The Other Side Of Nigeria Police Force

Casmir Igbokwe

My experience at a police station in Lagos last week opened my eyes to the other side of the Nigeria Police Force. Some hoodlums had invaded a wedding reception in my town hall penultimate Saturday. In the melee that ensued, some people, especially women, lost their phones, wigs, shoes and other valuables. Some others were seriously wounded.

As the chairman of my town union in Lagos, it behoves me to make a formal report to the police. The moment I and those who accompanied me stepped into the police station, the female Inspector at the counter stretched her hand and bellowed, “Scratch my hand.”

She continued, “You will also mobilise the policemen who will go with you to make some arrests.” We did mobilise them as directed. Hence, they went and arrested one suspect from his place of work. When we came back from the arrest, the female hand-scratching officer demanded N5,000 for file. Five thousand Naira for a file! I wondered. “Don’t you know that police file is a special one? Even the sellers know this and that is why they sell it to us at a high price,” the woman said. After much argument, we paid for the file. But it didn’t end there.

We needed to effect the arrest of some other suspects. Again, mobilisation fee came up even when it was my car that was used. The officers who joined me on this particular trip demanded N5,000. According to them, they were a special team and they don’t go for such assignments. They said they accompanied me because those who should have done that were not available.

After the day’s hassles, we made to go. But the female officer instructed us to come back the following day with N20,000 mobilisation fee for the continuation of the case. Also, the matter was to be charged to court. That day, we had mobilised vehicles and some other logistics as we were asked to do. Suddenly, the same female officer came with one sheet of paper where she apparently wrote the charges. She demanded money for typing. I gave her N500. She flared up, “What is the meaning of this? Since you started coming here, you have not given me any money. You are not serious. I will tear this paper, if you are not ready for this case.”

When I reminded her of the file money and some others, she retorted, “Is it not only N3,000 you gave me for the N5,000 file? Yesterday, you gave me only N1,000. I can see you are not serious.” She walked out in anger. At this point, I lost my cool and lambasted her.

To cut the long story short, we paid for every little service the police rendered to us. Even the paper that was used to write the statement was paid for. They will tell you that government doesn’t give them anything. What baffles me is the shameless way they ask for this scratching of hand in the open. To them, it is normal.

This is even nothing compared to the atrocities some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) commit on a regular basis. The ones at the Benin section of the Benin-Ore Expressway appear to be more notorious. Stories abound on how they intimidate and extort money from passengers travelling to the eastern part of the country. They randomly stop people, especially young men, search their phones and woe betide you if they discover that you have some money. You must be ready to share that money with them, if you want your freedom.

Last year, I wrote about some evil methods of SARS on this page. I also mentioned some of their victims and the trauma they went through. These operatives can accuse you of anything. Amnesty International had detailed how they systematically tortured detainees to extract confessions and lucrative bribes. Their torture methods include hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions. It was so bad that Nigerians moved to the social media two years ago to campaign for the disbandment of the unit. Also, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President, ordered the reform of the squad.

Even the Senate, earlier in the year, passed the Police Reform Bill. The bill aimed at establishing a service-oriented and modern police that would meet globally acceptable policing standards in a democratic setting. Like a typical Nigerian thing, the bill has gone into limbo. And from the recent lamentations of friends and relatives about SARS, it’s obvious a pig will always remain a pig, no matter how hard you try to bathe it.

Little wonder, the Nigerian police are adjudged to be the most corrupt institution in Nigeria. In a survey released in March this year, a civil society group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), gave the police the first position in corruption perception in Nigeria. The power sector came second. Others in the corruption web are the judiciary, education and health ministries.

The report partly reads: “Corruption remains a significant impediment to law enforcement, access to justice and basic public services such as affordable healthcare, education, and electricity supply. Several Nigerians have to pay a bribe to access police, judiciary, power, education and health services. Corruption is still a key concern in the country, with 70 per cent of Nigerians describing the level of corruption as high and in the same measure in the last five years.”

The report indicated that there was a 63 per cent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he or she interacted with the police.

You can hardly think of any institution in Nigeria that is free from this malaise. Is it the Immigration Service? Is it the Nigeria Customs Service? Is it the military? Is it the civil service? They are all entangled in this corruption web. And they all end up giving the country a bad image abroad.

When President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in 2015, a lot of people thought a messiah had come. He promised to tackle corruption. He still mouths eradicating it at almost every forum he attends. But the more he talks about it, the more it festers. Now, corruption even dines and gets fatter within and around the Presidency.

We are deceiving ourselves if we think the problem will go away soon. It will not. Only a tough and sincere leader can minimise it. It will take a while for that type of leader to emerge in Nigeria. In the meantime, police authorities in Abuja should seriously look into their Zone 5 in Benin. Why are these SARS absurdities too frequent in that zone? The Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Zone 5 has some questions to answer.

As for my town’s case, I am thinking of withdrawing from going to court. If we continue, it may come to a point they may ask us to bring mobilisation fee for the judge and the Divisional Police Officer. The case may even drag for 10 years, and we may never even recover our money in any way. Simply put, Nigeria’s justice system stinks!

 

Re: Wobbling economy, cash deposit charges and Vision 2020 

Casmir, thank you for your write-up. In a country where government has not done well in helping the private sector to grow, cash deposit charges are an indirect way of increasing hardship and insecurity. In the words of Fela, “When dead body get accident, na double wahala for dead body and the owner.” Surely, people and corporate bodies will not go to banks for deposits. People will change their money into pounds and dollars and store them in their homes. There will be job losses, as establishments will fold up. All sorts of crimes will increase as insecurity will go back to haunt the government.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

It is very unfair for Central Bank of Nigeria to introduce this policy that will bring hardship to bank customers. This policy will make people to keep their money inside their houses. CBN should revisit that policy and change its mind because it’s an avenue to make banks rich on poor people’s income. Nigerians have been complaining about charges banks impose on their money with different policies without any interest coming out of it.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

According to Karl Marx, capitalism has laid the seed of its own destruction. We are tired of the self-centred/trickle-down policies of Nigerian politicians. A responsible government always considers the effect of policies on the citizenry first. For the Vision 20-20, it is a mirage and dead on arrival, like the previous ones, because there is no specific plan of its actualisation, like the time we were promised Eldorado in 2010. On the issue of VAT/taxes, what have they done with the fund previously? Rather, the money is being shared among themselves, stooges and scions. This is a clarion call to our leaders. Anger/frustration is piling up in the land.

– Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, September 30, 2019.

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