Concerns and misgivings are growing among Nigerians over actions of the operatives of the Nigerian Police who allegedly demand and collect money before having kidnap victims, lost phones and cars tracked.
Investigations revealed that officers in charge of tracking stolen devices collect between N50,000 and N100,000 from members of the public, depending on the individual’s bargaining power.
This development, according to victims and security experts constitutes “Unprofessional and illegal” conduct, which was at the “Root to corruption in the country”.
But the police authority in a swift reaction dismissed the allegations against the force, saying by all standards, officers of the force are not allowed to ask any Nigerian to pay when their service is needed.
The Force Public Relations Officers, Frank Mba, in an interview directed any Nigerian who is asked to pay by any police officer, to report to the appropriate authorities for necessary action.
Reports had revealed how tracking equipment being used by the officers to locate bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and other criminals terrorising the country remained inactive for the past seven months.
The equipment, meant to monitor and track phones which kidnappers use to negotiate for ransom, were supposed to be subscribed to but there has been no subscription on it since the beginning of 2021.
Findings had also revealed that the police sometimes liaise with the sister agency, the Department of State Services (DSS) or the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) to tackle some urgent cases.
Police officers have been groaning over the paucity of funds. A Commissioner of Police had in April confided in this newspaper that police divisions received only N10,000 monthly, which he said was also not timely.
A police officer attached to Lagos State Police Command who does not wish to be named told our correspondent that the force has not been able to track any missing items in the past three months.
He said the satellite with which the force track stolen cars has crashed and that Chinese experts are currently working round the clock to ensure that the fault is rectified before the end of September.
“We have not been able to do anything. Our Network is currently down and the Chinese firm in charge along with the force IT personnel are on it.
“Aside, it is difficult to track stolen cars in the North because of poor network coverage. We rely on service providers to help trace movement of stolen vehicles to where it is parked.
“This is one of the reasons why those in charge collect money from those with cases of stolen vehicles or phones” he added.
‘We pay ‘through the nose’
Narrating his experience, a lawyer, Nkem Okoro Esq, whose iPhone was snatched around Kugbo, along Abuja – Keffi Expressway, said he paid N50, 000 to the police to track and recover his phone.
The lawyer stressed that the action of the police demanding money from victims of robbery or kidnapping in the country is unprofessional, illegal and unconstitutional, tracing same the root to corruption.
A lady, whose phones and valuables were stolen when she was attacked along with other passengers while travelling to Delta State said that she was asked to pay N100,000 to facilitate the process of tracking the devices when she reported at the police station.
The lady who does not want her name mentioned for fear of intimidation and harassment said policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Lagos State Police Command demanded for N100,000 from her when she sought help for the tracking of the stolen devices, especially her iPhones.
“I went to the RRS office in Alausa to officially lodge a complaint about the attack on me by some robbers early last month.
“The policeman took my statement and I was happy that at last, the smelling-looking marauders would meet their Waterloo.
“But I got the shocker of my life when the policeman said that I was going to give them the N100,000 mobilisation fee before anything could be done.
“Here I am still nursing the pains from the beating I received from the robbers being asked to pay N100,000 if I want to recover my stolen items.
“I begged them to take N20,000 but they refused. One of them bluntly told me that without the money nothing can be done as the search might take them outside Lagos State.
“In fact, he told me that the unit is not funded by the force. I left angrily and that was the end. I lost everything, including cash and contacts,” she said.
Another victim told our correspondent that he had to pay N50,000 to police “Trackers” at the command headquarters, some months ago to get his stolen car tracked.
“They eventually tracked the car to an auto stand at Otta, in Ogun State where it was about to be sold,” he added.
An accounting official, who simply identified herself as Sarah, also told Daily Trust that her phone was snatched in the Utako area of Abuja by a taxi driver in June.
She said when she reported the matter to the police, she was told that her phone could not be tracked at the time because the equipment to track it was down.
Sarah said she couldn’t say whether the phone was not tracked because she didn’t pay the police or showed any interest she was ready to pay.
‘Police pay private tracking companies’
A Commissioner of Police who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as he had no authority to speak on the matter, said many private tracking companies were being careful of their personal security hence they can’t deal with citizens directly.
He explained that the kidnapping gangs might act as customers who want to patronise them and use the avenue kill them because they see them as enemies.
According to him, “Some of these people who even do these tracking for us don’t want to deal with the public directly because they are scared of their life because they believe that if they start dealing with the public directly, the kidnappers and the armed robbers might pretend that they want to patronise them and get at them and then take them out because they see them as their enemies.”
The CP added that there are fundamental problems, noting that “Until we deal with those problems, we cannot solve those things”.