EVERY Nigerian policeman, for uncountable reasons, believes he is a victim of the society he serves. A police refrain for years is that each society deserves the police it gets. Nigeria cannot be an exception.
It is a wonder then that police authorities are bothering about theft in its pay system, suspected to be in the range of N6 billion. Arrests have been made and some have been charged to court.
The surprise is that the police hierarchy thinks that the matter deserves urgent attention and wants to deal with it. Are there types of corruption that disturbs the authorities while others are not important?
How did the authorities know only three police commands are cheating policemen and women of their entitlements?
Can only six people pull out N6 billion from the resources of the Nigeria Police? Have complaints of policemen being denied of their entitlements, not been on for years? The indifference or complicity of the authorities is also responsible for the plight of thousands of policemen who cannot access their meagre pensions.
Nigerians will be interested in how this anti-corruption gale sweeps. Can the police investigate their members. We hope this issue will be different.
We do not support criminals. If there are some in the police, they need to be weeded out for the force to do a better job of fighting criminals.
However, it appears the authorities choose which crimes to fight. Crimes outside the list do not count. When policemen mount illegal roadblocks that cause accidents, resulting in deaths, their criminality goes unpunished. Instead, the authorities shield the offenders from prosecution and a little after, they are back to their beats doing the same things.
Last August, Human Rights Watch, HRW, published a report, which accused the police of extorting N20.35 billion at checkpoints between January 2009 and June 2010. It gave the breakdown as South- East N9.35 billion, South-South N4 billion, South-West N4 billion, North Central and Abuja, N2 billion, North -East and North-West N500 million each.
The police promptly dismissed the report as bunkum. It did not investigate the allegation, but checkpoints, banned more than five years ago, are still operating. The extortion continues and some of those unwilling to pay, or those who waste time in complying, are killed. The offending policemen are not prosecuted.
Is the pay roll fraud a bigger crime than the unlawful killings the police carry out on the roads? Is extortion no longer a crime?
Our point is that there are more policemen to charge to court for more serious offences than stealing from the pay roll. If the authorities wanted to stop the theft, they could have used the same technology a government agency, Nigeria Immigration Service, has used for more than five years.
We shall assume that the police have started a cleansing. Can they sustain it?