Police and audacity of a squealer
After years of a tempestuous relationship with the police, the citizens have become very familiar with a plethora of cases that reify the ignoble identity of that security institution of government as a site of unbridled corruption. Thus, they were by no means suddenly hoisted onto an uncharted territory when the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last month alerted them to the egregious indices of the corruption under which the police chafe. Nor did the recent allegation by Senator Isah Misau that the police reek of corruption expressed in cronyism, patronage and financial misdeeds come to them as a surprise.
Indeed, Nigerians live daily with a catalogue of woes the police inflict on them. We are quite familiar with these: the police shoot to maim or kill commercial bus drivers or motorcyclists popularly referred to as okada riders because of their refusal to part with N50. They do not respond to emergency calls when the citizens are under the siege of armed robbers. It is only when the armed robbers have finished their operations and gone that their victims would be harassed with the sounds of police sirens. And that is if the police come at all. In most cases, they place obstacles in your way: they tell you that they cannot respond to your call because they have no vehicles; if they have, they are faulty; and if they are not faulty, there is no fuel in them. If you go to make a report at their station, the police would ask you to pay for the pen and piece of paper with which to make your complaint. After the complaint, you need to give them money to investigate your case. On the walls and doors of a typical police station would be emblazoned the warning: bail is free. But you must pay for detainees to secure their freedom.
Yet, the citizens tend to empathise with members of the police. It is commonly believed that the police are not motivated to discharge their responsibilities because the society has failed to place a premium on their welfare. They are doomed to being paid poor and delayed salaries, they have to buy their own uniforms and boots, they live in dilapidated barracks, and the list continues. As though to validate the notion that it is the Nigerian environment of poor welfare that makes the police to perform badly at home, they usually win laurels during international assignments.
But clearly, the police cannot be divorced from the plague of corruption as long as their personnel are weaned on the diet of moral turpitude. Recruitment into the police is secured either through the ability to pay for it or by the fact of a candidate being connected to some big people. It is not the most eligible that get recruited. This was why the recent recruitment of 10,000 police personnel was discredited by rancour and nepotism. There were long lists of preferred candidates from All Progressives Congress (APC) bigwigs, lawmakers and diverse functionaries of the government.
After their recruitment, they are further taken through the process of corruption in the course of their training. Here, their trainers who are supposed to inculcate in them the noble values of discipline and moral rectitude are the ones that would demand bribes from the trainees in order for them to pass their courses. You need to encounter police personnel to appreciate the remote possibility of their being purged of their proclivity for corruption unless the wider society is freed of the malaise. Accuse them of corruption and they confront you with the riposte that they should not be harassed with the charge of corruption when all they demand is N50 while politicians are busy stealing billions. It is thus not surprising that while every new IGP would undertake the ritual of ordering the dismantling of checkpoints which serve as places of extortion, they remain ineluctable ordeals that the citizens must suffer at the hands of the police.
Worse still, the police leadership is by no means a moral beacon that signposts before the junior cadre the codes of morality that undergird the police. If these senior officers do not take bribes themselves, they brazenly steal the funds that are meant to cater for the welfare of the police. Of course, we cannot forget so soon a former police inspector-general, Tafa Balogun, who demonstrated this willful sabotage of the police through his embezzlement of their funds. Although Balogun got his deserved comeuppance in jail, it has remained an unbroken pattern in the police for their leaders to be willing bearers of the virus of corruption that infects the entire security organisation.
Thus, no matter how much defence the police would make, the odds are against them. In the face of their pedigree of corruption, why would the police expect Nigerians not to believe that Misau is right when he alleged that the inspector-general of police collects N10 billion monthly from corporations and this money is unaccounted for? Neither the IGP, Ibrahim Idris, who has been directly accused of corruption nor the entire police have been able to defend themselves against this charge. Rather than appropriately responding to the issue raised by Misau, the police are telling the public how he deserted them after many unprofessional acts that would have earned him sanctions. If Misau deserted the police since over six years now, why have they failed to take action on this? Why is it now that the issue should come up? As Misau tells us, the same police that claim that he is a deserter reconcile themselves to the moral contradiction of IGP Idris sponsoring his official trip abroad. Clearly, since the police failed to take action on the matter before now, whatever action they are engaged in could only amount to a ludicrous campaign of vendetta against Misau on squealing on them.
While it is necessary that the alleged desertion should be treated with all the seriousness it deserves, a more important issue is the allegations by Misau. It is the resolution of these allegations that could pave the way for a more responsible and professional police. For, as long as police personnel are posted to juicy areas and promoted above their superiors because they can afford to pay or because they are close to those who are in charge, we should not expect a professional and effective police. Rather, we would be saddled with the police that are riven by disaffection and willful sabotage.
Probing the allegations of both the police and Misau is not only an opportunity to inject sanity, discipline and professionalism into the police. It is also another test of the anti-corruption campaign of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The Buhari government only has the capacity to gloatingly probe officials of the past government. When it is confronted with the necessity of probing the allegations of corruption against its officials, the government looks for excuses not to live up to the citizens’ expectations. Then it either resorts to the bromide that its close allies are unjustly hunted by the corrupt or it quickly clears them of their alleged misdeeds. Now, the government that is unwilling to check corruption among its top officials is expected to take a position on this matter. The government should not wait to be nudged by the public before doing this. It must not repeat its dithering over the case of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, that it found difficulty to probe despite the charges of corruption against them. Even months after the probe, the government is still hiding its findings from the public. If the government is serious at ramping up its already wobbly anti-corruption fight, it now has another good opportunity to signal this – just suspend IGP Idris for his probe to take place.