Titled: Police-Oiled Blue-Collar Crime In The Southeast-Nigeria: How Nigerian Police Personnel In The Zone Unlawfully Made N9.35Billion (over 60 Million US Dollars) From 1,350 Check-points In 18 Months As Against N3.5 Billion Lost To Kidnappers In The Zone Since 2007
(Onitsha- Nigeria, July 28, 2010)-In Criminology, blue-collar crime is regarded as any crime committed by an individual from a lower social class, as opposed to white-collar crime committed by individuals of higher social class. An example of a blue-collar criminal is a police person who demands for a bribe at the police check-point. On the other hand, it is bribery when one other than a public official corruptly takes the initiative and offers what he knows is not an authorized fee to a public official; and it is extortion when a public official corruptly makes an unlawful demand which is paid by one who does not realize it is not the fee authorized for the services rendered (see latest (2009) edition of the Black’s Law Dictionary).
It is on the basis of the foregoing that we decided to take a cursory look at the blue-collar criminality or roadblock extortions in the Southeast-Nigeria from January 2009 to June 2010 or in the past 18 months. We had severally observed that between June 1999 and December 2008, the Anambra State Police personnel unlawfully made a whopping sum of N3.3Billion from various police check-points or roadblocks in the State.
This was as a result of our earlier investigations, using commonsense principles such as observations from, and interactions with travelers and transporters and the eyewitnesses’ accounts. We had in the course of the said investigations, interviewed several victims such as commercial motorcyclists, commercial motorists, private car operators and other eyewitnesses. Our investigations then were (and are still) restricted to roadblock extortions and did not cover other branches of blue-collar crime being perpetrated by corrupt police persons such as extortions associated with conveyance of goods and other related items, unlawful bail fees, extortions arising from criminal investigations, etc. We also made a finding of the fact that, if calculated, the foregoing extortions would either be at par with the sum total of extortions associated with roadblocks or double same.
It was our further finding that between June 1999 and December 2003, toll benchmark used by the extortionists was N10.00 per extortee and a total number of 70 roadblocks were estimated to have existed then on Anambra roads. And each roadblock, manned by a five-person or four-person police squad made the sum of N10,000 per day from commercial and private motorists and motorcyclists, who encountered the affected roadblocks about one-thousand (1000) times per day, meaning that a total sum of N700,000 was generated by the extortionists per day from the 70 check-points.
Therefore, between June 1999 and December 2003, a total sum of N1,26 Billion was believed to have been unlawfully realized from the affected roadblocks. But between January 2004 and December 2008, the toll benchmark was increased to N20.00 per extortee and the private vehicle operators were exempted, with the exception of extortions arising from lawful and unlawful examination of vehicular papers. The total sum unlawfully realized daily, moved from N700,000 to N1.4Million per day, N42Million per month and N504Million per year. As a result, between January 2004 and December 2008, a period of four years, a total of N2, 016Billion was believed to have been unlawfully realized from the police check-points. In all, between June 1999 and December 2008, a period of 9 ½ years, a total of N3.3Billion or about N30Million Dollars (using the then exchange rate of about N110,00 per US Dollar) might have been unlawfully realized.
Today, there are between 350 and 400 police check-points in Anambra State, manning about 14 Federal Roads and over 700 kilometers of the State roads or Trunk B roads in the State and manned by over 1800 police personnel. There are also increasing number of commercial vehicles and motorcycles on Anambra roads. Apart from over 200 Markets in the State, the State is highly urbanized. And more urban centers are springing up. Four, out of every five adult persons in the State are engaged in the art of buying and selling of goods and services. As a matter of fact, Anambra State is the most urbanized and most densely populated in the Southeast-Nigeria, followed by Abia State. The State has over ten urban centers and they are : Ekwulobia/ Oko, Umunze, Ihiala,Nnewi, Oba,Ogidi, Nkpor,Obosi, Ogbaru, Onitsha, Nsugbe, Awka, Nise/Agulu zone, etc and self-efforts development index is very high among her adult population. The State is also a trade-prone society, and occupies a land mass of about 4,611 square kilometers. Anambra also informally contributes about fifty percent of non-oil revenues to Delta State, especially to Asaba, the State capital city.
In addition, Anambra State is home to largest number of commercial motorcycles in Nigeria after Lagos State. As at June 2010, for instance, there are 326,652 registered commercial motorcyclists in Lagos State, according to statistics released recently by the Government of Lagos State. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 commercial motorcycles may be operating in Anambra State as of date, owning to influx of commercial motorcycle operators into the State on the heels of bans placed on them by various States’ Governments in the Southeast and South-south zones. Their second safe heaven is Abia State, especially before they were banned in Aba and Umuahia in June 2009. They have now relocated to semi urban and remote areas of the State.
