INVESTIGATION: Extortion of motorists by policemen persist
Irrespective of several reactions from Nigerians on the conduct of the operatives of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), stories and articles published by media organisations on the conduct of policemen, as well as campaigns for reform, some officers of the NPF are yet to give up the act of taking bribes and unduly harassing motorists who try to challenge same, our investigation shows.
While the above can be putatively said to be ongoing at several parts of the country, CAMPUS REPORTER can authoritatively report this case of impunity along Ijebu Ode- Ibadan expressway by members of the police force.
Before now, CAMPUS REPORTER had in May reported cases of impunity by police officers, by revealing photos of Nigerian police officers caught on camera extorting motorists along Ijebu Ode-Ibadan expressway, in Ogun State.
The pictures were sent to Abayomi Shogunle, head of police complaints unit in Abuja, who promised to examine the sent images and get back to CAMPUS REPORTER. However, three months after the first report was made, CAMPUS REPORTER investigated and later reported that definite action was yet to be taken on the officers caught in the illegal act, despite complaint made and issuance of a tracking number.
About two weeks ago, CAMPUS REPORTER correspondent investigated the conduct of officers at checkpoints on Ijebu Ode-Ibadan expressway to identify if the conduct of police officers on that route had changed positively.
However, our investigation revealed that the conduct of the police officers was still the same as earlier reported. The correspondent made videos of the officers’ conduct and interrogated motorists and passengers.
While in a public bus travelling from Ijebu Ode to Ibadan, the correspondent observed that the driver, who had passed at least five checkpoints, where he offered bribes to the officers and was given different numbers at some of the checkpoints was ordered to park forcefully, after refusing to offer bribe to the policemen at the sixth checkpoint, on the same journey.
He was asked to tender his documents and was later made to move several steps away from the passengers. After several minutes of patience, some of the passengers decided to intervene by pleading with the policemen. It was after several pleas that he was allowed to leave. The correspondent gathered that those set of policemen were from Eleyele Police Station, Ibadan.
“We are not on illegal duty, we are from Eleyele Police Station, Ibadan”, one of the policemen said to a passenger, who had requested to meet their (the policemen’s) leader at the checkpoint.
While speaking to CAMPUS REPORTER, after leaving the checkpoint, the driver, who sought anonymity to avoid any form of future harassment from the officers, said that he usually pay N100 for ‘to’ and ‘fro’. He said the N100 was not meant to serve for the whole day, as the officers are used to taking shifts. The N100 paid to the first set of officers on duty at a checkpoint will be renewed once another set of officers take over. This applies to all the checkpoints along the expressway.
“If you tell them that you have paid to the set of police officers before them, they will tell you that ‘did you see me there?'”, the driver, who happened to be in his forties, said, in his native Yoruba language.
When asked if his papers were complete, he responded affirmatively, adding that the policeman who checked his papers was only looking for ways to frustrate him since he refused to offer bribe at the checkpoint.
Following the incident, passengers in the bus began to recount similar encounters with policemen on the same route.
“I once had an encounter with these police officers one time when I was passing through this route,” said a male passenger. “I refused to give them a bribe and they dragged matters with me and took me to the station. There, I was given a custom book to write on, but I questioned the police officer that was he working for the police or the custom, he began to say rubbish things like, he used to work for the custom in Tanker and blah blah blah. Then, I knew many of them were on illegal duty.”
While travelling back from Ibadan to Ijebu Ode, the correspondent made videos of some policemen seen collecting bribe from a motorist at different checkpoints. The correspondent had earlier observed that as the driver was about to take off from the park, he had kept a pile of N50 notes beside him, which he would later give to different policemen at different checkpoints.
While speaking to CAMPUS REPORTER, the driver disclosed that there are about nine checkpoints on the road, adding that the policemen were not many on the road (at the time the correspondent toured the route) due to the sunny morning.
“Today they are not even many due to the hot weather. Normally, they are usually many on the road in the morning and in the evening, from 4 pm downwards, when the sun must have set,” the driver said.
While interrogating the driver to find out more on the base of the policemen, he said that the policemen were those of Oyo and Ogun state commands, since the road links both states.
“Those we passed by since (five checkpoints) are those of Oyo State”, the driver said after crossing the borderline and entering Ogun State territory.
In a telephone conversation with the Public Relations Officer, Oyo State Police Command, Adekunle Ajisebutu, he said that the checkpoints were strategically placed to ensure the safety of commuters on the Ijebu Ode-Ibadan expressway.
He explained that before the checkpoints were put in place, a lot of atrocities took place as a result of the thick bushes along the expressway. But since the checkpoints were created, he said such cases have reduced significantly.
When asked to give comments on acts of bribery carried out by policemen, he told our correspondent that he is not aware of cases of bribery, as such he would not make comments until he sees the evidence.
“Please if you have any picture, send it to me before I react to that. For now, I don’t have such report of bribery,” he said to the correspondent.
After sending the videos to him, he responded after several hours by saying that the face of the policeman caught in the video bears no familiarity in the Command.
“We honestly appreciate the good work you are doing, and your quest for better, corruption-free society. We share the same vision with you hence we will not condone any unprofessional act from our personnel. Our policemen are posted to Ibadan/Ijebu-Ode expressway following incessant robbery and kidnapping as a result of the desolate nature of the road which has thick forests on both sides.
“The presence of the police on this road and many others in the State is to encourage visibility policing aimed at taking proactive steps to curb crimes and ensure the safety of lives and property of travellers, commuters and other road users. Since the deployment of our men to the road, incidences of armed robbery and kidnapping which had hitherto characterised the expressway have drastically reduced, and almost nonexistent.
“We have a strong discipline mechanism to punish unprofessional behaviour of our men. Apart from the X Squad and the Monitoring Unit set up by CP Abiodun Odude to monitor activities of police officers in the Command, there is also Public Complaints Bureau to which members of the public can complain.
“Notwithstanding these efforts, we have consistently sensitised the public about the danger and illegality of offering bribes to the police. It takes two to tango. We are determined to punish erring police officers caught desecrating the good intentions of the Commissioner of Police.
“However, there is nothing to suggest that the location of this ‘mutual’ corruption is Ibadan/Ijebu-Ode expressway. The face of that police officer caught in the video is not familiar in the Command. Nonetheless, we will investigate with a view to sanctioning anyone found culpable.”, Mr Adekunle, the Public Relations Officer, Oyo State Police Command, said.
On his part, the head of police complaints unit in Abuja, Abayomi Shogunle said the correspondent should not have called his personal line. Instead, he forwarded a text message detailing the contact address of the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU).
“This is my personal number. They have a platform that has been provided, you can send it as an individual, you can send it as an organisation, that is the way we do things”, Mr Shogunle said.
However, after sending the videos to the official contact of the PCRRU, more than a week ago, no response has been given as at the time of this report.
Policemen ought to be protectors of the law and enforcers of order. They are expected to alleviate the sufferings of the people and save them from any form of harassment.
However, just as a driver had told CAMPUS REPORTER in the report made in our May report, some drivers now include police extortion fee as part of transportation fare, which implies that the conduct of policemen has contributed to the increased sufferings of the masses.