Nigeria has a debilitating social malaise which has to do with the lack of a sustained sense of national outrage over ethical and criminal offences that ordinarily should prick the conscience of a rational being.
The majority of the people of Nigeria who reside in the geographical space known as Nigeria behave in such a despicable manner of always forgetting about clear cases of criminality, no matter how grave and are prepared to move on with life even when life as we know it in civilized climes, has become brutish, short, uninteresting and dangerous in Nigeria for Nigerians (to borrow from Thomas Hobbes).
Take for instance the numerous criminal events and incidents that have happened over the past few years that at the time of their occurrence created so much national debate and angst.
As soon as these heinous crimes occur, the media put them on their front pages.
The bulk of Nigerians who are active on the social media will debate such abominable acts for just a few days awaiting another much dangerous social crime to occur only to jump at the new thematic crime and almost immediately shove the earlier crime behind and under the carpets and dustbins of history.
The carpets of impunity in Nigeria stinks of many vicious crimes that have been swept and hidden therein. Nigerians have defied the wise counsel that he who fails to learn from history stands the risk of repeating history.
It is for this collective sense of apathy and absolute lack of a sense of collective national outrage for a great duration of time, that public office holders have been committing grave crimes and almost always getting out of such evils without being punished by the court of law or court of public opinion.
Forget the braggadocio of the current government about anti- corruption fight, because there are rampant cases of official impunity. Why do we keep seeing more damning evils even when the lesser evils are yet to be tackled?
This is so because the court of public opinion in Nigeria is shallow, unintelligent, passive and suffers from perpetual collective amnesia.
Take the policing institution in Nigeria as a case study.
Over the past two years, many abominable crimes and allegations of official misconducts involving top hierarchy of the police have occurred but these alleged offenders are walking the streets free.
The same with the Army whereby 34 innocent soldiers of high ranks mainly from Southern Nigeria were dismissed over false allegations whereas the real culprits were promoted and posted to juicier positions because they aided the current political office holders to snatch power from the then partu in power prior to May 2015. But the cases involving the police is much more disturbing.
An immediate example is that of the then police commissioner in Enugu State last year who was mobilized by governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi,to prevent terror attack against Nimbo community but who did nothing until the armed Fulani terror gang carried out their threat against that agrarian community.
Those armed Fulani marauders left a trail of blood, deaths and destruction.
When this abominable crime was not prevented even when it could have been prevented since the police chief in Enugu had actionable intelligence, the inspector General of police Alhaji Ibrahim Kpotum Idris simply transferred the police commissioner out of Enugu.
Till date, the commissioner has yet to face prosecution for dereliction of duty nor has he accounted for what he did with the Enugu State’s money. In fact the IGP posted this indicted police officer to the maritime duty considered as very juicy.
To make matters worst, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the governor who publicly accused the Police chief and other security agencies of diversion of security cash, did not take action to recover the money of Enugu State which he gave the police boss but which clearly was misapplied.
The government of Enugu and the Federal government have also failed to bring the killers to Justice.
Another example of how the police chiefs have persistently destroyed the ethical and legal foundations of the Nigeria police Force can be located in the quantum of science based, evidence based and research- based reports indicting the police of corruption.
Both institutionally and from individuals with access to actionable intelligence, the Nigeria police has been inundated with disturbing allegations of bribery and corruption.
Some of those who have made these allegations and far-reaching investigative reports include the United Nations; National Bureau of Statistics and a retired police officer and a serving senator Isa Missau who is the Committee Chairman on Navy in the Senate.
It must be stated from onset that the inspector General of police has an ‘original sin’ which characterized his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari was accused of destroying merits and professional competence, but chose favoritism and tribalism in his choice of the current inspector General of police to an extent that over two dozen senior officers with better academic and professional qualifications were jettisoned and illegally retired just to pave way for a far junior and grossly inexperienced rookie police officer to emerge as the head of the police in the World’s largest black nation.
