One of the videos I saw during the recent 61st Independence anniversary celebration of Nigeria was that of a policeman collecting bribes from drivers on the highway.
Did I hear you snigger and say ehen?
What was unique about this video is that the policeman had change to give to those who bribed him. You know, if you gave him a N1,000 note, he would give you your required change; be it N900 naira or whatever change you wanted to collect from him. He simply dipped into his pockets and gave you your change. Like a trader does to customers. (That’s the Nigeria of today, though I think that video is an old one.)
While this may appear strange to some people, I find it amusing. I am amused because I expect nothing more from policemen at checkpoints. Time after time when new IGs of Police come in, one of the first things they do is remove all road blocks…
However, after a few weeks, these roadblocks go back on our highways and nobody says anything about them. Nothing seems to change in Nigeria, year in and out!
When I see police-mounted checks on the highway, two things come to mind… ‘At least, if kidnappers strike, the police would curb them, fight them or cause enough commotion to enable victims to escape; even if they won’t be able to overpower the kidnappers who often have superior fire power.’ So that’s some cold comfort. I am also prepared to part with a bribe or I would be delayed for hours over “missing” documents.
To my mind, policemen at checkpoints all over Nigeria are there to collect bribes. They do not check that vehicles on the highway are transporting abducted persons across borders; or that smuggled goods are changing location. They may search a few cars. But ultimately, if you have a few naira to squeeze into their hands, they would likely wave you goodbye!
Someone in the group where the video was shared commented: “Oh what a shame, oh this country is in a shambles…”
My take: have you seen the deplorable conditions of the police barracks pan Nigeria?
Have you seen how they live? Where they live?
Have you heard that many of them buy their own uniforms themselves, their boots, too?
Do you know they earn a pittance and that is even when they earn it at all?
To my questions, several people answered and in a nutshell; they were saying; “Are the rest of us any better? Why aren’t we taking bribes?”
And: “Is that why they should make bribes collecting a job instead of focusing on their primary assignment, which is policing?”
Bribery is a thing we have made Nigerian; tell me, what part of Government or even private life won’t you find people asking for bribes; or expecting same and you don’t give…It’s trouble?
It has to start somewhere. As much as I think it’s not just a government issue; individuals also need to be the change they want to see. However, the onus rests on the government to do the right thing in the first place.
Put down the structures, improve the system, upgrade police remuneration, train them better, equip them better; then, maybe, we can then begin to tackle the issue of taking or soliciting bribes?
Truth is, even if you improve police welfare in Nigeria; give the cops decent homes and pay them reasonable salaries, they would still collect bribes. It’s a human failure. Bribes are collected by police all over the world. Let’s be real.
It depends on who is paying and what they are paying!
However, back to our “commercially viable police man,” it is certain he wasn’t acting alone. There are more in cahoots with him, senior officers he will be “delivering” to; otherwise, he would have been removed from that check point. So even if anyone makes a report, it’s unlikely to be addressed.
Here’s the thing.
Bribery and corruption will always be with us. It’s the individual who will decide to rise above his circumstances and tell himself he is a better man, no matter his situation.
Still in the spirit of our nation’s birthday, here’s hoping the Nigeria of tomorrow will be a better one for us all.