In other words, Anambra and Abia States are predominantly blue-collar societies, where many, if not, most adult populations are engaged in physical activities in formal and informal industries. Businesses are predominantly conducted on cash-and-carry basis. The cash-carrying ratio in the two societies is very high. This is largely in contrast to what goes on in respect of Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi States, which are regarded as “civil-service States”, where white-collar criminality may be predominant.
Therefore, in order of categorization, Anambra leads as a State worse hit by police-perpetrated blue-collar criminality, followed by Abia State, then Imo State, Enugu State and Ebonyi State. This is also evidenced by the number of police check-points present in the five States. From our investigations, anchored on commonsense principles and eyewitnesses’ accounts, there are between 350 and 400 police/military check-points in Anambra State; between 300 and 350 in Abia State; about 250 in Imo State; about 200 in Enugu State and about 150 in Ebonyi State totaling over 1,350 police check-points in the zone as at June 2010.
The remote motives behind the sharp increase in the number of these check-points are for the perpetration of blue-collar criminality, while the outer motives are to combat the political class-oiled violent crimes, especially the crimes of kidnapping for ransom and hi-tech armed robbery (banking and bullion van robberies). In the case of Anambra State, part of the outer motives has to do with the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial election. These over 1,350 police check-points in the Southeast- Nigeria are manned by over 7,000 policepersons on average of five or four policepersons per check-point. This is excludes over 25,000 policepersons believed to have been deployed and cramped in the existing police formations in the zone sine January 2009 and they are not part of those statutorily stationed in various police formations within the zone. In Imo State alone, according to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, over 5,000 police personnel mainly from the Mobile Police Division of the Force were recently deployed to the State.
Those involved in the roadblock extortions in the Southeast-Nigeria are mainly drawn from the Mobile Police Division of the Nigeria Police Force. Others are members of the Regular Police Division, Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS), Anti-Terrorism Squads (SWAT) and the Military Police Personnel. Soldiers rarely extort road users where they are stationed, except at joint roadblocks with members of the Mobile Police Division. In this case, MOPOL persons do the extortion, while soldiers stay at a distance, watching, but they partake in the sharing of the “proceeds” at the end of the criminal roadblock exercise.
The toll benchmark is N20.00 for MOPOL and Regular Policepersons; N50.00 to N100.00 for the Military Police Personnel and the SARS; while the Anti Terrorism Squads, who are not stationed, but on patrol, target wares’ couriers for extortion at random, which ranges from N1,000.00 to N20,000.00 per victim. Members of the Federal Highways’ Patrol Teams also engage in this nefarious activity. Their victims are asked to park off the road, and locate their leaders by the bush side and part with N100.00 to N200.00 (per victim). Members of the Federal Roads’ Safety Corps (FRSC) engage in “booby-traps” extortions; whereby out of over twenty “offenses” contained in their “offense sheets”, road users rarely escape from such “booby-traps”. Some road users, especially commercial motorists have formed the habits of parking miles away from check-points, mounted by the FRSC personnel; walk up to the check-points and settle (bribe) them so as to be given clean passage.
In Anambra State, the non-statue-backed Anambra State Roads’ Traffic Agency (ASTA) is nightmarish. Their pattern of extortion ranges from random removal of plate numbers to flattening of tyres/impoundment of vehicles. Once a road user parks his or her vehicle off the center of the road so as to answer a phone call, he or she will be surrounded by the Agency’s operatives and accuse of “obstruction”, and he or she will be intimidated to part with N5,000.00 to N15,000.00.
Relying on eyewitnesses’ accounts, interactions with some road users and observations by our fact-finding teams, the following findings were made: 1. There were about ten police check-points as at June 2010 between Enugu State (Ninth Mile) and Oturkpa in Benue State, whereas the Oturkpa to FCT (Federal Capital Territory) etc routes recorded near-zero police check-points. 2. There were at least twenty police check-points as at June 2010 from Enugu to Okigwe in Imo State, using Enugu–Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way. 3. There were about sixty police check-points from Enugu to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State as at June 2010, using Enugu-Abakaliki Road which is about an hour journey. 4. There were about thirty police check-points as at June 2010 from Onitsha in Anambra State to Enugu State (New Market Park) using Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way in a journey of about 1½ hours. 5. There were at least twenty police check-points as at June 2010 from Onitsha to Owerri in Imo State using Onitsha-Owerri Dual Carriage Way in a journey of less than two hours. 6. There were about twenty police check-points as at June 2010 from Onitsha to Benin in Edo State (via Onitsha-Asaba-Benin Dual Carriage Way) in a journey of less than 2 hours, whereas from Agbor to Abuja and from Benin to Lagos, there were not up to ten check-points for the two routes that take up to 9hours. 7. There were at least twenty police check-points as at June 2010 from Okigwe in Imo State to Aba in Abia State in a journey of less than an hour. 8. There were at least thirty police check-points as at June 2010 from Aba to Port Harcourt in Rivers State in a journey of about two hours.
