By Kayode Ketefe
The news of the Police officer, Mr. Aniyem Chiyem, who was caught on camera demanding dollar bribe from an American citizen, would instill a feeling of déjà vu in many Nigerians. History could not help but repeat itself, and it now seems to have claimed another victim.
Chiyem, a Corporal attached to Isheri Division of Lagos State Police Command, was clearly shown in the video, (which by now has gone viral on the internet) demanding monetary bribe from the Nigerian-American and his two friends whom he had ostensibly detained for allegedly infringing traffic Code.
This policeman even had the temerity to stipulate the denomination of his attempted extortion – the bribe must come in dollars!
After the leakage of this unethical conduct and betrayal of trust, the police authorities, expectedly acted their now familiar script in such situation. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, was reported to have ordered the Lagos State Commissioner, Umar Manko, to arrest and subject the victim to disciplinary measures. Chiyem was promptly arrested and is being subjected to orderly room trial, which is the police equivalent of the military court martial. This may lead to the dismissal of the embattled policeman.
This development, of course, actuates an instant recall of another case of video-indicted policeman, Mr. Chris Omeleze, a Sergeant who was caught red-handed in a video footage bustling on numerous blogospheres on the internet. He was clearly seen and audibly heard demanding bribe while an unidentified male motorist was seen pleading with him to accept N2, 000 for a perceived traffic offence.
Omeleze would have none of that! With a self-righteous indignation, he heaved himself into the passenger seat and threatened to bring the full weight of the law on the erring motorist unless the bribe was increased to something reasonable! Omeleze was dismissed with ignominy.
The police authorities have a way of making great show of dismissing the culprits of embarrassing affairs like the ones recorded above and they are always not loath to make scapegoats of shameless officers for dragging the image of the police in the mud. But every Nigerian, of course knows that bribe-taking by the police is a daily phenomenon and that those careless enough to be caught on video are merely “unlucky”.
The popular feelings are that indiscipline and unethical practices thrives in the Nigerian police as a result of culture of impunity. People are of the opinion that except in publicised cases that might cause embarrassment for the institution, the police rarely invokes the big stick against their own officers, therefore making them to grow bold, unconscionable and well-enmeshed in sharp practices.
It is assumed that if the internal cleansing mechanism is really efficient, corruption would not be thriving at the phenomenal level we witness today. For example, not a few believe that if mere reports on extortion had been filed by the complainants in the two cases above rather than through inexorable video evidence, chances are that the allegations would have been swept under the carpet.
This assumption was succinctly echoed by no less an institution than a globally respected human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, when it stated inter-alia in one of its reports thus. “Impunity is one of the biggest single obstacles to the reduction or eradication of torture and other serious abuses by police in Nigeria. The fact that in all but a handful of largely symbolic cases there has been no effort to ensure accountability for violations committed emboldens the perpetrators and has perpetuated the culture of violence in the Nigerian Police Force”.
Similarly, an international NGO, in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, National Human Rights Commission as well as a local non-governmental organisation, CLEEN Foundation, stated that the standards of policing in the country have further declined between 2011 and 2012.
The parameters used in the assessment included community orientation, physical condition of police stations, equal treatment of the public, transparency and accountability and detention conditions.
The bottom-line is that the Nigeria police are reeling under the deadweight of ineptitude, inefficiency, under-funding, misconception of roles and corruption.
What many Nigerians would be happy to see is the culture shift of the police at the institutional level. The underlying fundamentals that predispose the police institution to corruption need to be addressed rather than occasional sacrificing of exposed officers and men.
The approach to remedy the extant malaise must be wholesome to be effective. Accordingly, problem of poor funding as evinced in their obsolete equipment and infrastructure deficit also need to be solved. We must ensure adequate manpower training to ensure policing is a service rather than a liability to the country; the operational philosophy of the police needs to be redefined. Not a few of police personnel think their uniforms merely confer privileges on them to exploit, subjugate and extort from “the bloody civilians”.
The officers and men of the police themselves must not only have humane condition of work, they must be fully equipped with their tools of work, motivated with good salaries and especially, properly trained on what policing in the 21st century entails.
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