Who will save Nigeria?
Who will save Nigeria from the menace of corruption, which is ravaging the country, holding it by its jugular, to the pains and detriment of its ordinary citizens? When will Nigeria receive its independence from corruption and the malaise that has kept it at its
knees, making it a laughing stock in the comity of civilised and progressive nations? Everywhere you go, the smell of corruption is thick in the air and you can hardly make a success of any business, project or programme unless you are corrupt. As a matter of fact you look odd, foolish and somehow incompetent if you don't know how to bribe or offer gratification for what ordinarily should be your birth or legal right. Ironically, everybody vilifies corruption and brood over its pang but then manages to be part of it one way or the other using the corrupt tendencies of the other as a justification for his own. How many Nigerians would feel comfortable to walk up to a police station for one assistance or the other even in the face of the slogan that police is your friend?
Not even lawyers can beat their chest that they can walk comfortably into the premises of the Nigerian police to plead the cause of their client considering the humiliation you are going to suffer if you expect to get any free services from the station. Whatever your designation may be your road will certainly be very rough. It is of no moment that the Inspector General of Police is your friend, your road will still be rough if your expectation is to walk in and walk out without dropping something, never mind that there is a big sign board right at the entrance of the police station warning you that bail is free or that 'corruption is evil, shun it'. If you take the admonition too seriously you may end up being bashed or dented in your face for having the effrontery to 'teach a policeman how to do his job' or 'for conduct likely to insult the police in his office'. Yes, you may have â€¨ access to the IG in which case you can quickly call on him for his intervention if you run into a hitch at any police station.
The truth of the matter is that at some point even the IG will stop picking your calls once he finds out that you don't know more than reporting the case of extortion by policemen. You may call him till eternity, your call would mean nothing to him because as far as he is concerned you an enemy of the force. I relate closely with senior officers of the force most of whom no longer find anything desirable in our relationship. Of what use is a man who would always report their men and officers who ask for gratification? Is corruption peculiar to the Nigerian Police Force? What about all those senators and political office holders who contribute little or nothing to the polity yet go home with outrageous perks? What about governors and other political office holders who milk the nation dry and yet no eyebrow is raised except the officers who merely collect a token as bribe to augment the little given to them by the government for doing so much. In other words the justification for corruption in this case for which reason no war must be waged against it as far as these officers are concerned is because other Nigerians indulge in it. The provisions of S. 338 of the Police Act which enjoins every police officer 'to use his best endeavour to uphold the good name of the force and to further good relations with the public' and that of S. 339 of the Act which demands that 'a police officer shall be determined and incorruptible in the exercise of his police duties' make no sense at all. If these laws are not direct enough or vague in context, what about Article 7 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials which states unequivocally that 'Law Enforcement Officials shall not commit any act of corruption. They shall also rigorously oppose and combat all such acts'. What this ordinarily suggests is that corruption is thriving simply because the police failed in their duty to 'rigorously oppose and combat it'. So rather than using corruption of others as a raison detre for the unconscionable and embarrassing corruption that is on in the force , police should see it as a sign of failure on their part. â€¨
I remember once dragging a senior police officer before Mr. Israel Ajao in his days as the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, when the former demanded for gratification before he would release a suspect on bail. Right in my presence, he sent for the erring officer and took him to task on the allegation. After counseling the officer about the need to be upright he ordered him to release the person immediately since the erring officer himself confessed that no offence had been disclosed by their investigation. But there was an ACP in the CP's office, who made an unsolicited intervention thus: 'why is it that you all shout when police officers are involved, what about others who are corrupt, you don't make noise about such'. Hear Ajao '…..no no no, that defence is not available to us. We are like Caesar's wife who must be above board. Others may be corrupt, we are not supposed to be, in fact it is our duty to put a halt to that'. (Up till today, DIG Ajao remains my good friend even in his exalted office).
But what is the position these days? Few CPs would take such complaint seriously.
To them you must be living in fool's paradise to believe the slogan 'bail is free'. So what if a police officer asked for bribe? But that is what we all do; bash the police for being corrupt. What about those of us who are not police but would hardly do anything unless the price is right even though we receive salary for the services we render. What can you get from a govt ministry or agency, without greasing somebody's palm? â€¨ As a lawyer that is very close to the grassroots with strong bias for human rights, I received a complaint from the chairman of Okada Riders in my locality how a KAI official newly posted to the locality asked each of the eight units in his chapter to pay to her N25,000. When they didn't do her bidding, she carted away 25 okada in a brazen show of power. I didn't believe the story until I spoke with the officer who confirmed to me that she did so to help them as money so collected would save them from harassment from anywhere. She said to me in Yoruba 'ibiti eniyan bati nse loti nje'(where you work is where you eat) as if to say she doesn't receive salary. I said to the same woman 'when people are complaining about the police the likelihood is that you will join them to complain, wouldn't you have done worse were you to be in the force'? and I think that is the question we all should ask ourselves. In other words, let us start to remove the logs in our eyes before we see the speck in the other person's.
By Kunle Fadipe