By Ayo Opadokun
It is possible to get away with anything in Nigerian if you can pay the bill. Police and even some Military officers are now rented for all manners of ridiculous or condescending activities including using them as temporary aide de camp to smart guys to impress their girlfriends, as recently exposed by some soft-sell magazines.
CHECKPOINT AS EXTORTION CENTRES
However the most offensive and humiliating matter at hand has to do with the illegal toll collection/extortion centres called checkpoints all over the country. The recent revelations that monthly toll collection by police in the Eastern states is running to billions of naira is illustrative. The situation is most unlikely to be different in other parts of the country. One is not equally unaware that some people, including top leaders of government and those of the police, regale us with the mantra that Nigerian police have always excelled at peace-keeping operations outside the country. Let us be frank with ourselves.
The fact is that while the United Nations usually provides reasonably tight supervision and control over police deployed, there is at best perfunctory and self-serving control and supervision on Nigerian police serving locally. Even if you pay a Nigerian Police Constable N50,000 per month, he would ordinarily still extort money. The leadership is uninspiring and always ready to compromise with evil.
That is why many of them are dubiously loyal to any political authority, rather than the Constitution, provided the political authority can pay. For example, most Nigerians believe that the issue of police extortions on the road and in other places is unofficially approved by the police authority. Otherwise, the police leadership could have been able to establish permanent acts of effective sanctions. It has been painfully revealed at critical analytical sessions that superior police officers do expect returns from junior officers; and failure to perform may mean the junior ranks will be subsequently posted to “non-lucrative” routes.
Again, we know that it is possible for the IGP to meet with his deputies, assistants and commissioners to set down a new rule of engagement or operational orders over crime control and prevention. For example, if the IGP is willing to arrest and curb the menace of extortion, let him try to enforce the following among other measures and let us watch the consequences.
(i) Publish telephone numbers, and email addresses of each Divisional Police Officer all over the country in the major media channels so that Nigerians who have hitherto watched helplessly the horrific and wrongful conduct of the police officers can register their complaints with concrete video recordings of such encounters. The public should also be asked to send the recordings of such poor behaviour to designated police email addresses at both the state and zonal division levels that cannot be manipulated by any one. Let the zonal leadership provide effective supervision to ensure that complaints are attended to reasonably and effectively.
Technology can be used to permanently record these sordid events thereby significantly making denials by the particular officers and their superiors pretty difficult. (ii) Decide effective sanctions, including suspension and dismissals, against any DPO in charge of any road block where there are proven recorded tolls extortion through whatever means. It should no longer matter whether or not a checkpoint was legal or not.
The recent ghastly accident at the Lagos end of the Lagos/Ibadan road on August 15 was a painful reminder of how the police can in their dubious denials exhibit their callousness against the people they are paid to protect. And it is a regular occurrence that when there are no accidents as recently witnessed in Lagos, there would be accidental discharge against defenceless people by police forcing a commercial driver to pay illegal money to them.