By Jude Atupulazi
You may have heard it. The Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr Mustapha Dandaura, has read a riot act to his men in the state to desist from extorting money if they still want to remain in the force. This means that road users, especially commercial transport operators, can heave a sigh of relief. It means that we will no more be hearing that famous language, ”Wetin you carry?” It is not that the police are wrong to demand from us what we have in our boots. It is their duty to ensure the safety of the populace and in this era of people being killed and dumped inside the boots of cars or people being kidnapped and dumped in same, it is only appropriate that the police should try to know what we are carrying.
But in Nigeria, we have all come to know that when the police demand to know what we are carrying, it is not just as it seems. It is rather their way of extorting money from us by trying to frustrate and delay us. This is especially so if you happen to be in a hurry, and you know that our people here are always in a hurry, even if they’re going nowhere.
The police will come up with all manner of annoying and frustrating tactics. They will check your boot, slowly go through your papers with a toothcomb, ask you unnecessary questions, and will often find fault with your papers or answers. Sometimes they will threaten you with taking you to the station. They can even take your papers and go to question other drivers or car owners while you wait in the sweltering heat of the sun; all in a bid to frustrate you. But if you ”grease” their palm, as we say here, which is a euphemism for bribing them, you will be let go. Today the police even give change to their victims after extorting money from them. That’s how bad it has become.
Some of those who refused to part with money in the past were shot in what we have come to know as accidental discharge and sometimes, the police hierarchy does a cover up.
But now, the Anambra State Police Chief has warned them to desist from those antics or be sacked. This sounds good. But from experience, it is doubtful that this will work. How can anyone who knows the police in this country believe it will work when they know how past directives went? Over time, we have heard the police top hierarchy say they had banned road blocks but road blocks or semi-road blocks have always been surfacing. They had also in the past banned the paying of money for bail but aren’t people still being made to pay for bail? If they see that you are enlightened, they will tell you to pay for the statement they typed; to pay for this or that.
You go to the police to lodge a complaint and the next thing you hear is that you should pay money for fuel so that the person you complained against will be arrested. Now, people fear to go to them; the very people who tell us they are our friends.
I give kudos to the Anambra CP, nevertheless, for directing the stoppage of bribe taking on the roads but I seriously doubt that it will succeed. I can bet it won’t because this is not the first time taking bribes by the police has been banned. It is even believed that the monies extorted from road users are shared between the extorters and their bosses. It is as though it has become a kind of racket.
But let me believe that it will work this time. I have no choice.
Before I sign off, I will let you into the thoughts of my friend, Comrade Charles Onyeagba, on the trending issue in the National Assembly.