Written By: Christiana Dan, Research Journalist.
It was one the public holidays on account of a religious observation. I had boarded a taxi at the park and the driver was calling out for more commuters to complete the taxi that had a four-seater capacity. As soon as the taxi passengers were complete the driver attempting to drive out of the park was intercepted by a Police Officer. The Police Officer demanded for a tip in the most uncultured manner. It was clear that the driver was going nowhere if the tip was not given. After, a bit of hesitation and negotiation the driver gave in and gave the tip out of obvious frustration. Luckily, I was able to capture the transaction in the video shared above. This is just one of the many victims of financial extortions from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is one of the largest organizations of the nation consisting of 36 State commands grouped into 12 zones and 7 administrative organs.
It is the principal law enforcement and the lead security agency in Nigeria. Judging from its critical position on the enforcement of law among the citizenry it would be expected that the public should exhibit great confidence in the Police but the reverse is often the case. The recent protest against police brutality is just a tip of the iceberg on the discontentment of the citizenry of the Nigeria Police Force. But, physical assault of civilians is not the only scar of the NPF, as frequent financial extortions are equally tarnishing the image of force and subjecting the people to unjust treatment.
Though the motto of the NPF reads “The Police Is Your Friend” most Nigerians do not wish to come in contact or have dealings with an average Policeman. This is largely hinged on the fact that the Police are alleged to extort money from citizens at the slightest opportunity and may even physically assault anyone who refuses to comply.
While there exists various shades of these extortions that occur at public places like markets, taxi parks and even Police stations, of particular interest is the alleged extortions that take place at the roadside in the guise of Police roadblocks.
The roadblocks mounted by the Police are ideally meant to serve as a checkpoint for “stop and search” activities. One would have thought that with the mandate of the roadblock one would be glad to see a Policeman on the road, but this is often not the case as many dread the sight of a Police Officer . The sight of an average Nigerian Policeman is often accompanied with fear rather than hope, and frustration rather confidence. This reaction of fear and unease by an average Nigerian at the sight of a Policeman when on transit calls for attention.
In 2017 the National Bureau of statistics, (NBS) in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a survey report titled “Corruption in Nigeria: Bribery, Public Experience and Response” . The survey reveals that Police Officers are the public officials to whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria.
“Of all adult Nigerians who had direct contact with a police officer in the 12 months prior to the survey, almost half (46.4 per cent) paid an officer at least one bribe, and in many cases more than one since police officers are also among the three types of public officials to whom bribes are paid most frequently (5.3 bribes per bribe-payer over the course of 12 months) in Nigeria.”
In 2019 the NBS in partnership with the UNODC released a second survey titled “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trend”. The follow-up survey further reveals the audacity of public officials in demanding for bribes when in contact with the citizenry.
It stated: “Public officials who are entrusted with some of the core functions of the State, not least those involved in law enforcement and administering justice, account for some of the largest shares of direct bribe requests: in around two thirds of all bribes paid to police, prosecutors or judges/magistrates and members of the Armed Forces, the bribe payment was initiated by a direct request by these officials.”
Just like in 2017, the second report still reveals that the Nigerian Police Force in 2019 account for a considerable share of all bribes paid in Nigeria as over one third (35.7 per cent) of all bribes paid in Nigeria go to police officers.
According to the report: “Regardless of the specific zone of Nigeria, police officers are the type of public official with whom Nigerians have most frequent contact. Given that the risk of bribery is also highest in relation to police officers, it is not surprising that police officers account for a considerable share of all bribes paid in Nigeria: over one third (35.7 per cent) of all bribes paid in Nigeria go to police officers, while almost one fifth (19.3 per cent) go to public utility officers. Taken together, around 70 per cent of all bribes are paid to just five different types of official.”
These reports call for a probe as to what could be the underlying issues to make a Police Officer to step down from the esteemed pedestal of a national security ambassador and demand like a pauper or a thug a token from an innocent civilian he had sworn to protect. Could it be a result of a multiplication of a few bad eggs in the Force ? Is an average Policeman pushed to the wall by poor remuneration? And what exactly is the salary structure in the Nigerian Police Force?
An investigation into the salary structure of the Nigerian Police Force reveals that in 2010 an average Police Recruit earned a monthly stipend of about N9,000 and an annual salary of slightly above 100,000.
