Criminalise extortion of victims of crime by police officers – HURIWA to National Assembly

*Tasks IGP to publicise and implement a template against extortion

Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group, Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) has canvassed the criminalisation of the atrocious crime by police officers, through a law by the National Assembly.

This came on the heels of the unprecedented rise in the systematic extortion of victims of crime by police operatives and top ranked officers before their cases are investigated and resolved,

HURIWA called on the substantive Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun to roll out transparent mechanisms and an effective template against extorting victims of crimes, adding that verbalisation of condemnation of the criminal tendency by police operatives as made earlier in the year by the Force public relations officer was grossly insufficient.

HURIWA recommended that the police should set up a data bank of police officers caught and sanctioned for extortion of victims of crime in the Country, and that the data bank should be made easily accessible to the members of the public.

In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, made available to NIM, the Rights group, recalled the case of of “an Abuja based flight dispatcher from Nasarawa State, Umar Suleiman, whose daughter Khadijat, went missing in the Kuje Area council of the Federal Capital Territory in 2016, who reported the disappearance of his then two and half years old baby daughter to the FCT police command, but the investigator made series of requests which the victim of crime couldn’t afford and for seven years, his daughter is still missing and no effort has been made by the FCT police command to unravel the identity of the lone female kidnapper”.

The statement quoted the crime victim Umar Suleiman as disclosing in a media interview as follows: “The police told me to provide a Sienna bus that four of them (policemen) would use to go and investigate the matter and that I would follow the vehicle for about four to six days. They also said I would pay for their hotel accommodation for the period. A day after that, I posted my contact on Facebook in case anyone saw my daughter anywhere so that they could contact me.”

HURIWA blamed the rising spate of crime to the lack of human intelligence by the police whose operatives were mostly distrusted by a large number of the Nigerian population who have the perception that the police extort citizens, noting that assurances made by top police officer and the Force Spokesperson in condemnation of the extortion of victims of crime had fallen on deaf ears.

The group recalled that around February 20, 2023, the Nigeria Police Force had officially said that charging complainants money before reporting and referring cases for investigation at any police station is not only a crime but atrocious, unprofessional, and shameful.

It quoted the then Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, who said this in a statement thst, “It’s unprofessional, shameful, and criminal for any policeman to demand money from any complainant before reporting and referring a case for investigation at any police station.

“We have received several complaints that some personnel at the counter (charge room) demand for Dettol, detergent, and other items from relations of suspects in detention before having access or getting food to them. This is an absurdity, and it’s condemned in its totality.
“We are working with command CPs and PPROs to address this with a view to eradicating such disservice and unholy acts. Nigerians are hereby urged to report any of such cases to their command CPs and PPROs and lodge the same via our provided complaints platforms. “It must be stated without mincing words and emphatically that this act is unethical, unprofessional, and in variance with our SOP.”

HURIWA faulted the style of simply making a statement in the media by the police without the enforcement of a transparent, accountable and result- oriented ethical and administrative template for stamping out cases of extortion of victims of crime across Nigeria.

The Rights group accused some police officers of framing up the crime victims and most times, detaining them for failing to pay the money demanded from them by the police when they reported their encounters with criminals, lamenting that most of the people have no access to any kind of legal redress against their experiences of the activities of the daredevil police extortion rackets.

HURIWA recalled that in the year 2010, the New York based Human Rights Watch had reported that “countless ordinary Nigerians attempting to make precarious ends meet as taxi drivers, market traders, and shopkeepers are accosted on a daily basis by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money. Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm. Far too often these threats are carried out. Meanwhile, victims of crime are obliged to pay the police from the moment they enter a police station to file a complaint until the day their case is brought before a court. In the shadows, high-level police officials embezzle staggering sums of public funds meant to cover basic police operations. Senior police officers also enforce a perverse system of “returns” in which rank-and-file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command a share of the money they extort from the public. Thosecharged with police oversight, discipline, and reform have for years failed to take effective action, thereby reinforcing impunity for police officers of all ranks who regularly perpetrate crimes against the citizens they are mandated to protect.”

The group said the aforementioned report by the USA based Non-governmental organisation (HRW), is factual, accurate and widespread, and expressed shock that no legal or institutional efforts by the police or Federal legislative body, has been made to checkmate the daredevil activities of the extortion rackets within the Nigerian police force, which it said had constituted an imminent danger to efficiency and effectiveness of policing tasks by the Nigerian police force.

HURIWA disclosed that it is discussing with some law makers and credible civil rights groups, with a view to drawing up a proposed bill to criminalise the extortion of victims of crime in Nigeria because of how deeply rooted the crime of extortion by the Nigerian police Force and even amongst their highly decorated officers, has become.

The rights group said finding lasting solution to the extortion of victims of crime by police will be the best way for the police to begin to build back public trust and confidence to promote better policing in Nigeria.

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