Last week, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the European Union released the report of a survey conducted on the quality and integrity of public services in Nigeria and the impact of corruption on daily life in Nigeria. The 125- page report titled: “Corruption in Nigeria, Bribery: Public Experience and Response”, basically confirmed our long-held hypothesis that the Nigerian police is perhaps the most corrupt institution in the country. The police is closely followed by judges, prosecutors and the Nigerian Customs.
According to the 2017 National Corruption Survey, Nigerians spent N400 billion annually on bribes to public officials. Breaking it further, the report stated that 46.4 per cent of Nigerian citizens have had “bribery contact” with police officers, 33 per cent with prosecutors and 31.5 per cent with Judges/magistrates.
In terms of average bribes paid, the Customs came tops as the survey estimated the average bribe paid to Custom officers as N88, 587. That paid to judges/magistrates was N18, 576 while prosecutors received an average of N10, 072 as bribes from Nigerians.
The NBS estimated that the average bribe paid to Custom officers as N88,587, Judges/magistrates N18,576 while prosecutors received an average of N10,072 as bribes from Nigerians.
The survey also listed police officers and tax/revenue officers as public officers to whom the highest number of bribes were paid. It said 29.7 per cent of all bribes are paid to police officers upon a direct request before the service is provided. In the private sector, employees of insurance companies, teachers in private schools and doctors in private hospitals have highest bribe prevalence in Nigeria, the survey revealed.
The survey also showed that only 20 out of 100 people who were to pay bribe refused to comply. It also showed that majority of Nigerians (56 per cent) experience negative consequences after refusing to pay a requested bribe. However, only 3.7 percent of those who were asked to pay bribes reported their experience to an official authority.
It is a shame and a thing of horror that the most critical institutions in the dispensation of justice – police officers, judges and prosecutors – are the most corrupt public officials in Nigeria.
The implication of this revelation is that there is little or no justice in Nigeria and the rule of law is only a ruse like the signs in police stations stating that “bail is free”.
It also means equality before the law is also a ruse as those with the means tend to steer the course of justice towards themselves, their families and interests and those without means are most likely to have justice denied them.
Another implication is also that the anticorruption war of the government is another big ruse or to put it mildly, a distraction. There can be no modicum of success in the anti-corruption campaign until the security agencies, particularly the police and the judiciary are thoroughly sanitised and reformed.
And to confirm the results of the survey, both the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Nigerian police have hurriedly offered disclaimers that are as irrational as they are nonsensical. Without faulting the methodology or the sample size for the survey, the NJC sheepishly described the result of the survey as “not only subjective but speculative.” The Nigerian police on its part, outrightly dismissed the report as “false”.
It is not as if Nigerians didn’t already know that the police and the judiciary are corrupt, it is just that there is yet no such national survey with hard data to prove the level of corruption of these critical organs of justice. And what is more, the survey was spearheaded by a Nigerian governmental agency – the National Bureau of Statistics.
Just as we commend the NBS for objectively and fearlessly conducting research that expose the anomalies within the Nigerian state, we call on the government to promptly prioritise the reform of the police and the judiciary as the first step to fighting corruption in Nigeria.