The terms of reference of most Nigerian public sector institutions often run counter to the operational field behaviours of their personnel which consequently misinform and confuse the general public as to what really constitute the exact constitutional duties of these institutions. The segment of the populace with no luxury of resources, skillful knowledge, and time to contest these contradictions absorbs these erroneous acts as normal institutional duties, thus leaving a platform for an acute information disorder to thrive, i.e. Issues of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) being on the road impounding cars with no road worthiness certificate was assumed to be part of the VIO duties until challenged in court.
Aworinde (2021) recounts how a public-interest litigant, Kunle Edun, was unlawfully delayed by operatives of Vehicle Inspection Office over lack of possession of vehicle road worthiness certificate. Unknown to the VIO operatives their victim was a lawyer who has the means and knowledge to go the long haul with them. The victim, Mr Kunle Edun subsequently dragged the VIO to court to contest and clarify that the vehicle roadworthiness certificate demanded by the VIO on the road was not part of their lawful responsibility. The Appeal Court heard the case and halted the VIO from demanding private vehicles’ roadworthiness certificate from private vehicle owners (Aworinde 2021).
Mr Kunle in an interactive interview with the Punch Newspaper expressed further:
‘‘I know that whenever the VIOs demand such documents from private vehicle owners, they have a way of settling the matter. I wouldn’t know if money exchanges hands, but they have a way of settling it and that has emboldened them (VIOs) to continue in the act.’’ Aworinde (2019)
Prior to Kunle’s eye-opening case with the VIO, most private motorists who are unaware of their rights had got their vehicles impounded and ignorantly submitted to payment of exorbitant fees before the release of their cars for issues relating to roadworthiness certificates.
In 2019 alone, the Nigerian NewsDirect (2019) reported that in a space of seven days, the VIO operatives impounded 105 unroadworthy vehicles in Abuja. This sort of news demonstrates how a wrongful knowledge of responsibility can misinform and misdirect the actions of the operatives of public institutions. The case of the VIO shows how the incidence of a wrongful sense of duty accruing from wrong knowledge impacts on the ignorant public which often gets published for offences outside the jurisdiction of Vehicle Inspection Officers. Another case in point is the popular Nigerian Police slogan often written in front of their offices across Nigeria which reiterates that ‘‘Police is your friend’’ and another that publicises that ‘‘bail is free’’.
Unfortunately, the operational behaviours of the Nigerian Police have left reversive impressions that challenge the authenticity of these informative slogans, thus instituting unsureness whether the Nigerian Police is obligated by law to conduct themselves in a friendly manner and if bail is actually free. Orunbon (2019) argued that ‘‘Police are especially not your friend in an environment that does not hold the police accountable for the actions and expression of unreasonable force.’’
Orunbon’s (2019) assertion is proven by the recent End-Sars protest where the youths relying on the friendliness slogan of the Nigerian police went on a peaceful demonstration but were battered with about twelve people killed and hundreds severely injured (Amnesty International 2020). This outcome no doubt demonstrates the incongruity and information disorder between the set constitutional duties of the Nigerian police, a public institution charged with the responsibility of protecting lives, and the contravening operations of their personnel who misrepresent their legitimate duty.
Another like it is the emphasis that bail is free. The Open Society Initiative (2021) highlighted the case of one Alade who was detained beyond the constitutional limit. Open Society Initiative (2021) remarked that:
Section 35 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution states that the police may not detain any suspect for longer than 48 hours without a court order. The initial detention of Alade from March 9 until May 15, 2003 was not authorized by any court of law, and was thus unlawful.
The case of Alade is one out of multiple contravening cases where the operatives of the Nigerian Police appear to have redefined their legitimate routines and procedures, making their illegitimate action seem like they are performing their constitutional duty.
Busari (2017) reported that the relaunch of ‘‘bail is free’ campaign by the Nigerian Police was aimed at providing a panacea to protect the citizens from misguided information that bail is not free. The campaign managers advice the public to report to the nearest Police Station the conduct of any Police Officer, Investigative Police Officer (IPO) or any other Officer that asks for money or pecuniary benefit before, during or after bail is granted by the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), Area Commanders, The Command Public Relations Officers, Commissioner of Police or to the Force Public Relations Officer (Busari 2017). Notwithstanding the “bail is free” campaign, a large section of the public seems to have adopted the experiential reality that bail is not free. The behaviours of the operative of the Nigerian Police cannot absolve them completely from the guilt of instilling this erroneous and disorderly perception in the mind of the populace who believes that bail is not free.
