Police and bribery in Nigeria
Bribery (egunje) and Police in Nigeria
"Stop! " shouted a mobile policeman at a check point after a commercial bus driver had zoomed past without handing his usual =N=20 bribe. No response.
A shot rang out followed by an agonized cry and then blood and more blood. That was the end of a driver's life. It came to an end in only a moment of refusing to give a bribe to a wretched policeman. Of course, the policeman ran away for dear life.
At our road check points, instead of usual routine checks, =N=20 changes hands and if a driver fails to succumb or understand the language of the police you might as well be proved dead by accidental discharge. That is the situation we find in Nigeria now especially Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the country.
The year 2002 was a gruesome year for most Lagos drivers. Most of them lost their lives at the hands of irresponsible police men after refusing to part with the usual =N=20. And the painful part is that the policemen always get away with it claiming that it is as a result of accidental discharge.
Now, who are the police protecting? 'Nobody' is the veritable answer to such a question in Nigeria. Two students of the University of Lagos were killed in like-manner and the Federal government, employers of the Nigerian Police Force folds its hands.
Well, the police are not entirely to blame on this issue. We must consider the driving force behind them, most of them are really POOR and are below the 'average Nigerian' which is not supposed to be. People who are supposed to give their lives in protecting the public are expected to be at least comfortable taking bribery out of question.
Their living conditions are nothing to write home about and their promotions come once in a blue moon.'ad infinitum'
This is one of the main reasons why the Nigerian police instead of doing their designated jobs at police check points resort to collecting the sum of =N=20 from every commercial vehicle that passes the route. And they do it boldly flaunting their weapons as if to say -"Hey, Mr. Driver, no games or else..."
The painful part is the pity a considerate human being will develop for the drivers if he tries to look into their situation. How much do they make that warrants their giving =N=20 at every check point? I was travelling to school once and I really got pissed off with the situation cos' we met police men almost every 500m and each demanding for their =N=20. The driver was also pissed off and angry with himself for coming to work that day.
Pitiful, isn't it? Well, the police men including the mobile policemen have even gone as far as developing a new tactic that allows them to keep track of the vehicles they have 'robbed' in a day. They give numbers or alphabets or tags to the conductors of the vehicles. The idea is that, after collecting their 'toll' from the drivers, they apportion him a number or alphabet, so that when he returns, he reels out the ID and they let him go.
There was a particular day, I was in a commercial bus and the conductor on seeing the mobile policemen, decided to pull a fast one. When they asked him for his ID as they code it. He, thinking they were giving numbers that day replied "2" enthusiastically. Unfortunately for him, the policemen were giving alphabets that fateful day. The end result was sad. He was beaten and detained on the road like a common thief and he had to part with a whole =N=500 to relieve himself. The police surely had a field day with that.
In Lagos, the idea is that if you as a driver fail to give your bribe and try to pull one of those James Bond Stunts by speeding away, they cock their guns and fire away, anybody who is hurt is to blame. In 2002, roughly 20 people were killed due to police firing away at drivers who refuse to give bribe. And it is in Nigeria that such is left unpunished. In other countries of the world, such policemen will be put away for life, give or take.
I am quite happy that the Inspector General of police has recently risen up and condemned his men's savage acts and promised to have them executed publicly if caught but the question is, "will they be caught?" I pray so.
Some proponents of State police use this incident to advocate for their cause but I can honestly say that State police is not the answer because it can be misused politically for selfish causes. My own solution is constant prayer for Nigeria and strict anti-corruption measures starting from the helm of authority to the lower ebbs of the Nigerian police force.
To all asorockers out there, join me in praying for the Nigerian Police Force.