Below are the details of salary per rank or grade of Nigerian Police officers as at 2010.
|S/NO||Ranks||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary|
|2a||Police Constable Grade Level 03||N43,293.83||N519,525.60|
|b||Police Constable Grade Level 10||N51,113.59||N613,363.08|
|3a||Police Corporal on Grade Level 04 (1)||N44,715.53||N536,586.36|
|b||Police Corporal on Grade Level 04 (10)||N51,113.59||N613,363.08|
|4a||Police Sergeant on Grade Level 05 (1)||N48,540.88||N582,490.56|
|b||Police Sergeant on Grade Level 05 (10)||N55,973.84||N671,686.08|
|5a||Sergeant Major on Grade Level 06 (1)||N55,144.81||N661,737.72|
|b||Sergeant Major on Grade Level 06 (10)||N62,204.88||N746,458.56|
|6a||Cadet Inspector on Grade Level 07 (1)||N73,231.51||N878,778.12|
|b||Cadet Inspector on Grade Level 07 (10)||N87,135.70||N1,045,628.40|
|7a||Assistant Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 08 (1)||N127,604.68||N1,531,256.16|
|b||Assistant Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 08 (10)||N144,152.07||N1,729,824.84|
|8a||Assistant Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 09 (1)||N136,616.06||N1,639,392.72|
|b||Assistant Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 09 (10)||N156,318.39||N1,875,820.68|
|9a||Deputy Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 10 (1)||N148,733.29||N1,784,799.48|
|b||Deputy Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 10 (10)||N170,399.69||N2,044,796.28|
|10a||Superintendent of Police on Level 11 (1)||N161,478.29||N1,937,739.49|
|b||Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 11 (10)||N187,616||N2,251,400.28|
|11a||Chief Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 12 (1)||N172,089.06||N2,065,068.72|
|b||Chief Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 12 (08)||N199,723.96||N2,396,687.52|
|12a||Assistant Commissioner of Police on Grade Level 13 (1)||N183,185.73||N2,198,228.76|
|b||Assistant Commissioner of Police on Grade Level 13 (10)||N212,938.96||N2,555,257.92|
|13a||Deputy Commissioner of Police on Grade Level 14 (1)||N242,715.65||N2,912,587.80|
|b||Deputy Commissioner of Police on Grade Level 14 (07)||N278,852.79||N3,346,233.48|
|14a||Commissioner of Police on Grade Level 15 (1)||N266,777.79||N3,201,333.48|
|b||Commissioner for Police on Grade Level 15 (06)||N302,970.47||N3,635,645.64|
|15||Assistant Inspector General of Police||N499,751.87||N5,997,022.44|
|16||Deputy Inspector General of Police||N546,572.73||N6,558,872.76|
|17||Inspector General of Police||N711,498||N8,537,976|
(The Federal Government of Nigeria in November 2018 approved a new salary structure but it is not reflected in the table above as the details are yet to be made public.)
Some would argue that the above salary structure is peanut compared to the nature of the job and attribute the high level of moral decadence and financial corruption in the force to poor remuneration and working conditions.
Still some others would opine that the pay is relatively fair.
Whatever the divide, bribery and extortion is never a matter of poverty but a matter of integrity and violation of human rights. The average Nigerian Police Officer must have the right perception of his identity. He must not reduce himself to the robber he was set out to arrest, and must not rob the citizens he once swore to protect.
Even if his “take home salary” cannot take him home, he must ensure that his integrity “takes him home” and explore honest multiple streams of income. He must stop seeing himself as a victim of the job who pours out his frustration on the populace. Rather, he must perceive himself as a hero of the state he had sworn to protect.
The government on their part must put in measures to identify, arrest and prosecute Police Officers who in the guise of “stop-and-search” mount road blocks to extort money from the citizenry. The Nigerian Police Force should not wait for a report from the citizenry before it acts. The NPF can be proactive by mounting CCTV cameras at various check-points to monitor the activities of the Officers.
An average Police Officer demanding for a token in an uneven power dynamic is a great injustice. But, the citizenry on its part should insist on their right. Don’t just give that sum of money so you can get going, attempt to capture the harassment and report the incident. Thanks to social media such incidents can be posted online to ensure possible follow-up.
And on the culture of appreciation of Police Officers by giving a token; it appears that the practice always does more harm than good. Little wonder most organizations prohibit such practice. A better way to commend a Police Officer would be to initiate a community award or nominate the Officer for an existing award. If, perhaps a community award is somewhat tasking to initiate then the social media can be explored. One can never tell how far a simple social media post of commendation would go.
The ongoing call for an end to police brutality, extortion and corruption in Nigeria is as a result of decades of endurance of injustice by the citizenry and inaction by both the state and federal government. The people, the police and the policy makers must rise to the clarion call for Police Reform in Nigeria as just because corruption has tarried for this long in Nigeria Police Force doesn’t mean it should remain.
Credit: This story was supported by the US embassy via the ATUPA fellowship by Civic Hive.