By Rotimi Fasan
THE National Bureau for Statistics, NBS, in conjunction with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, and the European Union, EU, has stirred the hornet’s nest and has for that reason come under a barrage of attacks with the release of its corruption perception index report for 2017. Going by the NBS report, Nigerians don’t have much respect for the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, nor do they care much for the judiciary.
For Nigerians, these two institutions are the most corrupt in the country. I return to the police shortly. But before that a word or two about the judiciary, the institution that now competes with the police for the corruption crown, according to Nigerians. While the judiciary is not as poorly resourced as the police, it is nevertheless relatively less resourced than the legislative and executive arms of government. This is talking of the Bench.
But the point of the matter is that the Bench has now found a way round its imposed poverty. It is now in cahoots with the Bar in providing a leeway for corrupt public officers and politicians through whom it takes care of itself. The Bar and the Bench have contributed so much to our corruption narrative that it is surprising to hear the National Judicial Council , NJC, reject the NBS report. No doubt the judiciary has developed a thick skin to criticism as its executive and legislative counterparts. It has become so blatant in its ways that the effacing sobriety that was once a part of that profession has completely evaporated. In rejecting the NBS report, the NJC is in effect saying it has lost all sense of shame. It is as if this body has quickly forgotten its shameful quibbling in the case of seven senior judges found to have compromised their positions this past year. Given its recent performance, the Nigerian judiciary as a whole should be ashamed to talk at this time.
The case of the police is a little understandable if not pardonable. The police takes the cake for corruption, closely followed by the judiciary, the NBS report says. That the police is characterised as corrupt shouldn’t come as news to many except, perhaps, members of the NPF itself. Nigerians don’t need any survey to know or conclude that the police is the most corrupt public institution in the country. Neither do they need the services of a statistician to reach this conclusion. The evidence is all around us. You only need to be out there and without making an effort you see for yourself why Nigerians think very poorly of the police.
As a people, many Nigerians do their best to avoid any contact with the police even going to the extent of abandoning what one would consider ordinary civic responsibilities or humanitarian acts such as rendering assistance to victims of accidents or armed robbery. The belief is that the police could turn your act of good neighbourliness into crime and you end up being held liable for something you know nothing about. Nigerians see police personnel simply as bribe takers. They need no statistics to arrive at this conclusion. The evidence, again, is out there for all to see- on our roads and in our police stations where people are compelled to pay to effect bails. Given what Nigerians already know of the police, what we should be concerned about is how we could bring about a change in the state of our police force as it was not always like this.
The fact is that the police reflects our moral standing as a country. As a people, we cannot be better than the institutions we have created to meet our needs. The problem with the police is the problem with the Nigerian state and Nigerians in general. The fact that the same NBS report that indicts the police and the judiciary says 95% of Nigerians are liable to offer or take bribe confirms my point. If the police has fallen into disrepute, an institution that caters to the private needs of individuals and groups able to afford its services, it is because Nigerians have made it so. The police can neither be more morally upright than the civil service nor business organisations nor, indeed, than the politicians or public office holders officers are routinely deployed to protect.
Police officers cannot be less of bribe takers or destroyers of laid down regulations than medical doctors, Power Holding Company officials or teachers. The only reason we are fixated on the police is because we encounter them in all their rottenness everyday. Otherwise, the police force is not more corrupt than other institutions in the country- certainly not more than the National Assembly where laws are enacted to cover the tracts of members.
Except for Tafa Balogun and, perhaps, Ibrahim Idris, the current Inspector General of Police (if Senator Isah Mohammed Misau is to be believed), which police man takes or steals anything close to what has been and is still being traced to Diezani Allison-Madueke, a former minister of Petroleum Resources? Is it the N20 beggarly-looking police officers demand on the highway that makes them worse than the many criminals in public office? Funds meant for the police have been embezzled in this country without anything happening to the individuals and groups involved. The police force, for example, will experience a new lease of life if the billions traced to Allison-Madueke alone can be injected into it.
This is a poorly resourced institution whose officers live and are trained in environments fit only for criminals. We should be surprised that there are still some honest Nigerians in the police. Otherwise, we might as well hand our protection over to armed bandits given the kind of Nigerians we have allowed to populate the police force. The fact is that the police is both a brutal and brutalising institution. Nothing of much good can come out of an institution like that except urgent and deliberate efforts are made. But how prepared are we to turn things around for the police force, an institution that suffers from the corruption in which it is steeped?
The scandalous affair that trailed promotion of officers this year including the recent allegation by Senator Misau that senior police officers pay millions of naira to Ibrahim Idris, the IGP, and a clique around him in order to get ‘juicy’ postings are issues that should worry us all. But how can we worry about the police when those ruling us are perpetrators of far more terrible corruption and in fact make the corruption in the police something close to inevitability? The police has been put in a bad shape by us. Let us do what is proper to turn it around.