Furthermore, between ten and twenty police check-points were each recorded as at June 2010 from Aba to Owerri via Aba-Owerri Road, Umuahia (Abia State)- Obowe to Owerri via Umuahia-Obowe-Owerri Road; Aba to Ikot-Ekpene in Cross River State via Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road; Uturu in Abia State to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State via Uturu-Okigwe-Abakaliki Road; Abakaliki to Ogoja in Cross River State via Abakaliki-Ogoja Road; Owerri in Imo State to Port Harcourt in Rivers State via Owerri-Elele-Port Harcourt Road, etc. It is our further observation that major nooks and crannies in all the urban areas in the Southeast-Nigeria, as well as strategic points on states’ governments’ built roads were flooded with police check-points as at June 2010.
Mr. Tochukwu Ohanehi is a commercial motorcycle operator in Onitsha. He told Intersociety that he encounters police check-points in the city of Onitsha twenty times a day and he loses N400.00 to police extortion, meaning that he parts with N20.00 at each of the check-points, especially when carrying a passenger. He parts with N50.00 if he carries wares, such as loaves of bread, bags of maize, rice, etc. Mr. Rufus Durueze is a commercial bus operator who plies Onitsha to Awka via Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way. He told Intersociety that he spends between N600.00 and N1, 200.00 per day in the hands of policepersons mounting roadblocks between Onitsha and Awka; depending on how many trips he covers a day. Each trip (thro and fro) costs him the sum of N300.00.
Our investigations further revealed that the amount of money being made unlawfully from each police check-point varies, depending on the juicy nature of the area. For instance, police check-points in Onitsha and Nnewi zones in Anambra State make more evil money than their counterparts in Ihiala, Aguata and Awka areas. A police check-point in the former collects as much as N50,000 per day as against the latter’s N10,000 to N15,000. On average, each police check-point in Anambra and Abia States may be going home with the sum of N20,000 per day, while each of them in Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi States may be making the sum of N10,000 per day because of their “civil service” status.
Therefore, as at June 2009, when there were about 150 police check-points in Anambra State, a total sum of N540Million was believed to have been unlawfully made from roadblock extortions (between January and June 2009). Between July and December 2009, when the check-points were doubled to about 300, the sum of N1, 08Billion was believed to have been realized on average of N20,000.00 per police check-point a day, N6Million for the 300 check-points per day, and N180Million per month. Between January and June 2010, when the check-points increased to about 350 to 400, the sum of N1,260Billion to N1,320Billion might have been unlawfully made.
In all, in the case of Anambra State, it may be safe to conclude that between June 1999 and June 2010, a period of eleven years, a total sum of N6,180Billion (over 40Million US Dollars) might have been realized from police roadblock extortions in the State. It is also possible that the police might have realized more than this considering the fact that extortions arising from commercial motorcycle operations in Anambra State alone is more than N4Million per day. For instance, since Lagos State parades the largest number of commercial motorcycle operators in Nigeria with more than 326,000, it is estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 of them will be operating in Anambra State, making the State the second State with largest Okada operators and if N20.00 multiplied by at least 200,000, it is N4Million, even though it is not possible for them to part with only N20.00 per day at these police check-points.
All in all, in Anambra State, with about 150 police check-points as at June 2009; 300 police check-points as at December 2009; and 350 to 400 police check-points as at June 2010, a total of N2, 880Billion might have been realized from the police–oiled blue-collar criminality, otherwise called “extortion”. In Abia State, with about 300 to 350 police check-points, the sum of N3,24Billion might have been unlawfully realized from police roadblock extortions between January 2009 and June 2010, a period of 18 months, on the average of N20,000 per check-point a day, N6Million for the 300 check-points per day, and N180Million per month.
