By Kunle Olasanmi and Raphael Ede
Police authorities in Abuja have said that about 10,000 corrupt policemen have been dismissed from service from 2005.
This is coming as a report claimed that the police in the South-east region make about N1.2 billion from 1,350 checkpoints in the area, an allegation the police Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Yemi Ajayi, debunked, describing it as malicious and unfortunate.
The police said that those that have been dismissed were dismissed because of indiscipline and sharp practices.
An investigation by Blueprint revealed that policemen operating in various commands in the south-east have allegedly raked in N1.2 billion during a period of six months from over 1,350 check-points that exist in the area.
A very senior police officer at Zone 9, Umuahia, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, stated that the increase in the number of checkpoints is borne out of the need to effectively control crime in the zone but, regrettably, some dubious divisional police officers now see it as an avenue to make money.
The amount formerly collected from each motorist and motorcycle operator, popularly know as okada, ranged from N20 to N30, but it is now between N50 and N100 respectively. Police Federal High Way patrol collects N100, while others collect N50.
It is suspected that over N1.2 billion has been made by such policemen in the last six months from check-points across the zone, the source said. The result is the high rate of crime in the zone.
“Policemen at check-points are no longer interested in the stop and search, but are only concerned with the money motorists give to them. This is against the backdrop of fighting crime, instead it is skyrocketing,” he said.
A report issued last year by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Nigeria, titled: “Police-Oiled Blue-Collar Crime in the Southeast Nigeria: How Nigerian Police Personnel in the Zone Unlawfully Made N9.35 Billion (over 60 million US dollars) from 1,350 check-points in 18 months as against N3.5 billion lost to kidnappers in the zone since 2007,” explained that blue-collar crime is regarded in criminology as any crime committed by an individual from a lower social class, as opposed to white-collar crime committed by individuals of higher social class, like a police officer or person who demands for a bribe at his duty post.
“Based on the fact that policemen at check-points in the zone make unlawful demand which is paid by one who does not realise it is not the fee authorised for the services rendered, however, we take a look at the roadblock extortions in the south-east from January 2009 to June 2010. Earlier, between June 1999 and December 2008, police in Anambra state unlawfully made N3.3 billion from various police checkpoints within the state,” the report states.
According to the report, Anambra state is worse hit in corporate criminality in the NPF in the zone, with 350 to 400 police/military check-points, followed by Abia state with 300 to 350, Imo with 250 to 300, Enugu with 200 and Ebonyi with 150 checkpoints.
The remote motive behind the sharp increase in the number of check-points is allegedly for the money involved, while the outer motive is to combat the political class-oiled violent crimes such as kidnapping for ransom and hi-tech armed robbery.
A human right activist, Barrister Omotoyor, told Blueprint that the resultant effect of bribe and corruption in the police force is the increase in crime across the country today.
According to him, to combat the high rate of crime in Nigeria, commercialisation and politicising of police recruitment should be stopped, stressing that it has been revealed that an average police recruit spends between N30,000 and N100,000 in order to be formally recruited into the force, as it was the case of the ongoing police recruitment exercise.
Another police officer, who simple gave his name as Sergeant U. Emeka, told Blueprint at a check-point along Enugu Abakaliki express way yesterday, that they make returns to their bosses. “Our DPOs are aware, that we collect money, and if you don’t make good return, the next day you will be dropped.”
He alleged that the DPOs are the ones that demand accounts when policemen stationed at check-points come back. “So, you can see that the fault is not ours. You can report it that our commissioners, our area commanders and divisional police officers are responsible for our collecting or even demanding money from motorists,” he added.
The Deputy Force PRO told Blueprint that the police force is not a money-generating agency. “The report cannot be true,” he said.
According to him, about 10,000 policemen were recently dismissed because of sharp practices.
The Police is not a money-generating agency, any policeman found in sharp practices is dealt with and summarily dismissed through the Orderly Room Trial.
“That was why about 10,000 policemen were dismissed from the force. Some of them were dismissed for indiscipline while others were dismissed for sharp practices.
“The report of the NGO is malicious and unfortunate. At the check-points where they accuse the police of collecting money, armed robbers and kidnappers have been arrested there. It is quite unfortunate and some of the policemen that were dismissed are struggling to come back to the force.
“The public should be more concerned about efforts the police is making to rid the country of crime.”