Nigerian Police Operation- By Michael Egbejumi-David
Recently I was in Nigeria. Right about the middle of my stay, my younger brother on his way to work one early morning was accosted by three smartly-dressed men of the underworld. He was made to lie face down on the ground, only occasionally checking
his face. After they satisfied themselves that he wasn't the person they were looking for (I hope it wasn't me!!), they took his wallet off him and drove away. My brother, thoroughly shaken, staggered his way to the nearest police station to report the crime. The officer at the desk coolly informed him that to make a report at all, my brother had to pay N2,000. In the end, the officer reluctantly accepted the N1,200 that was left in my brother's car. And that was where the whole matter ended as far as law enforcement was concerned.
Well, that got me thinking. I decided whilst I was still on the ground, to do a little research into how the Nigerian Police Force really operates. I conducted - you might say - a double blind, randomised control research! Basically, the Nigerian Police more or less gave up on fighting crime a long time ago. It is now all about making money.
These are my initial findings:
· The main funding of Police rank and file comes from illegal road blocks and checkpoints. In a 2010 Human Rights Watch account, it was reported that between January 2009 and June 2010, the Police had collected from road users some N20.35 billion. That sum was further broken down by region: the South East N9.35 billion, South South N4 billion, South West N4 billion, North Central and Abuja N2 billion, North East N500 million and the North West N500 million
There is a curious regulation that originally requires vehicles with blacked-out windows to register with the office of the Inspector General at about N20,000. However, the officers on the road stop all vehicles with tinted screens. Non possession of the clearance document costs you N5,000
Generally, commercial vehicles cough up N20 at every road block even if they can see the next checkpoint a few metres ahead
Sometimes those road blocks in close proximity are manned by officers from the same Police station - usually close to festive/holiday times
For private vehicle owners, it's a different ball game. There are mainly two types of checkpoint stoppages. When you are stopped with a smile and a 'oga, your boys are here o,' means you should use your discretion and these type of officers always make the most money
'Wey your particulars' means your contribution is anywhere between N100 and N200
Engine number check is about N500, but if you are unfortunate enough to run into an officer who says that he could not tell whether the figure '4' looks like a '9' then the cost to you jumps to N1,000
Don't worry about having only large denominations on you. The officers carry plenty of change with them and will always give you the absolute correct change - no cheating
But you will not find the officers with bulging pockets. This is because every now and again, the Feds drive through and will check the officers for money. Anything more than N2,000 on each individual officer means all the officers at that checkpoint get bundled away somewhere where they themselves will have to roja-up for their release
So where does all that money go? In the past, it used to go into a large tin or container just off the road in a little bush area. But some boys (particularly in the South East) have become experts at distracting the officers while one of them nick and cart their tithe away. These days, watch out for the pure water seller that doesn't seem to stray too far away from the checkpoint and only seem to sell to the officers. She is the banker.
But this is not all. There are still other means of making money off the citizens:
For most MOPOL, a posting to a politician or a big man/madam is the ultimate career goal. Interested MOPOL has to first agree to regularly hand over a percentage of his monthly salary (about 10%) to his boss. But don't worry, the MOPOL actually makes the bulk of his earnings (plus feeding and drinking) from his new civilian oga
It is an unfortunate day to be out and about when a DPO's girlfriend comes to demand for some money, or the DPO's jeep needs some repair work, or his kids are about to return to school
Without fail, the DPO gathers his officers in his office and gives them a straightforward mandate to bring back to him, say N45,000. No elaboration is required
His officers fan themselves across the commercial areas of town looking for fights, scuffles, arguments and such other spectacle or incidences. When they happen on one, they pack everybody present - certainly as many people as their vehicles can take - and herd them off to the police station
'Oga, I no follow' or 'oga I no dey o' will cost you N1,000. Active participants will part with between N3,000 and N5,000 or they become guests to mosquitoes bigger than their shirt buttons
If town proves too peaceful that day, the officers are likely to wander around residential areas and pick off men in wrappers and chewing sticks talking or lolling about in front of their homes and charge them with 'breaking curfew'
If you 'break curfew,' your bail cost is N1,000. Now, the reason they pick out people in only a wrapper is because they are unlikely to have mobile phones on them. The officers carefully ensure that this group spend one affectionate night in police custody. By then, their relatives have become sufficiently worried that by the time one of the officers call to inform them that their person is in their custody, the family are so relieved, they pay up the N1,000 without even the customary bargaining
However it is not over. During the phone call, the officer would very graciously inform the family that he is using his own personal 'handset' to call because 'I am assisting your brother. I be born-again and I no like to see good people suffer like this.' Interpretation? Bring a recharge card with you to the police station.
But how has it come to this? Well, for one thing, various military regimes selfishly ensured that police recruitment and infrastructure collapsed nationally. Secondly, the people at the very top of its command are even more insensitive and more devious. When the government gives, say, N20 billion to the Force, the IG first takes his cut. Then the AIGs take theirs. The Commissioners finish off the rest. NOTHING at all goes towards what the money was originally intended for and nothing gets to the rank and file Police men and women. They are left to fend for themselves.
So you see? Please ante up as you sing Nigeria we hail thee…