Police denial is not helpful to solving problem

Masked police officers
In a damning survey released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last week, it was revealed that of the N4 billion Nigerians paid  in bribes in a single year, officers  of the Nigerian Police Force were the most frequent recipients.

True to type, the force has officially condemned the survey.
In a strongly-worded rebuttal, police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood said, "Corruption is a personal thing and Nigeria Police Force is not a corrupt institution and it is not for anybody to have made such allegation.
"The allegations are mischievous because it is not empirical and we distance ourselves from such and we want all Nigerians to condemn such."
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Jimoh Moshood, Police Public Relations Officer Jimoh Moshood, Police Public Relations Officer
(ICIR Nigeria)

The denial drew more widespread criticism when Head of Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit, ACP Abayomi Shogunle, took to his Twitter handle (@YomiShogunle) to discredit the survey, describing it as, "Unrealistic "findings" that can't stand test of time."
 
Despite the protestations of the force against what this survey represents, those who know, know; the Nigerian Police Force is a very corrupt institution.
There's simply no polite way to sugarcoat it and still not arrive at that conclusion; and denying that the problem exists is doing it a great disservice, even if they're only trying to save face in public.
In the survey that was conducted in 33,067 households across all the states of the country, payment of bribes by Nigerians is usually fuelled by such things as the desire to quicken procedures or avoid payment of fines, or to generally stay out of trouble.
In the period that the survey covered, between June 2015 and May 2016, police officers were revealed to have directly asked for the most bribes.

Now for someone wrapped in a cocoon perched on an ivory tower of selective blindness, this survey is a travesty that has been manufactured by "Jobless people!"
For average Nigerians, it's a way of life they've steadily been conditioned to abide by.
 
I haven't had a lot of direct interactions with police officers, thankfully, but I've witnessed a few unsavoury actions of the famous men in black.
Travelling sometime around April in a public bus, a policeman had stopped us at a checkpoint in the middle of the road.
The bus driver instinctively dipped his hand into his pocket to hand the armed officer a N50 note. Unsatisfied with the value of the 'settlement', the officer went on to delay the bus for the next five minutes until the driver gave in and doubled the amount.
This was around 10pm in the middle of nowhere with over an hour still left before our nearest destination. This officer didn't help us mitigate the dangers of travelling at night on extremely bad roads, he added more minutes to the danger.
Like it's the story for many Nigerians, an acquaintance I was talking to the other day got stopped for a random car check on her way to work and was up to date on all the proper documentations.
This was until she was asked for the receipt of a laptop they couldn't even see because it was concealed in a bag. Parting with a couple thousand naira notes meant the laptop truly belonged to her after minutes of arguing over how proper it was to even request for its receipt without probable cause.
The most shameful part of bribe-taking by police officers in Nigeria is that we're at a point where it is a tacit agreement. You already know they'll ask you for it.
Solicitation can take various forms depending on how creative who's asking can be. It could be a commonly used, "Anything for the boys?", or it could be a more direct outstretched palm.
You'll either put out without fighting it, or you can resist and almost assuredly pay it in the end anyway.
And this is where it gets crazy.
Extortion is a big part of bribe-taking. This means you could be squeaky clean and still get boxed into a corner where you still have to pony up with money for no justifiable reason.
Nigeria's corruption problem might be worse than people think Extorting money from motorists is a national sport by police officers (The Nigerian Voice)
This has paved the way for the hundreds of stomach-churning stories of police officers taking advantage of vulnerable people through intimidation and other underhanded tactics just to get settled.
It's pointless to start telling individual stories because only people with their heads buried too deeply into the sand would deny it's a common practice.
There's no reason to believe every single person who claims their innocence in an encounter with the police is telling the truth, but the fact that they could still manage to bribe themselves out of crimes is damning.
The onus is not on citizens to not offer bribes because, frankly, there'll be absolutely no need for law enforcement officers if everyone was on the straight and narrow.
The responsibility to stem the bribe culture here is on officers who have sworn to work against the culture they so delightfully foster. 
The problem here is not even just that the institution is corrupt, it's that these acts are conducted  with utter impunity that runs counter to their sworn oaths of duty.
It's a significant blemish that the average citizen is very reluctant to want to get involved with the police even when they're not guilty of anything.
There's no doubt that it's not every single officer of the law in the country that's guilty of perpetuating this bribery culture, but the problem is an institutional one where there appears to be more bad eggs than good ones.

This is why denial is not a healthy choice for the top brass of the police force to opt for in the wake of the NBS survey which is also supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU).
Police officer Bribery in the police force is far from being a brand new problem (Premium Times)
While the force publicly maintains a brave face that everything is okay, their officers are still out there in the streets extorting money from trumped-up offences, or squeezing money out of desperate people who need their help, or letting criminals walk free after currency notes exchange hands.
Even if the figures in the survey are exaggerated, as some have claimed, there's no doubt it is still an unsettling problem, no matter the actual scale.
There's a long way to go to even start to undo this culture and the damage it has caused to the public image of the police force and the public's trust in the institution.
Denying the problem is not a great first step.

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