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

THISDAY - - FEATURES - Photo credit: GOOGLE

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

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