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Bribery in the Police is the Root Cause of Nigerian Corruption: Let us fix what is Broken By Dr. Young Benjamin Fiabema

Picture of Nigerian Police OfficersThe recent 13-year jail sentence of the former governor of Delta State, His Excellency Chief James Onanefe Ibori, who had been standing trial for corruption and money laundering charges in a UK court, is an example of functional justice in a democracy with a disciplined democratic police force.

Justice in any society does not come from thin air. The only institution capable of challenging widespread corruption problem in any democratic system is the judiciary. However, justice is attained when the proper material conditions of law enforcement are appropriately set to work with the judiciary.

Had the British police force paid more attention to their self-serving instinct of taking bribe or chosen to neglect subsequent societal impact and responsibility, the corrupt former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori could have avoided conviction as he did in Nigeria.

The question now becomes: where did Nigerian law enforcement go wrong? Did the law enforcement intentionally perform untidy investigation? Did His Excellency Chief James Ibori or any of his associates influence the Nigerian judicial system to gain his freedom? If so, did the Nigerian law enforcement mount credible investigation?

While as Nigerians we may not find answers to these questions, I am sure we shall all agree that Nigeria’s efforts in fighting corruption have become a laughing stock in the world. With self-reflection, I will argue that the immediate and remote causes of corruption in Nigeria lie with the corrupt practices of the Nigerian police force.

Corruption does not just turn off like a faucet through fancy political statement from the Inspector General of Police or any political appointee. The danger of corruption is that it can mask all its social injuries with a temporary pleasure and provide illusive reward. Corruption is like a poisonous desert that feels so good in consumption but proves so lethal to the body. Corruption may gratify our self-serving needs, but it does not satisfy the needs of future generation. It is poisonous iniquity planted to ruin our children, grandchildren and society at large.

The failure of the Nigerian police to effectively track criminals, corrupt politicians and corrupt judges are few examples of their incompetence. This has undoubtedly led to credible progressions of corruption in the country. Police corruption still remains to be one of the largest social impediments in the fight against corruption.

First, for the purposes of clarification, the Nigerian police exist to preserve and improve the quality of life in Nigeria, instill peace and protect property through the enforcement of our laws and ordinances, while they pay unwavering attention to actions that may amputate us from internal criminal acts. Unfortunately, they have failed us in all counts.

My observation of the police on the streets of Port Harcourt during my brief three weeks visit with my American friend was quite revealing. With audacity, they boldly collected exorbitant illegal bribe from motorists and criminals without hiding from public view.

It is public knowledge that the Nigerian police routinely solicit kickbacks from victims to investigate crimes. In other instances, they collect bribe from suspects to drop investigations. Ironically, senior police officers do not only collude with criminals, they participate in embezzlement of police funds and demand monetary “returns” from money extorted from the public by their subordinates. Corruption is personified in their everyday activity on our street.

Looking at the way and manner the Nigerian police operate, one will think they are void of conscience and professional ethics. Their supervisors are not just decorated corrupt chief police officers; they are indeed the ring leaders of corruption or should I say the administrators of corruption?

These bosses deploy “foot soldiers” in their units to highly travelled sections of the city to set up road blocks. A portion of the bribe that is illegally collected at these road blocks is routinely amassed by the unit supervisors. By way of example, in March 2012, a police corporal was shot and killed by his supervisor (Police Inspector) over a dispute on the ‘Sharing Formula’ of kickbacks that was illegally collected on the streets of Port Harcourt.

It is common practice to observe Nigerian police soliciting or accepting bribe in exchange for not reporting organized kidnap, armed robbery, political corruption and other illegal activities. Opportunistic theft from arrestees, crime victims or even their corpses is not uncommon practice within the force. In some other instances, police officers may deliberately and methodically falsify evidence to evade conviction of criminals who have given bribe. Planting, modifying or adding to evidence on innocent poor citizens is another immoral act commonly practiced by the police.

If there is any Nigerian institution that refuses to live up to its constitutional job requirement, it is the Nigerian police force. Corruption in the police force is observed by every Nigerian citizen on daily basis.