Another institution that highlights institutional-behavioural contradiction is the Federal Character Commission (FCC). The Chapter VI Part 1 Section 153 (1)(C) of the Nigerian constitution which established the Federal Character Commission saddled the commission with the responsibilities of ensuring equitable distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service, the states, the armed forces, the Nigerian police and other government agencies and government owned companies and parastatals. (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999). Also, the commission is duty bound to promote, monitor, and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.
Vanguard (2021) reported that, contrary to the promotion of equity in the distribution of national and material resources expected from the FCC, one part of the country is disproportionately favoured with vast majority of important federal appointments and distribution of projects, continuing that such act is totally against the Federal Character provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian. The inability of the FCC to leave up to her responsibilities has both instilled a perception of inferiority and superiority among Nigerians depending on one’s ethnic identity. This unchecked unfairness reflects today in the multiplicity of insurgency and secessionist agitations in Nigeria. (Nnochiri, 2021).
The panacea to institutional-behavioural discrepancies is not far-fetched. First, the public institutions and their civil service personnel have to be insulated from partisan politics. Rules and regulations guiding the public institutions should be regularly reviewed and updated to close newfound loopholes of abuses. There must be willingness to identify and punish violators of public trust. Personnel of various public sector institutions have to be reoriented to be proactive and professional in the performance of their duties. Importantly, the general public has to be inundated with procedures for laying hitch free complaints without consequences or exposure to retributions. The electoral system that churns out leaders of the country ought to be streamlined to reflect the current realities and made to be rigging proof. Clear processes have to be in place to streamline the selection of ethnically oriented leaders. The leadership must be willing at all times to listen to pockets of agitations and make an effort to respond positively to legitimate requests before it snowballs into uncontrollable movement.
Aworinde, T., 2021. Why Appeal Court barred VIO from demanding private vehicles’ roadworthiness certificate Lawyer. [Online] https://punchng.com/why-appeal-court-barred-vio-from-demanding-private-vehicles-roadworthiness-certificate-lawyer/
Orubon, A., 2019. Why the police are not our friends. [Online] Punch. https://guardian.ng/opinion/why-the-police-are-not-our-friends/
Nigerian NewsDirect, (2019). In 7 days, VIO impounds 105 unroadworthy vehicles in Abuja. [Online]NewsDirect. https://nigeriannewsdirect.com/in-7-days-vio-impounds-105-unroadworthy-vehicles-in-abuja/
Amnesty International, (2021). Nigeria: Killing of #EndSARS protesters by the military must be investigated. Press Release Amnesty International. [Online] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/2020/10/killing-of-endsars-protesters-by-the-military-must-be-investigated/
Open Society Initiative, (2021). Alade v. the Federal Republic of Nigeria. [Online] https://www.justiceinitiative.org/litigation/alade-v-federal-republic-nigeria#:~:text=Section%2035%20of%20Nigeria%E2%80%99s%201999%20Constitution%20states%20that,any%20court%20of%20law%2C%20and%20was%20thus%20unlawful.
Busari, K., (2017). Nigeria Police re-launch ‘bail is free’ campaign. [Online] Premium Times. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/243166-nigeria-police-re-launch-bail-free-campaign.html
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (1999). Part I. Federal Executive Bodies (Established by Section 153) [Online] https://www.jurist.ng/constitution/1026
Nnochiri, I., (2021) Igbo lawyers apply to join suit seeking exit of South-East from Nigeria. [Online] Vanguard. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/10/igbo-lawyers-apply-to-join-suit-seeking-exit-of-south-east-from-nigeria/
Asaju, K., (2019). Re: How does partisan politics and cross-carpeting affect governance and insecurity in Nigeria? [Online]. https://www.researchgate.net/post/How-does-partisan-politics-and-cross-carpeting-affect-governance-and-insecurity-in-Nigeria/5cf9157d979fdc9a7b0a0bc5/citation/download.
Emeka, I., (2003). The Prohibition of Nigerian Civil Servants from Political Activities: A Necessary Derogation from Freedom of Association. The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law Volume 6, Issue 1, September 2003. [Online] https://www.icnl.org/resources/research/ijnl/the-prohibition-of-nigerian-civil-servants-from-political-activities-a-necessary-derogation-from-freedom-of-association