From Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) has listed the Nigeria Police, Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) as the seven worst bribe takers in Nigeria.
UNODC report for 2019 showed that 85 per cent of victims were discouraged from seeking redress or reporting such exploitations.
On its part, Transparency International Corruption Perception Index report 2019 bemoaned how corruption drains “Nigeria of about 20 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product.”
In a bid to rid the FRSC of corrupt officials from the Nigerian highways, the leadership of the FRSC and the Independent Corruption Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC) in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS) mapped out a new strategy: ‘Operation Tranquility’ in 2019.
The exercise under Phase three was not conducted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless, in 2019, FRSC Corps Marshal, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, approached the ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, for collaboration so as to curb unwholesome practices of road safety officials on the highways, particularly extortion of motorists across the country.
The collaboration resulted in the arrest of over 100 FRSC officials across 11 states, with bribes from motorists recovered from them.
Already, the arrested officers are undergoing administrative disciplinary procedures while some are being prosecuted in federal high courts across the country.
The suspects have been granted administrative bail and further investigations are ongoing, it was gathered.
Operation Tranquility is also aimed at checking unwholesome practices by FRSC, VIOs, and Motor Vehicle Authority Agency (MVAA) in Drivers’ license centres.
The first phase of the operation was in six states: Kaduna, Rivers, Ogun, Kogi, Bauchi, and Abia, while Tranquility Phase two was conducted in Ondo, Zamfara, Yobe and Imo states.
On August 16, 2019, sting operations were conducted in some states with varying sums recovered from FRSC officers.
The joint team arrested 46 FRSC officers and recovered N40,830 in Phase one, while 26 FRSC officers were arrested in Phase two with only N51,260 recovered.
The highest amount recovered from corrupt road safety officials was N1,063,920 under Tranquility Phase four and 25 road safety officers were picked up, while 33 personnel were arrested under Phase five with only N45,870 recovered.
A breakdown of the figures showed that under phase one, four officials were also arrested in Kaduna State and only N3,500 recovered on the same day in Rivers State, while six officials were arrested and only N500 was recovered on the same day in Ogun State.
Further breakdown of arrests made and amount recovered under phase one of the exercise showed that 11 FRSC officials were arrested on the same day in Kogi State, five FRSC officials were arrested and only N4,300 was recovered in Bauchi State on August 19, in 2019 while 15 FRSC officials were arrested and sum of N32,530 recovered in Abia State, among others.
The ICPC is pressing charges against the FRSC officers in a resolve to check petty and grand corruption in the country.
Its chairman, Owasanoye said that the commission has embraced a paradigm shift, consciously promoting strategic partnership with relevant stakeholders to strengthen public enlightenment efforts in discouraging corruption and corrupt tendencies.
Working with key government agencies, he said that the ICPC has evolved a National Ethics and Integrity Policy designed to prevent corruption while enforcing ethical codes.
The ICPC boss said that his agency is not re-inventing the wheel, but leveraging on existing platforms, laws and institutions.