Towards A Corrupt Free Nigeria Police In The 21st Century
“We have a zero tolerance for payment of money to free suspect. I am appealing to members of the public, not to corrupt my men; it takes two to tango. If they ask you for bribe and you refuse to give, and you have avenues where your grievances can be ventilated, I do not see any reason why you should give them bribe. The Commissioner of Police is there; the Area Commander is there; the DPO is there; and the technical platform (to report corrupt policemen) is there. We have opened ourselves to public accountability. So, you cannot now say the whole problem should be blamed on the police force’’, those were the words of the former Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase.
There are many issues which have made the Nigerian Police to engross in corrupt practices. These issues are the root causes behind every corrupt practice we see in the Nigerian Police.
What makes a Police Officer to collect bribe? Why do people bribe Police Officers easily? Why is the public image’ about Nigerian Police not pleasant? What could be responsible for this terrible image of the Nigerian Police in the public? These are many questions the Inspector General of Police should be asking and finding solutions to, if the problem of corruption in the Nigerian Police is to be minimized.
Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian society and seems intractable, but the situation can be remedied given disciplined and forthright leadership and a citizenry that is united in its resentment to corruption. By March 1987, corruption and indiscipline had been identified as the two most serious problems confronting Nigeria since independence.
It is germane to note that corruption had always being the excuse given by the military to take over of political power, yet it continued however.
The Nigeria Police is perhaps the most visible agent of government. This is because the Police are the caretakers of the society. To a large extent, the growth, actions and behaviours of the Police as an institution, not only reflect the political and economic character of society, but also mirror what those in power are willing or able to endure or perhaps even demand of the Police. It is rather mentioned merely to remind my reader that corruption within the ranks of the Police owes its origins in part to the wishes, desires and goals of its colonial creators.
Corruption exists in the Nigeria Police much the same as it does in any other Police organisation the World over, except perhaps, in terms of its extent and the organisation’s reaction to it. Nonetheless, the issue of corruption in the Nigeria Police as noted above cannot be treated in isolation of the larger society.
On a weekly if not daily basis, the media in Nigeria reports on one act of corruption or other illegality perpetrated by the Police somewhere in the country. Transparency International not only listed Nigeria as one of the foremost nations afflicted by corruption, but also ascribed to the Nigerian law enforcement a contributory percentage of the activity that caused the rating.
The paraphernalia of corruption are social and economic. Governments and communities suffer from the malady as it makes them uneconomic in that less revenue is collected, with a loss to government much greater than the individual gains; More money is paid for the goods and services procured; Policies are misleading to maximize corrupt gains, usually in favour of capital intensive spending; Resources are diverted away from social and developmental priorities; Investment is discouraged; Society becomes unstable, because people become angry, particularly the poor who cannot afford to pay bribes and who get hurt the most, and others whose human rights are violated; The rich bait antipathy, through wanting more riches and modest their corrupt gains they make corruption a political issue; Society becomes unsafe because bribes protect criminals and facilitate drug-smuggling, gun-running, terrorism and other crimes; Bribes make the protection of society nose-dive, because people pay bribes to avoid compliance with the requirements for health, safety and the environment.
Corruption in the Police is both internal and external which for apparent reasons draws greater attention. By way of definition, corruption in Policing is the misuse of authority by a Police officer acting officially to fulfil or achieve his personal needs or wants.
It involves the simultaneous presence of three distinct elements namely misuse of Authority; misuse of official capacity and misuse of personal attainment. There is no reason to believe that Police officers as individuals are necessarily of a stronger moral fibre by upbringing or training than any other member of society. However, when a Police officer is found wanting or violates the law, the disgrace expressed by society is at its highest. This is simply because the nonconformity of a Police officer let down the confidence and trust of society and worst still, blots the entire organisation. The impact of this realisation may further be compounded by the knowledge that corruption in the Police can invert the goals of the organisation to the extent that Police powers encourage and create crime, rather than deter it.
Corrupt behaviour as understood by the ordinary Nigerian probably consists of: pay-offs to the Police by essentially law abiding citizens for infringement of statutes such as traffic laws; pay-offs to the police by organised crime or individuals who habitually break the law to make money such as drug dealers or prostitutes; the receipt of money, favours or discounts for services rendered; pocketing recovered money from the proceeds of crime; giving false testimony to ensure dismissal of cases in court and the actual perpetration of criminal acts to mention a few. The danger apparent is that in extreme cases, Police are not just protecting criminals, but have become a complicit part in the planning and execution of crimes.
How best do we fight corruption in the Nigeria Police? In my own opinion, the Police force must take ownership of the fight against corruption within its organisation and master the in-house battles against graft. It is not so much the fact that officers are tempted by money that is important, but whether an institutional culture exists to discourage it. The fight to be effective must be taken on an operational and policy level.
