By Aare Afe Babalola

LAST week, I examined the problems of welfare and accommodation afflicting the Nigeria Police Force and the consequences. This week, however, I will be x-raying the cankerworm called corruption and how it has affected the country and the Nigeria Police. It is no more news that for some times now, things have changed for the worse for most Nigerians many of whom are churning out daily.

Regrettably, however, the Nigeria Police is peopled by human beings (Nigerians) who cannot be totally insulated from the viruses such as insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen’s attacks, grinding poverty, robbery, decayed infrastructure, unpaid salaries, pensions and other emoluments, badly depreciated Naira, the adverse effect of the heavy external debt burden and, of course, corruption that have infected our society.

Corruption: Corruption was unknown when Nigeria became independent in 1960. I had the opportunity of writing on this issue on October 1, 2020 when I said:  “It was abominable and detested. It was introduced to Nigeria by European, Lebanese and Indian contractors and businessmen.

It was forbidden by native laws and customs and traditional religion. It was visited with instant judgement by Sango, the god of Thunder and Ogun, the god of Iron. But the story is now different in the contemporary Nigeria where corruption is prevalent.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, Nigeria is the second most corrupt country in West Africa and 34th most corrupt country in the world. Transparency International in a new report also affirmed that corruption now worse in Nigeria. 

Definition of Police corruption: Corruption, in general is defined as the misuse of power or authority for private gain. Therefore, a fitting definition for Police corruption might be “the misuse of a Police Officer’s power or authority for personal or material gain for himself or others”. Police corruption is a universal problem.

However, it is a particular challenge in Nigeria with an ever-increasing misconduct that impacts on the development of Police institution in the country. According to Spector (2011), corruption, generally defined as abuse of authority for private gain, is among the world’s oldest practices. It has been identified as the biggest challenge that confronts governance machinery in Nigeria.

Nigeria, as a nation, is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. Corruption in the administration of law means that equal access is denied. According to International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2009, corruption in turn undermines fair trials, fair elections, economic and social opportunities, cultural expression and access to the necessities of food, housing, health, education and water.

The Corrupt practices of the Nigerian Police has been identified as one of the most visible manifestations of corruption in the country with the former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Michael Okiro, noting as far back as 2007 that “corruption has come to characterise the behaviour of an average policeman”.

Accurate information about the prevalence of police corruption is hard to come by, since the corrupt activities tend to happen in secret and Police organisations have little incentive to publish information about corruption. Indeed, Police officials and researchers alike have argued that in some countries, large-scale corruption involving the Police not only exist, but can even become institutionalised.

It is not unsual to see police officers collecting money from private and commercial motorists at checkpoints mounted across the country. However, beyond these ubiquitous checkpoints, police officers are in the habit of displaying their corrupt tendencies in criminal investigations and other sundry duties. So many crimes go un-investigated by the Police where influential persons, including those in government, are fingered as suspects or where the suspects “sort the police investigators”, a euphemism for bribe payment.

In many cases, Police will file criminal cases and leak information about such cases to the Press. When such cases would come up, the Police would ask for adjournments because they could not produce the required witnesses. Years after, the cases would be abandoned and that would be the end of such cases. In some instances, the IPO will deliberately destroy the case in the witness box by contradicting himself. 

There was the case of one Emmanuel Ajayi in Ibadan. He asked his wife who had a baby to follow him to the farm at Old Bodija. When they arrived at the farm, the man was uprooting the cassava roots while the woman who was carrying a basket, was picking the cassava.

Meanwhile the woman put the baby on a wrapper on the ground. For some inexplicable reasons, the man went and chopped off the head of the wife and went to the Police Station to report that he had just killed his wife!!!  The Police followed him to the farm. They saw the corpse, a pair of shoes and a cutlass. They took everything away to the Police Station. The man made a confessional statement. The family came and employed me to defend him.

During trial, I asked the Prosecutor a few questions: you know that near that farm there is a foot path leading to another village? Answer: Yes. You know people go up and down using that same road? Answer: Yes. You succeeded in retrieving the cutlass? Yes! Did you send it to the Forensic Laboratory in Oshodi, Lagos, for test? Answer: No. You also found a pair of shoes at the scene? Answer: Yes. Did you send it to the Forensic Laboratory? Answer: No. And I said: My Lord, that was the end of the case. I made a no case submission. 

The judge was furious. He said: “Look at you Police, you have spoilt a clear case. The man had to be acquitted because you have allowed too many loopholes due to poor investigation on the ownership of the shoes and of the cutlass. You also did not check who used the road at the time”. The man was acquitted. According to recent Human Rights Watch (2012), officers of the Nigeria Police often commit crimes against the very citizens they are mandated to protect.

On several occasions, Nigerians who are only trying to make ends meet are accosted on a daily basis by armed police officers who demand bribes, threatening those that refuse “to play ball” with arrest or physical harm. On a good number of occasions, the level of brutality has been exposed through the killing and maiming of those that refuse to “settle” police officers whenever they make such demands.

Don’t forget that there had been cases of high-level police officers who embezzle public funds meant to pay for Police operations. The situation is so disturbing that the Human Rights Watch Report (2012) concludes that in Nigeria, the Police have become “a symbol of unfettered corruption, mismanagement and abuse”.

Unfortunately, and unknown to many of the men in uniform, police corruption wastes resources, undermines security, makes mockery of justice, slows economic development and alienates the people from the government. Because the Police are the primary institution for implementing laws in any society, corrupt practices by the Police inhibit the implementation of the rule of law. 

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