The police and the Ibadan 50-naira industry

When President Muhammadu Buhari said the wealth of the nation is in the hands of a selected few, if you were one of those who were quick to castigate him, then you should read this.

If you are dreaming of becoming a millionaire very fast, you should not venture into cyber-fraud. That will not be a very wise choice. What if you can become a law-enforcement agent and make big buck while at it. If you are from my side of the Pacesetter state, you will be in big business.

My paternal grandmother, God bless her soul, usually told me before her death not to engage in what she referred to as ‘ajo ailelere’, that is a contribution that has no benefit or gain. This is the very futile exercise that the commercial vehicle operators have been subjected to in several areas within the Ibadan metropolis. I can say the same applies to other parts of the state and even the country as a whole. I do not want to get into hasty generalization without facts though.

What started as occasional extortion and ‘money for the boys’ is now a full-blown daily contribution, except that, this time, the contribution ends up in the coffers of the men of the Nigerian Police Force. Only bandits hide in the secluded part of the highway in order to dispossess their victims of valuables; the police have also chosen damaged parts of the road to daily extort their victims.

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The vehicle drivers are expected to part with the paltry sum of 50 naira. While there is no official count of the tricycles and motorcycles in the state or the exact number that ply the road that leads to my area, I can confidently say that there are a whole lot of these vehicles that ply these roads on a daily basis. It though might not seem like a lot when it is factored into individual scale, it is only when it is calculated on massive scale that the level of extortion Is appreciated.

A look through the Police Act does not specify that the police can, in any way, extort members of the public. While they have the authority to check through the property of individuals who look suspicious and criminal-like, this does not include everyone riding a bike or driving a tricycle by default.

The total population estimate of Ibadan in 2019 is 3,565,108 people. There is no concrete data to show the percentage of the population that is involved in commercial transportation or that owns private cars. With the sensitivity and strategic function of transport and logistics, we can assume that about 20 per cent of the total population are in this sector—and this will include private car owners, bus drivers, tricycle operators and motorcycle riders. This figure is definitely an underestimate, but let us work with it.

With the estimate of 713,022 people, the police make N35,651,080 using N50 per day. When calculated on six working days, the sum is a whooping N213,906,480. I am scared to even punch my calculator to obtain the amount that would be in a month. That sum is N885,652,920. My calculator did not fail me.

If this figure is calculated for the fiscal year ended 2018, the figure will be N10,267,511,040. This figure, when factored into the Oyo State Internal Generated revenue, represents about 42 per cent of the total N24.67 billion. The slush funds go unremitted because the money does not even go back into the system. It only ends up in the pocket of some police officers. Do not forget it is an estimate. I do hope that you are seeing, in retrospect, the level of decay in the system.

If those who are expected to keep the public in check and to help us apprehend criminals can waive paper checks and necessary protocols, all because of a 50 naira note, we are truly sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The erstwhile editor of Sahara Reporters, Fisayo Soyombo, while speaking at TEDxFUTA narrated his experience of how he drove a ‘stolen’ car from Abuja to Lagos and back to Abuja, while settling the officers at several checkpoints. None asked for his particulars. That talk was indeed an expose on how corruption has been institutionalised within the Nigerian Police Force and other similar government forces.

If the menace of men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad is not enough, these gayly dressed police officers who daily extort commercial drivers of ungainful contribution, should be promptly looked into. This is a call to all concerned. This cancer has eaten so deep. It needs to stop. We need to stop these contributions that have no benefit. I rather the funds go into a tax purse where it can be used to repair the road network across the state.

Babatunde Adeleke sent this piece from Ibadan.

Nigerian Tribune

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