This paper intends to examine the ramifications of corruption in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), with respect to public safety and human rights, and provide four policy strategies that can be adopted by the Nigerian government to reduce police corruption. The paper will investigate police corruption within the purview of three theories: structural-functional theory, deviant behaviour theory and soft state theory.
Drawing on these theories the paper will establish how their application to police corruption can help in understanding the tragedies of police corruption and reducing corruption in the NPF. In examining the ramifications of police corruption in Nigeria, the paper will explore concepts such as corruption of authority, kickbacks, opportunity theft, shakedowns, internal payoffs, padding, and the fix to show varying dimensions of police corruption.
In recent years, the level of corruption in Nigeria, particularly in the NPF, has become alarming. Police corruption in Nigeria takes different forms, ranging from officers collecting money from the citizens at checkpoints, to officers extorting money from alleged law offenders at police stations, to officers tampering evidence to influence court cases, to officers using forceful and eccentric means to obtain information, to officers working as accomplices to electoral malpractices, illegal activities and human rights abuses, and to officers mismanaging funds allocated to the Police Force for personal aggrandizement.
The most recent Global Corruption Barometer shows that 75% of Nigerians believe that the level of corruption has increased over the years and 72% perceive the NPF to be the most corrupt institution in the country (Pring 2015, 36 – 37). Also, 78% of Nigerians believe that the government has not handled the fight against corruption well (Ibid, 42); hence the anti-corruption performance of government is ranked poor.
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For over a decade, corruption in the NPF has come under increasing public scrutiny, as domestic and international civil society organizations involved in anti-corruption activism, have intensified efforts in uncovering corrupt practices in the NPF and demanding actions against police corruption. The activities of the anti-corruption activists have revealed series of public scandals involving senior officers of the NPF. Police corruption in Nigeria has raised serious concern about the standard of ethics and integrity in the NPF.
Since 1994, there had been four Presidential Committees on Police Reform established by different political administrations to examine issues facing the NPF and make recommendations to the government. But the recommendations of these committees have never been implemented. Thus efforts to reform the NPF have faced difficulties across many fronts. Underfunding and arbitrary disbursement of allocations to the NPF are common challenges facing the NPF. Despite these committees, government has not been able to deal with police corruption, as government continues to embark on circuit of establishing more committees, with huge wage bills. This, therefore, is an indication of deep lack of political will to reform the NPF.
- Issue statement/Policy questions:
The paper intends to establish that police corruption has become overwhelming and persistent such that it undermines good governance in Nigeria and causes systemic gangrene of the institutional fabrics of the NPF. As a result, the need for coherent strategies to reduce police corruption has become imperative. In light of this problem, the paper intends to answer the following policy questions:
- What is the fundamental problem with Nigeria’s efforts to reduce police corruption?
- Why have the previous strategies designed to fight police corruption failed?
- What are best methods to reduce police corruption in Nigeria?
The paper is a non-empirical investigation. Thus it intends to carry out a historical study of the NPF and factors responsible for police corruption in Nigeria. This task is relevant because it will provide insights into the various forms of police corruption in Nigeria and their impacts. Based on the non-empirical nature of the paper, its key considerations will be based on theoretical and empirical review of the relevant literature. Research will involve library research and materials will be sourced from wider sources, including academic journals, books, periodicals, reports, conference/seminar papers, newspapers articles, and other electronic sources.
The motivation for this paper is based on the author’s concern about the tragedy of police corruption in his country. This concern springs from the author’s personal experiences with the Nigerian police officers. The need to address the decay in the NPF, particularly from the Nigerian perspective, thus underlies this paper.
- Theoretical frameworks:
- Structural-functional theory:
This theory posits that the social structure of a society has an impact on the way people conduct themselves. Thus how the network of social interactions is structured in society can explain the extent of police corruption. The guiding principle is that in a moral-guided society tolerance for police corruption is likely to be zero, thereby making it possible for social institutions to function with moral awareness.
- Deviant behaviour theory:
This theory can be used to explain the organizational nature of police corruption. Police corruption can thus be explained from the perspective of group behaviour, which is guided by sets of societal norms that are linked to the organization to which the police officers belong to, as opposed to the behaviour of individual police officers. The guiding principle is that police corruption can be well-understood from the organizational context of the NPF where the corrupt behaviours occur.
- Soft state theory:
This theory can be used to explain police corruption from the context that the extent to which the government is incapable of implementing reforms and instituting social disciplines speaks volumes about the level of corruption in the state. The guiding principle is that police corruption is rife in a state where the government lacks the ability to implement reforms; hence government institutions are disinclined to demand social disciplines from the people.
Below is the brief synopsis of the paper.
- Issue statement
- Policy questions
- Key considerations: Theoretical framework and Empirical evidence
- Corruption and the Nigerian Police Force:
- Brief historical background of the NPF
- Overview of Concepts: Corruption and Police corruption
- Typologies of police corruption
- Nature of police corruption in Nigeria
- Factors responsible for police corruption in Nigeria
- Policy strategies to reduce corruption in the NPF:
- Assessment of previous anti-corruption strategies
- Proposed strategies to reduce police corruption
- Tipping point leadership style
- Alliance building with public sector institutions, private sector (including media and civil society), and broader political structure
- Amending legal frameworks (Constitution and Police Act)
- Introducing “Anti-Corruption Code” aka “The Police Code” in the Police Act
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