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Nigerian cop caught on video soliciting a bribe

09 August 2013, 17:01

Lagos - A Nigerian police officer caught soliciting a $155 bribe from a driver on a video that went viral on YouTube has been sacked and taken into custody, authorities said Friday.

The arrest and dismissal of the police sergeant was a rare example of justice linked to the common practice of officers soliciting bribes from drivers on the roads of Africa's most populous nation.

Drivers are regularly stopped by police, told they have committed an offence -- whether one has been committed or not -- and told to pay.

Rights groups say the officers are then required to pay a portion of what they collect up the chain of command, but police deny the claims and say they are working to clean up graft in the force.

"He has been dismissed" after an internal trial, police spokesman Frank Mba said of Sergeant Chris Omeleze, who is being held in custody until the police legal department decides whether there is sufficient evidence to press charges,

Mba said that current police management was working to end such behaviour through enforcement and by improving working conditions for the more than 350,000-strong force.

"There are still some positives," he noted, saying police responded immediately upon learning of the incident.

He added: "The fact that Nigerians are beginning to rise up, the fact that we are beginning to have whistleblowers ..."

The video secretly recorded by the driver in the economic capital of Lagos and which was shared widely on social media, prompted police to take action. It had been viewed more than 150,000 times on YouTube as of Friday morning.

In it, the police officer who has entered the vehicle and is seated in the passenger seat demands 25,000 naira ($155, 115 euros), claiming the driver has committed an offence.

When the driver protests and says he can only afford to pay 2,000 naira, the officer then says he should pay 13,000 naira.

The driver continues to plead with the officer, who says he is not working alone and threatens to bring the driver to the station. The officer then appears to make a phone call to discuss the matter with his colleagues.

According to Mba, the officer did not actually make a phone call and was only trying to threaten the driver.

It is a familiar scene for drivers in Nigeria and one that would usually go unnoticed if not for the video that prompted social media outrage.

A 2010 report by Human Rights Watch described a deeply corrupt police force in Nigeria, where extortion and bribery had become institutionalised and junior officers paid up the chain of command to their superiors.

The current police administration, which was not in charge at the time of the 2010 report, argues that it is working to end such practices.



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