Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just How Bad Is Nigerian Police Corruption?

This bad.

The Nigeria Police made a total of N20.35 billion between January last year and June this year from extorting money from motorists at illegal checkpoints, a report by the global organisation, Human Rights Watch has revealed.

Emeka Umeagbalasi, the chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law presented the report in Lagos said checkpoints in the South East yielded the highest sums. Giving a breakdown of what is made from the different regions, Mr. Umeagbalasi said N9.35 billion was realised from the South East, South-South brought in N4 billion, while the South-West nets the police N4 billion. In the North Central, which includes Abuja, N2 billion was made, while the North East and North West brought in N500 million each.

I'm curious to know how one goes about getting such figures nailed to the exact number, but I have no problem with the number per se. Corruption breeds waste. Over at Loomnie's blog, this quote from Elizabeth Dickinson over at the FP magazine as she ruminates on the new Human Rights Watch report on Nigerian corruption:

Like all corruption, there is an element of victimization on both sides of the equation, unfortunately. The people who are extorted from are, obviously, suffering. But so too are the low level policemen in many cases. How can I best illustrate this? Perhaps the fact that the officers were forced to buy their own bullets, uniforms, and pay for their own transportation because the upper ranks had taken the bulk of the funding for themselves or other pet projects. The majority of the officers also likely believed in being policemen, and wanted to be a positive force for their countries. They were proud of their roles and sought to do the best job they could. But they were also pretty hungry sometimes. And as I was once wisely told, a hungry man will do anything you ask.

What is so irritating about Nigerian corruption is just how anti-Robin Hood it is. I think of it as the Sallah theory: What's the wisdom in killing a skinny cow? You'd just end up having to kill more and more skinny cows to get just as much meat as if you'd just waited, fed it with grain, kept it healthy. But these policemen rob a people who cannot afford to be robbed, and so they gain little,which keeps them coming back again and again. And in that way they're just like all the other leaders we have, coming back again and again and robbing a people a lot, little by little.

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