Police officers in America accept bribes

Nigeria: Corruption encourages police violence

(Lagos, August 17, 2010) - Widespread corruption in the Nigerian police force is abusing ordinary citizens and undermining the rule of law in the country, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urges the Nigerian government to take immediate action to increase the transparency of the police budget. In addition, investigations should be undertaken immediately to hold police officers involved in corruption of any rank accountable.

The 102-page report "Everyone's in on the Game: Corruption and Human Rights Abuses by the Nigeria Police" documents the myriad forms of police corruption in Nigeria. The report describes such as institutionalized blackmail, the existing impunity and the lack of political will to reform the police apparatus have made police corruption a deeply rooted problem in Nigeria.

"The functioning of the police force is essential to the rule of law and the protection of public safety," said Corinne Dufka, West Africa expert at Human Rights Watch. "The Nigerian government's ongoing failure, corruption, bribery and embezzlement by the Nigerian government Fighting the police threatens the fundamental rights of all Nigerians. "

The report is based on more than 145 interviews with victims and witnesses of police corruption in Nigeria, including traders, professional drivers, sex workers, crime victims and suspects. Ordinary and high-ranking police officers were also interviewed, as well as government officials, judges, state attorneys and lawyers, religious and civil society actors, journalists, diplomats and members of the armed militia.

Research by Human Rights Watch shows that many Nigerian police officers behave in an exemplary manner despite difficult and often dangerous working conditions. However, corruption and abusive behavior are widespread within the Nigerian police force. A police officer told Human Rights Watch that corruption is like "a disease in each of us."

Extortion and bribery
The report documents how police officers extort bribes every day from countless Nigerians who travel on country roads, buy and sell in markets, run errands or just work in their offices. Officials routinely threaten and mistreat their victims in order to extort the desired amounts.

In some regions, police extortion at roadblocks has become a standard "toll". Originally, the roadblocks were intended to combat crime that is rampant in many Nigerian communities. Police can extort money at the roadblocks. This illustrates the almost complete lack of good Will on the part of the senior police officers and the responsible government officials to hold the blackmailers accountable.

Research by Human Rights Watch has shown that those who refuse to pay the bribe are regularly subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. They are threatened until they or their family members pay for their release. Conflicts between drivers and police officers due to extortion often lead to an escalation. There is ample evidence that officials have severely beaten, sexually abused or even shot dead people who refused to pay the amounts requested in numerous cases.

The regularity of these extortions has meant that many Nigerians on the one hand simply accept police corruption and at the same time have lost all trust in the police. As one trader put it, “When you have a problem, expect the police to help you and protect your life and property - but instead it's the other way around. ... The police don't protect us; the officers only extort money for their own pockets. "

The "income system"
Human Rights Watch found that some senior officials have developed a perverse blackmail system that forces ordinary police officers to pay bribes to senior officials in the chain of command. This promotes and institutionalizes blackmail and abuse.

Former and active police officers told Human Rights Watch that officers had to pay superiors to be assigned to "lucrative posts." In order not to be "transferred" to a post with lower extortion potential, these officers are forced daily or weekly To meet payment terms. A police officer told Human Rights Watch that he is doing everything he can to make sure his manager's money demands are met: “If we run out of money at the end of the week, somehow we will get it. We'll just pick someone up and imprison them. "

Several officers interviewed by Human Rights Watch suggest that they too must pass on "income" to higher-ranking officials. The structural anchoring of corruption lacks the necessary deterrent to blackmail and other human rights violations.

At the same time, senior police officers appear to be involved in misappropriating public funds intended for police services. The Nigerian Police Department's budget for 2009 was $ 1.4 billion. But in fact embezzlement and mismanagement have resulted in the police forces having few resources for their investigative work. Forensic laboratories almost had to stop their work due to the lack of money. Lack of resources also means that many officers resort to torture to obtain information from suspects.

Police officers complain about a lack of fuel for their vehicles and the lack of the necessary resources for criminal investigations. One official said, "We don't have any of what we actually need to do our job ... fuel, pens, complaint and bond forms, we have to buy everything ourselves." A lawyer witnessed as an officer witnessed a lightbulb removed from the lamp in a police station and told his subordinate, "If you want light, buy your own."

Despite a landmark conviction of a former police inspector general, impunity remains the norm. A victim of police abuse told Human Rights Watch that this culture led police officers to "believe they will not be punished for what they did anyway."

Law and Public Safety for Sale
Crime victims are routinely forced to pay the police for every step of the criminal investigation, from entering the police station to taking the testimony and bringing the case to the courts. If someone cannot pay, he is left without legal protection. On the other hand, suspects with enough money have the opportunity to bribe officials and thus cause the investigation to be terminated, influence the outcome of the proceedings or even direct the investigation against the actual victims. As one civil society representative put it: "Justice is sold to the highest bidder."

A former police officer told Human Rights Watch that officials at all levels have turned police work into a "money machine." It is customary for senior officials to sell police protection to the wealthy Nigerian elite, thereby depriving the rest of the Nigerian population of their legitimate safety Communities therefore resort to armed vigilante groups that operate outside of the law, practice vigilante justice and are notorious for human rights violations.

Lack of control
The report also shows that ministers and government officials responsible for overseeing, controlling and reforming the police force have failed to systematically combat corruption. Public grievance mechanisms, internal control procedures and civil oversight are far too underdeveloped, insufficiently funded and, by and large, ineffective. Victims of police abuse and extortion cited fear of further abuse as a central reason for keeping silent about the crimes.

Several Nigerian governments in recent years have admitted the problems outlined in the report and have set up working groups and committees to investigate the incidents and develop recommendations for reforming the police force. Unfortunately, the suggestions of the various official committees have been largely ignored, as have recommendations from civil society groups.

"It is time the Nigerian government at all levels took the devastating problem of police corruption seriously," said Dufka. "The government should investigate and prosecute high-ranking officials who tolerate and encourage blackmail and the hard-working members of the Deprive police units of the resources they need to carry out their tasks. "