The performance of their duties on our highways is a working contradiction to what is expected from any responsible law enforcement agency. The difference between what police officers do on our streets and what is expected based on the definition of the word “POLICE” is so shockingly inconsistent that I will compare it to an ATHEIST or JUJU PRIEST whose religious responsibility is Christianity.

The corrupt actions of the Nigerian police in our society are so deplorable that even the mere mention of the name POLICE to any Nigerian is considered synonymous with corruption. Worse yet, the mention of Nigerian law enforcement to foreigners in Nigeria is synonymous to everything that is shameful, everything that is repulsive, and everything that is unjust. No wonder our tourism industry suffers greatly.

Criminals in Nigeria often will pay high level police officers a monthly allowance to enable criminals carry out criminal activities without stoppage. Paradoxically, while the criminals pay such large sums of money to the police to finance fraudulent activities, the Nigerian Police could kill or become abusive to the law abiding poor that cannot afford bribe or citizens who refuse to give bribe based on ethical reasons. Many in the police will pile up their pockets with massive large sums of money through fraudulent practices.

The question we have to ask therefore is: If effective prosecution and penalty are the answers to corruption in Nigeria, who is responsible to enforce the laws and ordinances that can vigorously prosecute the corrupt officials? I am sure you will agree with me that the Nigerian police are the leaseholders to this constitutional responsibility. That being said, the next question is: Given the flood of corruption in Nigeria, Is it fair to conclude that Nigerian police corrupt practices have been the foundation or enabling bed-rock to Nigerian corruption?

In every society, increase in crime or corruption is not due to the abundance of criminals or corrupt officials, it is simply due to either the corrupt practices of the law enforcement or incompetence of the law enforcement agents. Nigeria is not an exception.

While accurate information about the prevalence of police corruption and abuse of power in Nigeria may be hard to come by, the Nigerian Police Force has been implicated in frequent human rights violations, including extra judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and extortion-related abuses. These unethical actions clearly undermine justice in a democratic society and further promote corruption.

The general aggressiveness of the police in the misuse of their powers for personal gain or their participation of other unethical actions has contributed immensely to the root cause or prevalence of corruption in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the Nigerian police does not have an effective system to investigate and prosecute any suspected police corruption and misconduct.

The solution to corruption will require the complete overhaul of the law enforcement system. Although there are many barriers to successfully control corruption in Nigeria, there is evidence that restructuring of the Nigerian police can provide effective prescription to the fight against corruption. Police corruption in Nigeria cannot be viewed as a few bad eggs; the causes of corruption includes factors that are intrinsic to policing as a job. We must view police as a service similar to other services provided by the public such as private security agencies where a competent workforce is a necessity and poor work performance can lead to summary dismissal.

As practiced in the United States of America, to ensure a police force with a high moral character and accountability, different government organs should be left to provide cost effective and competitive solutions for policing.

When police assignment, promotion, salary and supervision are controlled by politicians, politicians will come up with laws that protect themselves, not the People. They clearly will have incentives to formulate laws which ensure that even when a corrupt politician is caught, he or she can evade conviction as observed in the case of Chief James Onanefe Ibori.

Creation of Local, State and Federal police will proactively address the unique and immediate conditions that give rise to corruption, public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of national security. The federal police with its wider jurisdiction, authority and operations will work in conjunction with local and state police to ensure various levels of effective police coordination. The Federal police can also ensure the quality of policing through investigation and prosecution of those who commit crimes anywhere in the country as they protect judges, the court and witnesses.

Once our police service is left completely independent through decentralization to the likes of the United States and other developed countries, there will be an incentive for the police to serve the public effectively. It will create collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the court system. A complete independent police force will create a system where the court and police can expand their roles to serve the people as they work together to uphold the rule of law and improve the lives and security of Nigerians.

Dr. Young Benjamin Fiabema
yfiabema@yahoo.com

One Response to “Bribery in the Police is the Root Cause of Nigerian Corruption: Let us fix what is Broken By Dr. Young Benjamin Fiabema”

  1. But 1 tin i want nigeria police 2 know is dat thier life is ful of extortion wich can not make us differs btw good egg or bad egg.

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