Police investigate allegation of policemen extorting drivers with POS machine

•I pay because I don’t want to delay my passengers

Social media went agog some days ago over a video posted by a Twitter user with a policeman caught in the culture — the act of publicly asking for money from commuters at checkpoints. The officer was recorded, clutching a Point of le (POS) asking for the ATM card of someone whose identity is not known but whose voice echoed, refusing to comply with an instruction to give his card to the officer.

This man was heard shouting ‘ I no go give you my ATM,  lai lai’.

In response to the tags on Twitter,  the Nigerian Police tweeted its concerns as regards the video and made it known that investigation had commenced.

“The @policeNG has commenced investigations to unravel the authenticity of the video, location of incident and identity of persons captured in the viral video where some persons in Police uniform were captured, allegedly with POS machine and demanding ATM card from a member of the public.

“Members of the public with relevant information that could assist Police investigators are enjoined to kindly DM @policeNG or furnish same via any of our confidential channels e.g pressforabuja@police.gov.ng”.

The statement added that the inspector General of Police (IGP) said he condemned all acts of corruption by public servants,  particularly police officers and was committed to bringing to book any officer found wanting in that regard,” the police said.

This development came amidst widespread allegations of extortion and harrassment of drivers and passengers by securityment across the country.

Saturday Tribune’s investigations showed the frustrations of road users, especially commercial drivers. Our reporter’s findings are contained in the following report:

 

I pay because I don’t want to delay my passengers

‘Soldier dey front’, ‘e mu earpiece wole’ (keep your earpiece), ‘aunty drop your phone o, they are coming to check us’.

‘Thank you’, I replied with mixed feelings heightened in disappointment.

Whatever the fuss was with those passengers came from series of experiences they had had at checkpoints, such as being asked to step down for throwing corn cob in bushes that only decorated the routes, to pick the floor, by the roadside, or countless time of delay when the drivers’ particulars had been seized for refusing to give the officers an ‘almighty handshake’ -as one called it- with squeezed naira notes.

‘This is barbaric, terror should not be from the uniformed men who are supposed to be the ones protecting us, not exhorting or making life difficult for drivers and citizens too’, Femi, a commuter said ,recalling his experiences.

It was at a road block mounted by soldiers in a South West state.

An average Nigerian driver who starts his day at 4am leaves home with the fear of being at risk on bad roads, calculations on how to get his profit and the uniformed men he has to share these profits with on a daily basis; it’s a thing of concern to them.

One of the officials at a popular motor park in Ibadan was visited, he plies Ikorodu routes regularly and he lamented his anguish at the ways he had been treated just because he’s a commercial driver.

The driver, Mr. Sesan Ayodele said the way officials on road chase after commercial drivers had become a situation that needs government’s interference so they would be curbed.

“These road safety men chase us down so much that sometimes we get involved in accidents, putting our lives and that of passengers at risk of death. When accidents then occur, and luggage gets missing, the police would do nothing but accuse we drivers of stealing properties of our passengers which is not true. Would a driver who got in an accident and is in excruciating pain remember any luggage rather than struggle to keep his life? They only do this thing to us commercial drivers. They would just tear out receipt ranging from 20,000 naira at times over nothing. We are so helpless. Please help us implore our governors to talk to these people”,  Mr Ayodele said.

According to a survey released by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) reports high levels of corruption in public institutions in Nigeria for the past five years, the police emerged as the most corrupt. The report says “a bribe is paid in 54 per cent of interactions with the police. In fact, there is a 63 per cent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he or she interacted with the police, that is almost two out of three”, an eyesore.

And to what extent has the menace of consistent bribe allegations, negligence and misconduct eaten deeply into, especially on the road where they are now regularly seen?

Borno State governor recently caught some soldiers and policemen forcing travellers who did not have the national identity card to pay N1, 000. The governor was on his way to Jakana, a village 45km from Maiduguri where terrorists launched an attack on Saturday.and had seen these men involved in the act, it was all over the media. The governor, Babagana Zulu had said, “ Boko Haram is attacking people and you are here collecting N1000 per car”. One wonders if these men are about the citizens they are meant to protect at all.

Drivers are major recipients of their actions.

An aggrieved driver named Mr Afeez Adesina relived his experiences too that whenever he traveled, there were more of road safety officers who would chase him down for no reason.