The ‘X’ Squad exists to combat corruption in the Nigeria Police. It has to rely on information mainly within the force to achieve any significant impact. Over the years, there have been few instances recorded as successes but, by and large it has been a failure for two principal reasons.
First, Police officers are extremely reluctant to inform on one another as this in itself is seen as a form of disloyalty and secondly, the ‘X’ Squad Officers who themselves are somewhat scorned, are reluctant to make sensitivities among their colleagues worst. Besides which they are not immune from suspicion themselves. The lack of success of this section though lends itself to an interpretation which unavoidably cast slanders on the leadership of the force. The section needs strengthening, capacity building and the full backing of the organisation in order to come out of hiding and meet the expectations of its existence.
On a policy level the Police must in principle have an organization committed fully to Openness, Transparency and Impartiality in the conduct of its activities. To enhance transparency and ensure consistency in policy guidelines on staff, administrative and operational matters, a guideline must be created, updated and brought to the attention of all Police officers. The guidelines should cover amongst others: Staff recruitment, promotion and posting procedures; Job description/schedule of each post; Keeping and checking attendance registers; Performance appraisals; Staff complaints; Investigations; Operational procedures, and Disciplinary procedures to mention a few.
Similarly, a Code of Conduct for Police officers needs to be developed for the consumption of all ranks to ensure that officers are committed to ethical practices in the discharge of their duties. A breach of the code should attract stringent disciplinary action. The code should cover these key elements: Corporate governance and the mission statement; Rules on the acceptance of advantages; Guidelines on conflict of interest and, procedures to declare conflicts; and to handle such declarations; Rules on the acceptance of entertainment; Handling of proprietary information; Use of organisational resources.
Corruption within the Police like crime within society is unlikely to be eradicated. It can however be controlled by the Police but with the assistance and support of society. At the organisational level controlling corruption requires strong and determined leadership, because corruption occurs at the very top as well as the bottom and all points in between in the hierarchy. The top Police brass must make it clear that corruption in all its forms will not be tolerated and furthermore will be severely punished. If concerted and stringent action is not taken against corrupt activity, the message down the ranks will be that of tolerance which will only serve to increase corruption within the organisation.
Moreover, in training institutions ethical behaviour and decision should be rewarded, promoted and applauded because failing to make officers aware of the consequences of corruption only serves to encourage it. Irrespective of the present effectiveness of sections such as the ‘X’ Squad, it should be strengthened and encouraged as its existence serves as a deterrent. The Public Relations Department of the Nigeria Police should highlight educational programmes within communities that touch on the negative effects of Police corruption. Communities must realise that even the most basic form of corruption, gratification only acts as a catalyst to more sinister forms of misdeeds. One further point, perhaps it is time that Police Officers who have been proven to have known of corruption among their colleagues but remain silent should be sanctioned by the Nigeria Police or the law.
Police management needs to encourage regular anti-graft educational talks and seminars in which its officers participate. These talks should be integrated in training programmes for all cadres from the Training Schools to the Academy through to the Staff College. The training session would cover anti-graft legislation, the effects of corruption, and the problems caused by conflict of interest and indebtedness as a beginning.
Case studies of different scenarios involving Police work would be used to stimulate discussion among officers on the ethical dilemmas the may face. Ultimately through these sessions police officers will acquire the basic knowledge and skills to guard against the temptations of corruption, while senior officers gain knowledge in managing staff integrity.
Every Nigerian Police Officer should be provided with two sets of complete uniforms and kits in a year; adequate provision of working tools/logistics and operational costs that will make the average Police officer be independent of complainants support in the investigation of reported cases for instance; The outlook of most Police Stations are not encouraging, it must be given the needed attention. With no decent chairs and tables, electronic appliances and communication gadgets, it becomes difficult and uncomfortable for the average Police officer to find the job interesting. Police Barracks should be well-furnished for Police officers to occupy.
Police Stations should be encouraged to have dedicated petrol stations to constantly fuel their patrol vehicles. They should also have their own mechanic workshops and stores with all the relevant car spare parts to regularly maintain their vehicles, both heavy duty and smaller vehicles.
Police officers transferred from their duty post should be given enough funds to accommodate themselves, immediately they get to their new stations. The Nigeria Police should have Guest Houses well equipped, in each State of the federation to address accommodation problem.
The Nigerian Police should have their own separate yearly budgets that would address all their operational needs and logistics that are not controlled or dictated by government Executives.
You will agree with the fact that it is practically impossible to have personnel of the Nigeria Police to stay committed at their jobs and give her best and all the skills they can muster, if their basic welfare and well-being in relation to the jobs are not adequately taken care of or given the required attention.
I am however glad that the new Inspector General of Police, Ibahim Idris is on the same page with me and has ready set the motion to address most of these issues I have raised here.
Additional information was sourced from Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission
Adewole Kehinde is a Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja and can be reached via [email protected]