Professor Chinua Achebe of blessed memories said tribalism and nepotism affects merits and competence. Perhaps, the avalanche of accusations of incompetence and corruption trailing the IGP is a direct effect of the total disregard to professional competence and merits by President Muhammadu Buhari in picking Ibrahim Idris from the lower rank of commissioner to torpedo his seniors to become Inspector General of Police.
This same head of police with so much ethical deficits and allegations hanging on his neck has misled the Nigeria police force into winning a gold medal in the crime of bribery and corruption and these damaging reports were authored by institutions that ordinarily have proven to be beyond reproach namely united Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC) and the National Bureau of Statics.
Police officers, judges and prosecutors are the most corrupt public officials in Nigeria, the National Bureau of Statistics said in its latest report.
The damning report came the same day the United Nations Office for Drug and Crimes (UNODC) released its own corruption report that said Nigeria spent N400bn annually on bribes to public officials.
The 2017 National Corruption Survey said 46.4 per cent of Nigerian citizens have had “bribery contact” with police officers, 33 per cent with prosecutors and 31.5 per cent with Judges/magistrates.
The 125-page UNODC titled “Corruption in Nigeria, Bribery: Public Experience and Response, July 2017” was presented to the public few days back.
The report also listed policemen and the judiciary as topmost on the list of bribe takers. It also said Nigerians spend 28.8 percent of their earnings on bribes.
The Head of Cooperation of the European Union (EU) Kurt Cornelis said about €30m was spent on the survey and other processes leading to the publication of the report.
Cornelis said the effort was part of the EU, UNODC and other partners to help Nigeria overcome the scourge of corruption.
The Statistician General of the Federation and CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of Nigeria Dr. Yemi Kale and the UNODC Nigeria Representative Cristina Albertin said the report was based on data collected in a survey of 33,067 households.
It was conducted in April and May 2016 across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
They described the study as the largest corruption survey ever conducted in Africa.
“Almost a third of Nigerian adults (32.3 percent) who had contact with a public official between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay, a bribe to that public official.
“The majority of those who paid a bribe to a public official did so more than once a year. Bribe-payers in Nigeria pay an average of some six bribes in one year, or roughly one bribe every two months.
“Taking into account the fact that nine out of every 10 bribes paid into public officials in Nigeria are paid in cash and the size of the payment made, it is estimated that the total amount of bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey was around N400 billion, the equivalent of $4.6 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP).
“This sum is equivalent to 39 percent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016,” the report stated.
It said by combining the total number of people who paid a bribe to a public official with the frequency of those payments, it is estimated that a total of roughly 82.3 million bribes were paid in Nigeria in 12 months prior to the survey.
This amounts to an average of 0.93 bribes per adults or one bribe paid by every adult Nigerian per year.
It also said the average sum paid as a cash bribe is approximately N5,300 equivalent to $61 PPP, or an average of 28.2 percent of the average monthly salary of approximately N18,900.
While saying that 37.1 percent of men pay bribes compare to 26.6 percent women, the report said that young adults (25 to 34 years) are more vulnerable to bribery than older age groups and also that higher level of education and income lead to greater risk of bribery.
In the ranking of bribe-takers, the report lists the Police (46.4 percent), prosecutors (33.0 percent), judges/magistrates (31.5 percent), tax/revenue officers (27.3 percent), custom officers (26.5 percent), and public utilities (22.4 percent) as the highest.
Also, the report which lists the prevalence and frequency of bribery at national level and zones with north-west topping the list and north-east, south-south, south-west, north-central and south-east following respectively,
It also lists south-west, north-central, south-south, north-west, north-east and south-east respectively where the highest numbers of bribes are paid by individuals.
The communication officer of the UNODC Mr. Sylvester Tunde Atere said that the “Support to anti-corruption in Nigeria” project involved 14 anti-corruption agencies and 10 civil society organizations (CSOs) grantees.
