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Published On: Thu, Dec 13th, 2012

Combating Corruption In The Nigeria Police


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A Presentation By the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission At the Police Service Commission Retreat August ‘08

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences

Commission (ICPC) is honoured and pleased to partner with the Police

Service Commission (PSC) in its bid to address the issue of corruption within

the police, specifically, on this occasion. It has come at an auspicious time

when the issue of corruption is on the front burner in our nation. The

Commission is however certain that our observations, contributions and

suggestion apply as much to all local, state and federal governments and their

agencies as it does to the police. The Commission therefore expresses its

appreciation to the PSC for this opportunity and hopes that in the not too

distant future both institutions will partner further.

2. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian society and seems

intractable, but the situation can be remedied given disciplined and forthright

leadership and a citizenry that is united in its resentment to corruption. Prior

to the establishment of ICPC and its sister agency EFCC, governance in Nigeria

was by and large characterised by a lack of transparency and accountability,

which created a scenario where government business had moved away from

its essential purpose of governance and development, to values which failed to

promote merit, accountability, transparency, probity, and good conduct in

government. Eventually government and its leadership lost credibility as it was

seen as lacking values that were cherished in the society. By March 1987,

corruption and indiscipline had been identified as the two most serious

problems confronting Nigeria since independence. It is pertinent to note that

corruption had always being the excuse given by the military in the seizure of

political power but it persisted nonetheless.

3. Corruption In The Nigeria Police

The police is arguably the most visible agent of government and citizens often

assess the character of a government through its police force. This is because

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the police are the “guardians” of society. To a large extent, the growth,

actions and behaviours of the police as an institution, not only reflect the

political and economic character of society, but also mirror what those in

power are willing or able to tolerate or condone or perhaps even demand of

the police. Thus any adequate analysis of the problems and challenges of the

Nigeria Police must start with the appreciation of the history and dynamics of

its development, which from its infancy in 1861 was characterised and cultured

in impunity, incivility, brutality, a lack of transparency and accountability all of

which eventually metamorphosed into large scale corruption.

4. This however is not a presentation on the development or growth of

the Nigeria Police no matter how relevant it is to the present regrettable

situation. It is rather mentioned merely to remind the reader that corruption

within the ranks of the police owes its origins in part to the wishes, desires and

goals of its colonial creators. As we all know, habits once formed are hard to

shake off. Hence the seeming inability and or reluctance, to steadfastly address

this issue within the police.

5. Corruption within the Nigeria Police is not unique. Corruption exists

in the Nigeria Police Force much the same as it does in any other police

organisation the world over, except perhaps, in terms of its extent and the

organisation’s reaction to it. However, the issue of corruption in the Nigeria

Police as noted above cannot be treated in isolation of the larger society. To

achieve any success in combating corruption in the Nigeria Police one has to

take a holistic approach and most importantly understand the growth and

existence of corruption within the police as briefly narrated above.

6. The foregoing notwithstanding, corruption is really a complex

phenomenon and does not readily lend itself to easy analysis. This can be

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gleaned from the fact that over the years policing has developed and changed;

but corruption has continued virtually unabated and largely unchanged in form

and format. It has merely adapted to developments in society. On a weekly if

not daily basis, the media in Nigeria reports on one act of corruption or other

illegality perpetrated by the police somewhere in the country. Transparency

International, a body universally recognised as an authority on corruption and

adjudging the extent of corrupt practices in countries around the world, not

only listed Nigeria as one of the foremost nations afflicted by this malaise, but

also ascribed to the Nigerian “law enforcement” a contributory percentage of

the activity that caused the rating. Nigeria has not been delisted nor has its

rating significantly improved.

7. The effects of corruption are social and economic. Governments and

communities suffer from the malaise as it makes them uneconomic in that:

Less revenue is collected, with a loss to government much greater

than the individual gains;

More money is paid for the goods and services procured ;

Policies are distorted to maximise corrupt gains, usually in favour of

capital intensive spending;

Resources are diverted away from social and developmental priorities;

Investment is discouraged;

Society becomes unstable, because

People become angry, particularly the poor who cannot afford to pay

bribes and who get hurt the most, and others whose human rights are

violated;

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The rich provoke resentment, through wanting more riches and

flaunting their corrupt gains they make corruption a political issue;

Society becomes unsafe because

Bribes protect criminals and facilitate drug-smuggling, gun-running,

terrorism and other crimes;

Bribes make the protection of society fail, because people pay bribes

to avoid compliance with the requirements for health, safety and the

environment.

