Increasing Cases of Police Extortion
Despite series of campaigns geared towards making the Nigeria Police a better institution, its personnel constantly indulge in dishonourable and unlawful conducts, which seemingly makes the crusade a mirage, writes Davidson Iriekpen
Nnamdi Amadi (not real name) was heading to his office in Apapa when at Alaka Bus-stop, he suddenly started hearing strange sound from his vehicle, a Toyota Rav4. Not wanting to take chances, he quickly decided to pull over from the road to check what happened. By this time, the car had come to a complete stop. After trying to check what the problem was, the car refused to start. Disappointed, he pushed the car to under the bridge at Iponri, and called a mechanic.
After examining the car, the mechanic informed him that the problem was from the engine. Frustrated, Amadi noticing that it was already past 5p.m. quickly arranged for a tow truck to move the car to his residence at Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa in Isolo.
Because of the heavy traffic usually experienced between Cele Bus-Stop and Jakande Estate after 3p.m. and the number of police checkpoints on the route, the tow truck operator, one Mutiu, charged N15,000. After much negotiations, a N12,000 deal was struck.
From Iponri to Lawanson and Cele Bust-stop, there were three police checkpoints. At every checkpoint, the police would demand N1,000 from Mutiu as bribe. At Ago Junction, the police there again demanded N2,000 bribe but after much pleadings, the operator parted with another N1,000. At Pako Bus-stop, the policemen there demanded for N2,000 but got N1,000.
By the time the tow truck operator arrived Jakande Estate, he had parted with N5,000 as bribe to the police, who in the first place, were not supposed to mount such checkpoints for extortion.
This made the tow truck operator very sad and dejected. Though to him and his colleagues, giving bribes to the police each time they are on the road is not new, it was not to the extent he experienced it on that day, because out of the N12,000 he charged for his services, he was left with N7,000.
Mutiu’s experience is not new to many Nigerians. It is a daily occurrence across the country. Millions of persons who go out to eke a living are daily forced to part with one form of bribe or the other to gun-wielding policemen who, in the course of their duty, extort, harass, and physically abuse harmless citizens. Failure to pay these officials often leads to unlawful arrest and detention.
While Mutiu was narrating his ordeal to this reporter and his colleagues, one of them equally narrated his experience in the hands of unscrupulous officers.
“I went to Ejigbo Police Station recently to report that my niece was missing. After taking my statement, the officer said I should give them N20,000. When I asked what the money was for, they simply told me it was for them to commence work and type the radio message to other stations. I was shocked.
“When I screamed ‘N20,000 just like that to officers whose duty it is to investigate the whereabouts of my niece,’ one officer interjected, ‘Oga, na so we dey do am.’ You can imagine what would be the fate of people with reported cases of missing persons who do not have money to give as bribes.”
Tyrannic Extortion For many Nigerians, the police have unreservedly failed to discharge its mandate of ensuring public safety. Exactly 89 years after its establishment, members of the force have emerged as predators, rather than protectors, and the Nigeria Police has become an icon of unbridled corruption, unprofessional conduct, and violence in the country.
Particularly common on the list of the groups the police extort most are commercial and private vehicle owners in the country. The bribes are either for expired or lack of driver’s licence vehicle documents, overload, tinted glass permit, driving against the traffic (one-way) or beating traffic light.
Most embarrassing are policemen who willfully extort motorists or others even when they have not contravened the law. This is the category the tow truck operator falls into. Tow truck operators, tipper drivers and delivery van drivers are constantly harassed and extorted at checkpoints. Many observers believe that this is why their charges are high and some products expensive. They believe that the amount given as bribes are built into the final cost of services
or products for the end users to pay.
There are also policemen who take delight in begging. As soon as they stop motorists, he or she is greeted with: “Anything for boys?; Wetin you eat/chop remain for us? Or We dey here oh.
Extra-judicial Killings Nigerians are inundated with reports of how commercial and private vehicle owners or even motorcyclists are shot and killed because they refused to part with as little as N50 or N100 bribe when they are at police checkpoints or accosted by policemen on patrol. Some are either delayed or arrested and detained on trump-up charges when they refuse or insist on not parting with any bribe. Most times, when these extortions are taking place, the officers are fully armed. In some cases, they threaten to shoot when one makes any attempt to escape.
Touts as Extortion Agents In Lagos these days, it is common to see ‘area boys’ and miscreants openly collecting ‘owo olopa’ (money for police) at T-junctions and roundabouts
Policemen barricading the road at a checkpoint
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris
Policemen at checkpoints
A policeman caught on camera accepting gratification