In Imo State, with about 250 police check-points, the sum of N1,350Billion might have been unlawfully realized in the past 18 months (January 2009 to June 2010), on average of N10,000 per check-point a day, N2.5Million for the 250 check-points per day and N75Million per month. In Enugu State, with about 200 police check-points, the sum of N1,080 Billion might have been realized in the past 18 months, on average of N10,000 per check-point a day, N2Million for the 200 check-points per day, and N60million per month. And in Ebonyi State, with about 150 police check-points, the sum of N810Million might have been illegally realized in the past 18 months on average of N10,000 per check-point a day, N1,5Million for the 150 check-points per day, and N45Million per month.
Therefore, in the past 18 months in the Southeast-Nigeria, a total sum of N9,35 Billion or over 60Million US Dollars might have been realized from police roadblock extortions that is, Anambra-N2,880Billion, Abia-N3,240Billion, Imo- N1,350Billion, Enugu-N1,080Billion and Ebonyi-N810Million. Anambra State also had lost a total of N6,180Billion to police roadblock extortions since June 1999. Just like we earlier noted, these calculations are very conservative, because the figure arrived at, may be much lower than the actual proceeds that were criminally realized.
Our findings also clearly showed that blue-collar crime thrives in the Southeast-Nigeria more than crime of kidnapping for ransom rooted in organized crimes. While it is estimated that the sum of N3,5Billion might have been lost to kidnapping for ransom in the Southeast-Nigeria since 2007, on average of N5Million per victim, out of about 700 persons believed to have been kidnapped in the area since 2007, the sum of N9,35Billion is believed to have been lost to police check-point extortions meaning that evil proceeds realized from the roadblock extortions is three times more than that lost to kidnappers.
We also found out that the crime of police roadblock extortions appeared to be well-patterned. It is perpetrated by the rank and files (lowest ebb of the Nigeria Police Force) and seemingly backed by the Command hierarchy of the Force. Proceeds’ sharing channels reportedly exist through which the proceeds reach those in the command structure of the Force, such as : from the toll collector to the team leader; from the team leader to off-the-scene squadron commander; from the squadron commander to the DPO in-charge of the police station where they are attached, to the Area MOPOL Commander; from them to Area Police Commander (an Assistant Commissioner of Police); from him or her to the Deputy Commissioner of Police/Commissioner of Police; from them to the Assistant Inspector General of Police; and from him or her to the DIG/IGP. These channels are commonly known as “channels for returns”.
In addition to our earlier recommendations on ways to curb rabid corruption in the Nigeria Police Force as well as ways out of kidnapping and arm robbery menace in the Southeast-Nigeria (please visit Intersociety’s website at www.intersociety-ng.org, under (“Newsletters and Press Releases”), it is our further recommendation that situations where police recruitment exercises are commercialized and politicized must be prohibited. It has been revealed that an average police recruit coughs out between N30,000 and N100,000 so as to be formally recruited into the Force. Also, it is widely believed that three, out of every five policepersons are loyal to Nigeria’s gangster politicians, who facilitated their entry into the Force.
We also recommend that all forms of bribery arising from postings and transfers of police personnel especially from other geopolitical zones to the Southeast zone shall be prohibited. We have it on good authority that many of those affected by the IGP’s recent announcement of the transfer of over 3,500 policepersons from the Southeast zone are “working”(bribing) their way back to the zone. A woman Police sergeant recently told her friend in Onitsha, who is closed to Intersociety that her boss (an Inspector) attached to the Old Toll Gate on Onitsha-Enugu Federal Road, Onitsha, makes at least N200,000 (1,500 US Dollars) weekly (from illegal conducts) and “eats all of them alone”, neglecting his subordinates. According to her, though her boss is on transfer to Borno State, he is working very hard (“bribing very hard”) to get back to Onitsha, which has been christened “police land of milk and honey”. She also confided in her friend that she, too, is “working” to annul her recent posting to Zamfara State so as to come back to Onitsha.
Finally, it is our recommendation that the Police Service Commission as presently constituted, should be dissolved and reconstituted so as to be able to curb these excesses and properly civilianize and re-orientate the Force and its personnel. It is also very sad to note that as at 26th day of July 2010, most of the police personnel stationed at check-points in the Southeast zone of Nigeria, are still busy collecting bribes at those check-points. Few road users who defied them are molested and brutalized. Few lucky ones have had their journeys delayed for hours on flimsy grounds.
For Immediate Release
A Report By International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Nigeria
Prepared for Intersociety By: Emeka Umeagbalasi Chairman, Board of Trustees
Phone: +234 (0)8033601078
Email: [email protected]