8. Corruption has been defined severally with each definition prospered

from different perspectives. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other

Related Offences Act No. 5, of 2000 under Section 2 defines “Corruption” to

include

“bribery, fraud and other related offences. Corruption within the police

is both internal (within the organisation) and external (its “official” relations

with the public), which for obvious reasons attracts the greater attention. By

way of definition, corruption in policing is “

the misuse of authority by a police

officer acting officially to fulfil or achieve his personal needs or wants”

. It involves

the simultaneous presence of three distinct elements (i) Misuse of Authority,

(ii) Misuse of official capacity and (iii) misuse of personal attainment.

9. There is no reason to believe that police officers as individuals are

necessarily of a stronger moral fibre by upbringing or training than any other

member of society. However, when a police officer is found wanting, or worst

still violates the law, the outrage expressed by society is at its highest. This is

simply because the deviance of a police officer “betrays” the confidence and

trust of society and worst still, taints the entire organisation. The impact of

this realisation may further be compounded by the knowledge that corruption

in the police can invert the goals of the organisation to the extent that police

powers encourage and create crime, rather than deter it.

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10. Where police deviance ends and corruption begins is sometimes difficult

to determine. Brutality, discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation and

illicit use of weapons constitute deviant behaviour. If it is designed to achieve

personal wants it also characterises itself as corrupt. But corrupt behaviour as

understood by the ordinary Nigerian probably consists of (i) pay-offs to the

police by essentially law abiding citizens for infringement of statutes such as

traffic laws, (ii) pay-offs to the police by organised crime or individuals who

habitually break the law to make money such as drug dealers or prostitutes,

(iii) the receipt of money, favours or discounts for services rendered, (iv)

pocketing recovered money from the proceeds of crime, (v) giving false

testimony to ensure dismissal of cases in court and (vi) the actual perpetration

of criminal acts to mention a few. The danger apparent is that in extreme

cases, police are not just “protecting” criminals, but have become a complicit

part in the planning and execution of crimes.

11. What therefore can be done? How best do we combat this menace in

the Nigeria Police? From a national view point, Nigeria seems to have trodden

a similar path to that which was taken in Hong Kong, which in 1974 set up the

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to combat corruption

with particular emphasis on their police force. The rationale was simple. If the

police force was clean, corrupt segments of society were in “danger”.

Similarly, here in Nigeria the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related

Offences Commission (ICPC) was established by statute in 2000. Its mandate

was also similar – clean up on graft in the country. The only real difference

was that the catalyst for its establishment was the state of corruption within all

sectors of the entire economy/country, rather than just specifically that of the

police.

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12. Operationally, ICPC is designed to match and interface strict law

enforcement with strong preventive measures and community education.

Consequently the,

Investigation/ operations department handles enquiries in response

to complaints, but also has the capacity to react proactively.

Operatives have the power to arrest, detain, search premises, seize

documents, access and freeze accounts on court order and impound

assets of suspects;

Planning, Research & Review department handles corruption

prevention, and is designed to assist government departments and

agencies in identifying and eliminating opportunities for corruption in

their systems and procedures; and

Education & Public Enlightenment department is principally

concerned with educating the public regarding the evils of corruption

and to enlist public support against it.

This approach by ICPC has yielded significant results and in-roads in the fight

against corruption, and where the police is concerned has led to the conviction

and imprisonment of several of its officers, but there is much to be done.

13. It is our view however, that the police force must take ownership of the

fight against corruption within its organisation and master the in-house battles

against graft. It is not so much the fact that officers are tempted by money

that is important, but whether an institutional culture exists to discourage it.

In truth everything from increasing salaries and allowances, ensuring better

training and education, to the development of policies which focus on factors

leading to corruption within the police have been tried without a comparative

result. The fight to be effective must be taken on an operational and policy

level.

14. Operationally, in the Nigeria Police a Section known as ‘X’ Squad exists

to combat corruption within the police. It has of course, to rely on

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information principally from within the force to achieve any significant impact.

Over the years, there have been a few instances recorded as successes but, by

and large it has been a failure for two principal reasons. First, police officers

are extremely reluctant to inform on one another as this in itself is seen as a

form of “betrayal”, and secondly, the ‘X’ Squad officers who themselves are

somewhat derided, are reluctant to make perceptions amongst their colleagues

worst. Besides which they are not immune from suspicion themselves. The

lack of success of this section though lends itself to an interpretation which

inevitably cast aspersions on the leadership of the force. The section needs

strengthening, capacity building and the full backing of the organisation in order

to come out of ‘hiding’ and meet the expectations of its existence.