On his part, Senator Missau accused the IGP of pocketing N10billion monthly from fees paid to police illegally by corporate organisations and individuals particularly crude oil prospecting companies. The Police dismissed his allegations with mere wave of hands and President Muhammadu Buhari has said nothing and office life has continued as usual for this IGP.
But Missau who maintained his allegations briefed the media thus: “I welcome you all to this press Briefing. Let me quickly say that this interaction with the gentleman and ladies of the press is to put to records straight on the avoidable controversy generated by the Police authorities over a simple and patriotic advice to them. Infact, the reporters o my earlier press statement restricted their reports to just unwholesome promotion practices, there are however more weighty allegations. And i make bold to state as follows: While the police service commission could not deny the bribery allegations, information reaching me indicates that even transfers of commissioners of police, state mobile commanders and SPU commander are also allegedly riddled in corruption.
Senator Missau fired on thus: “As you may be aware, the chain of command in the force does not allow these grievances to be aired, but the allegation is also rife that the IGP posted a commissioner of police, who for the past 17 years has not worked/ served in a police station to take charge of a state. The former police aide to late former Governor Alamiesiegha who eventually served under former president Goodluck Jonathan is now the commissioner of police, Adamawa state. Foisting such officers without operational experience has been a major setback to the current administration’s fight against the Boko haram insurgency.”
“There is also the allegation that more than 50,000 policemen are attached to oil companies, banks, and private individuals with regular payments made to the police authorities. While these monies are estimated to run into billions of naira, they are however uncounted for.”
“The IGP is alleged to divert the funds provided under the 2016 Appropriations Act of the acquisition of Armored personal carriers, APC to purchase of luxury cars, which is a criminal offence” .
“The IGP is alleged to aggressively pursue nepotistic tendencies in favour of his Nupe officers and men”.
“A curious and nebulous system was introduced by the IGP where so many units were introduced under his office as investigating units, whereas there is a legally established office of the police DUG (Investigation). While this made the DIG’s office moribund, it also made the officers attached to the office redundant”, Senator Missau affirmed.
He continued: “To set the record straight when the president appointed the IGP, 23 AIG were compulsory retired just enable him to perform his duties properly, why bring in junior officers to head their seniors? The IGP is alleged to have no plan or focus. Things are done on spur of the moment. IGP runs the police like a commissioner of police running of state command. Major decisions are taken with junior officers with the DIG’s sidelined. A typical case in point is the use of a Rtd DIG in leading on investigation units while there are active officers”.
“The IGP is also alleges to not allowing Departments to function properly. Attention is not paid to welfare and logistics need of officers and men, thereby causing low morale.”
He then charged the authorities thus: “I hope that the police authorities would take advantage of this information and review its practices for efficient service delivery.”
Sadly, the IGP turned around and brandes tge whistleblower a deserter from police and asked that he be arrested. The police all the while that Missau won his Senate seat made no such allegations but only to seek to use diversionary tactics to hide away from rendering public accounts. The President must see this as a litmus test of his anti-graft effort to sanitise the police.
The allegations are too weighty to be snubbed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President must not say because the IGP is his ‘boy’ therefore he can get away with just any allegations. This is the same danger of tribalism pointed out by the Iconic author of global reputation Professor Chinua Achebe.
His words: “The major objection to the practice of tribalism is that it exposes the citizen to unfair treatment and social injustice. Less advertised but no less damaging to social morality is the advantage which tribalism may confer on mediocrity”.
“Social injustice is therefore not only a matter of morality but also of sheer efficiency and effectiveness”, says Achebe in his book titled “The trouble with Nigeria”. Must the Nigerian peculiar problem of collective amnesia allow these allegations to be buried in the carpet of impunity?
The media must constantly put this on their major debating items until justice is done and the money diverted are brought back to public treasury.
This matter is like shouted to the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari who wants the rest of us to see him as a fighter of corruption and so it’s good to tell him that as a ‘physician’ he must heal himself.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION of Nigeria (HURIWA) and firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.