“The last experience wasn’t pleasant at all. I was hunted down by the road safety in motion. When I stopped, one of them asked for my particulars and my licence, I provided him with all. After finding no allegations against me, he asked to see my spare and said it wasn’t in good condition, which meant I had to pay for having a bad spare tyre. I paid N3,000 for having tokunbo tyre in my car. How much is my profit”?

Asked about charges per uninformed man, Adesina said the more the luggage in the boot, the higher the driver had to pay for clearance, ranging from ‘wazo’ (50naira)  to 200 naira.

“I expect the police and the security department to check us, rightly, for car particulars and as a safety measure but what can I say about this duty? I alerted a patrol on the road one day when information got to me that a robbery attack was going on ahead, only to have these men, wait behind with myself and other drivers. I can’t even blame them; maybe their guns were not as strong as that of the robbers. But it’s sad, they are not protecting us anymore”, Adesina concluded.

On the negligence of some drivers to ensure their vehicles are in good condition or have their particulars at hand, one of the drivers who pleaded anonymity attested to the fact that the park executives check vehicles on regular basis before drivers are allowed to ply roads, but there are times, out of lackadaisical behaviors, some do not renew and in fact some forgot to do the needful. He said these act had been curbed over the years and has become very minute to meet drivers without complete car papers.

He said that because of this, security men had to find an alternative means to extort from drivers.

“How do I explain that I had paid so much for having my papers complete? It doesn’t mean anything nowadays. When they have checked my papers, the road worthiness, caution, fire extinguisher, and driver’s license, and see nothing to accuse me of,  they take my papers away and sit while I have to pay to ‘bail’ my things.  I pay because I don’t want to delay my passengers or risk being on the bad roads for too long. I was asked to pay N30, 000 before for having a cracked windscreen. They don’t respect drivers here at all. They see us as slaves, when we are only using this means to survive in a country where there are no jobs. Graduates come here to start the transportation business after searching and not getting a white-collar job. Some buy these vehicles on installment only to budget for the men on the road out of the little profit they make”, said the driver.

Mr Omiyale made it known to Saturday Tribune that as a driver, he hoped the government would hasten road construction because he had been spending over six hours in traffic on a supposed two hour journey from Ibadan to Lagos. He also complained of how he was continually harassed by officers on his trips.

“Last time,’ he stated, ‘I was stopped for nothing. What they do when they stop me like that is to just join me at the front seat and ordered him to take us to the station, for no offenses mostly. Now, the passengers who do not want to be delayed are so used to these distortions so all they do is even shout at us or plead with us drivers to just pay the officer so they can leave and we continue our journey.  We feel they should be on the road to scare off robbers, but at the same time we still give away so much when they are on the road, they are just a necessary evil to us. They are not even secretive about extorting anymore. It’s really disheartening”.

Mr Omiyale was concerned about how these law officials feel it was right to reap from where another has planted without any feel of guilt.

Another passenger, Damilola, said she was unhappy at the development and the bad state of roads in Nigeria.

‘It is hard to maintain cars on our terrible roads, with the traffic, the not- too-good vehicles; we still have the problems of policemen and soldiers who make traveling tedious on Nigerian roads. I wish this would change because I don’t think saying these things will change anything, I hope it changes. From the park drivers have to settle, on the roads they still have to settle the patrol, and while trying to run away from the officers,  some are involved in accidents. I have read several stories of accidents occurring because a driver is trying to swerve and avoid the police.  To me this is uncalled for.  They harass anyone, students, passengers, commercial drivers, private cars, something just really need to be done. They keep extorting.  I hope the government looks into this seriously’,  Damilola said.

Mr Oluseyi Abimbola who travelled through Sagamu, Osun and sometimes Edo states concluded they were aware that there should be punishment for defaulters of regulations and they know the repercussions, which include such drivers reporting to the station, or not being allowed to drive.

Oluwaseyi, said ‘the road safety, police and soldiers should focus on protecting, not punish innocent drivers for nothing. I know the corrupt aspect is when as a driver you just drop 100naira when you feel you have defaulted, but we don’t even know our offences these days, you just pay to them, you are a defaulter or not. We are helpless. We hope these experiences shared can get to the ears of the commissioners’.

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