15. On a policy level the police must in principle have an organisation

committed fully to openness, transparency and impartiality in the conduct of its

business. To enhance transparency and ensure consistency in policy guidelines

on staff, administrative and operational matters, a manual or circulars must be

created, updated and brought to the attention of all police officers. The

guidelines should cover amongst others:

Staff recruitment, promotion and posting procedures

Job description/schedule of each post

Keeping and checking attendance registers

Performance appraisals

Staff complaints

Investigations

Operational procedures, and

Disciplinary procedures to mention a few.

Similarly, a Code of Conduct for police officers needs to be developed for the

consumption of all ranks to ensure that officers are committed to ethical

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practices in the discharge of their duties. A breach of the code should attract

stringent disciplinary action. The code should cover these key elements:

Corporate governance and the mission statement

Rules on the acceptance of advantages

Guidelines on conflict of interest and, procedures to declare conflicts

and to handle such declarations

Rules on the acceptance of entertainment

Handling of proprietary information

Use of organisational resources

16. Corruption within the police like crime within society is unlikely to be

eradicated. It can however be controlled by the organisation but with the

assistance and support of society. The perception that some get on the

corruption bus, while others run alongside it and precious few stand in front of

it needs change. At the organisational level controlling corruption requires

strong and determined leadership, because corruption occurs at the very top

as well as the bottom and all points in between in the hierarchy. The top brass

must make it clear that corruption in all its forms will not be tolerated and

furthermore will be severely punished. If the opportunity presents itself then

administrators should make a decisive example. If concerted and stringent

action is not taken against corrupt activity, the message down the ranks will be

that of tolerance which will only serve to increase corruption within the

organisation.

17. Additionally, in training institutions ethical behaviour and decision should

be rewarded, promoted and applauded because failing to make officers aware

of the consequences of corruption only serves to encourage it. Regardless of

the present efficacy of sections such as the ‘X’ Squad, it should be

strengthened and encouraged as its existence serves as a deterrent. The

Public Relations department of the force should highlight educational

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programmes within communities that touch on the negative effects of police

corruption. Communities must realise that even the most basic form of

corruption – gratification – only acts as a catalyst to more sinister forms of

misdeeds. One further point, perhaps it is time that officers who have been

proven to have known of corruption amongst their colleagues but remain

silent should be sanctioned by the organisation or the law.

18. Between ICPC and the Nigeria Police a “partnership” should be forged

to fight corruption. The two bodies should consider establishing several

channels of communication at different levels aimed at cooperation and mutual

understanding on operational and corruption preventive measures. The top

hierarchy of both institutions should meet regularly to exchange information

about cases, discuss corruption trends, hold briefing sessions with field officers,

review operational procedures and improve communication channels. ICPC

on its part would then be better placed to conduct a review of police

procedures and practices as it relates to corruption, and produce reports and

proposals to minimise the opportunities for corruption in general crime

investigation, the handling of informants, covert operations and administrative

arrangement for promotion and procurement as examples. On the part of

the police, consultations can be made with ICPC on new initiatives or

procedures with the aim of avoiding pitfalls to corruption.

19. Police management needs to encourage regular anti graft educational

talks and seminars in which its officers participate. These talks should be

integrated in training programmes for all cadres from the Training Schools to

the Academy through to the Staff College. The training session would cover

anti-graft legislation, the effects of corruption, and the problems caused by

conflict of interest and indebtedness as a beginning. Case studies of different

scenarios involving police work would be used to stimulate discussion among

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officers on the ethical dilemmas the may face. Ultimately through these

sessions police officers will acquire the basic knowledge and skills to guard

against the temptations of corruption, while senior officers gain knowledge in

managing staff integrity.

20. ICPC does not pretend to have all the answers to this complex problem,

but has gained quite a bit of experience in tackling the hydra-head monster

named corruption. Our approach is multi-faceted and we often advise similar

methods by agencies afflicted with this problem. Most importantly, we see a

partnership as more useful than individual efforts as this eases suspicions,

ensures understanding and addresses issues from the perspective of the

partners.

21. Once again, we thank the Chairman PSC and his management team for

their foresight on this crucial subject matter which has direct implications for

the Nigerian economy and the security of every Nigerian, and hope that we

will share further ideas and rejoice together in the success in the fight against

corruption soon.

22. Thank you and God bless.

 

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