their case is brought before a kangaroo biased court. In this shadows, high-level police officials embezzle staggering sum of public funds meant to cover basic police operations. Senior police officers also enforce perverse system of “returns” in which rank-and-file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command, shares of the money they extort from the public. Those charged with police oversight, discipline, and reform have for years failed to take effective action, thereby reinforcing impunity for police officers of all ranks who regularly perpetrate crimes against the citizens they are mandated to protect.
Extortion, embezzlement and other corrupt practices by Nigeria’s police undermine the fundamental human rights of the people. The most direct effect of police corruption on ordinary citizens stems from the myriad human rights abuses committed by police officers in the process of extorting money. These abuses range from arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention, to threats and acts of violence, including physical and sexual assault, torture and even extra-judicial killings.
The police frequently extort money from the public at taxi stands, in marketplaces or while going about their daily lives. However, the most common avenue for extortion occurs at police roadblocks, ostensibly put in place to combat crime. In practice, these checkpoints have become lucrative criminal ventures for the police who routinely demand bribes from drivers and passengers alike, in some places enforcing a de facto standardized toll. Motorists are frequently detained and forced to endure harassment and threats until they or their family members negotiate payment for their release. Extortion-related confrontations between the police and motorists often escalate into more serious abuses. The police officers have on numerous occasions severely beaten, sexually assaulted or shot to death ordinary citizens who failed to pay the bribes demanded.
The police commonly round up random citizens in public places, including mass arrests at restaurants, markets, and bus stops. In some cases of blatant deception, plainclothes police officers simply masquerade as commuter minibus drivers, pick up unsuspecting passengers at bus stops and take them at gunpoint to nearby police stations where they demand money in return for their release. Sometimes they take their victims to ATM and force them to withdraw huge amounts of money for their bribery. The police often make little effort to veil their demand for bribes, brazenly doing so in open corridors and rarely bothering to question those in detention about any alleged crime. Those who fail to pay are often threatened and unlawfully detained and at times sexually assaulted, tortured, or even killed in police custody. Many of these abuses are perpetrated as a means to further extort money from the ordinary citizens or from fearful family members trying to secure the freedom of their detained loved ones.
It may interest you to know that “for every shuttle or Mitsubishi L300 bus loaded with passengers in Anambra State and all other Biafran states, it is ₦50 at every police roadblock and extra ₦200 is paid if loaded with goods and passengers”.
“For every commercial motorcycle, tricycle, Datsun or medium range truck loaded with goods, it is N200 at every police roadblock and for every private vehicle owner accused of “incomplete” vehicle particulars, the least demanded sum is N4,000 or more, which must be paid randomly or on the spot to avoid being dragged to police station. Sometimes these vehicles are impounded and indented as ‘stolen vehicle’. This was according to an investigation made of recent. It also added that “Police extortions in Enugu and Ebonyi States, and to an extent, Imo State, are not as “lucrative” as those of Anambra and Abia States.
“Such extortions are majorly concentrated on critical federal and state roads and as well as few other commercial areas of the three states, such as Ogbete, Abakpa, Garriki and Nsukka in Enugu State. It is the same in Abakiliki and Afikpo in Ebonyi State, Orlu and commercial parts of Owerri in Imo State, Aba in Abia State, Anambra state and other part of Biafraland.
“The same thing is applied to many roadblocks in the five South-East states, as well as those in Agbor, Asaba and their environs, all in Delta State.” Some motorists are detained and illegal bail money collected from them, ranging from N10,000 and above for committing no crime. A brief breakdown of the various agencies that benefit from this illicit business shows that: “Nigeria Police Force pocketed N78.02 billion, the military (Army, Navy and Air Force) received N6 billion and paramilitary formations (Customs, Road Safety, NAFDAC and NDLEA) took N16 billion. These totaled N100.02 billion ($330 million),” Premium Times reports.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media