Nigeria's new police chief vows crackdown on corruption
Nigeria's acting inspector general Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar admits that Nigerian police have committed extrajudicial killings and run criminal rackets. That will change, he says.
Nigeria’s police are an exceedingly rotten lot, according to their own boss, Nigeria’s Acting Inspector-General of Police Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar.Skip to next paragraph
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In a meeting with senior police officials, Mr. Abubakar – placed in his job last month by President Goodluck Jonathan last month – warned commanders that they would be held personally responsible for any corruption or indiscipline that occurs by their subordinates from here onward.
"Justice has been perverted, people's rights denied, innocent souls committed to prison, torture and extra-judicial killings perpetrated,” said Abubakar, in a speech distributed to reporters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
"Our anti-robbery squads have become killer teams…. Many people [are] arbitrarily detained in our cells because they cannot afford the illegal bail monies we demand. Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of the police to do any good thing," the police chief said.
Abubakar’s crackdown – if it is real – comes at a crucial time for Nigeria. Two separate armed insurgencies, a radical Islamist terror group called Boko Haram in the north, and a collection of Niger Delta militant groups in the southeast threaten the government’s ability to rule. Growing citizen discontent, underlined by December’s fuel-price strikes in Lagos and other cities, show that patience with a dysfunctional and corrupt government is running thin.
Like a soap opera character of an abusive husband trying to rescue his marriage, the Nigerian government has admitted it has a problem. The next step is to prove that it is ready to make some very real changes.
It will take more than a few words to convince ordinary Nigerians.
In a 2010 public opinion survey conducted by Transparency International, 73 percent of Nigerian respondents said that official corruption had increased in the previous three years.
According to Human Rights Watch, previous efforts at cleaning up the Nigerian police force have failed, largely because public complaint mechanisms and internal police controls have been underfunded, poorly led, and weak.