As many Nigerians predicted, the mounted check points deployed by the Nigerian Police Force as a primary measure to ensure Nigerians in Lagos and Abuja adhere to the Covid19 checkpoints have been converted to extortion centres. This is the reality of being Nigerian, having nothing but for fear and disdain for law enforcement agents who seek every opportunity to exploit the average citizen. Reports from across the country including Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Umuahia, Jalingo all suggest that police officers and army personnel are undermining the efforts to prevent movement of people across state borders by demanding bribes to determine who gets to move around and who doesn’t.
These accusations of extortion are especially heinous considering the lock down has put many people out of a job and others unable to make income in these difficult times, to be extorted by policemen who are supposed to keep the peace and assist citizens feels like a double insult on the plight of the average Nigerian. Putting thousands of lives at risk in exchange for a N200 bribe seems like a poor compromise, but this is the reality of Nigeria. You would think the Federal government (under whom all security agencies are domiciled) would understand that now more than ever, law enforcement officers need to be compensated properly, first for risking their lives by manning check points and second they have all the incentives to overlook rule breaking in exchange for bribes. But Nigerian politicians are committed to holding on to an unrealistic view of the country, which results into worrying situations like this.
There is a lot of blame to go round, but there will be adequate time to address the structural problems that keep Nigeria corrupt even in the middle of a pandemic. Our primary challenge now, should be ensuring that the law enforcement officials who are an integral part of our response to the Covid19 pandemic begin to take their responsibilities seriously.