An editorial of the Vanguard, earlier this month of April 2008, on the utterances of a Police Chief, Delta State Acting Commissioner of Police, on why new cars stolen in Nigeria, are hard to find was to say the least frustrating to me. The editorial read in part:
“The issue is that that vehicle was very new and there is no mark on the body at all,” Mr. Jacob Oshiomogho, acting State Commissioner of Police told reporters as he showcased 32 recovered vehicles, out of the 36 snatched in the past three months.
“Such 406 cars are difficult to get because they are very fast and they can easily escape even before one hears about it”.
At a recovery rate of 88.88 per cent, Mr. Oshiomogho and his team must be doing a great job getting back stolen cars.
The Police Chief quoted in that excerpt was addressing the Press on the status of Police investigation into the snatching of the official car of the Delta State Director of the State Security Service, SSS and the shooting and wounding of his driver. It is clear the report that the Nigerian Police have a 88.88% recovery rate of stolen cars is to say the least bogus. Recovering a stolen car in Nigeria is no less insurmountable than arresting murderers. The system is simply not set up to work. Cars and other motorized vehicles are not registered and the inhabitants are not accounted for.
In 1999, I was a victim of car theft when my 15 year old Benz 230 E was taken by two armed men, kidnapping me along for some distance. I did not suffer as much pain for the loss of my car as I did in the hands of Police officers after I reported the incident. I physically moved the file from the Ajao Estate Police Station, where I reported the case to Ikeja for what I thought would be a superior handling. Folks at the other station had started asking for inducements. Then I started getting hoax reports that my car was found in some odd places, with demands that I pay certain amounts of money before I was told where. I lost my car, almost my life. Now I was losing money bribing security agents and in chartering cabs to places that never existed. That was how I quit pursuing the case.
From what I read in the papers, things have only gotten worse since then. We can together make the Nigerian system work. Cars and indeed every vehicle must be registered and insured and everybody that lives in Nigeria must be registered with the Internal Affairs Ministry, through the Local Governments. Any body who cannot register a car shouldn’t buy one. This is not utopian. Nigerians seek and indeed deserve same quality of life as exists in the West and elsewhere. We need to make it work. You say we can’t afford it? We’re losing more money; really paying more in terms of daily human and material loss and decadence, existing in a society where there’s no system. Nigerian Police must be set up and funded to work like the Police elsewhere in progressive countries. How can we expect the Police to deliver with the way the force and the society are presently constituted? Nigeria is losing too much, with her national pride going down the drains daily, ignoring this empirical truth. Nigeria it’s time to wake up!