Unconfiscatable? Using Bitcoin to Resist Police Extortion in Nigeria

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Police corruption

While there are many high-principled police officers in Nigeria who help tackle crimes, police corruption is pervasive. Many Nigerian police are noted for extorting and even sometimes torturing citizens rather than serving them solve legal quandaries.

Right there in the bathroom, where I was in my drawers with just my phone, AirPods and pack of cigarettes, I could hear them shouting for me to come open the door, Adedoyin told CoinDesk.

This is a well-documented phenomenon in Nigeria. Over the past several years, an online social media movement has emerged against the police. On Twitter, people use the hashtag #EndSARS to publicize the poor treatment theyve received from police. SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which is a particularly brutal and mistrusted wing of the Nigerian police force.

Human rights research organization Human Rights Watch discharged a 102-page report outlining the abuses in painful detail in 2010.

Human Rights Watchs research disclosed that people refusing to pay bribes are habitually subjected to impulsive arrest, unlawful detention and threats until they or their family members negociate defrayment for their release. Extortion-related confrontations between the police and motorists often intensify into more serious abuses. The evidence suggests that police officers wear many occasions severely beaten, sexually assaulted, or shot to death ordinary citizens who unsuccessful to pay the bribes demanded, the report reads.

Tricks and strategies

Adedoyin notes that Nigerians have to develop their own tricks to avoid police extortion, especially the junior Nigerians who are the main targets. Some people walk on different routes to avoid walking near the police.

Now its up to each individual to prevent oneself from entering such situations, he said.

The practice is common enough that Adedoyin has been extorted by police officers more than once, and his friends have, too.

Corrupt police officers take their detainees phone. They scan through it looking SMS or email messages signalling how much money the detainee has in the bank.

If the police officer finds the detainee doesnt have any money, theyre less likely to waste their time.

Where using bitcoin comes in

It was a bad experience. But Adedoyin is happy that his bitcoin trick worked most of his money is still safe.

The money they collected to let me get into that case would have been a plenty more if I had more money in my account. But I had most of my money in bitcoin, Adedoyin said.

Why does using bitcoin help in that situation? Adedoyins ploy is to pretend that he doesnt have much money to extort. His solution is to store his money in a bitcoin notecase instead of in a bricks-and-mortar bank. Since bitcoins less common, its less likely the police officers find it.

Put other way, hes not putt his money into bitcoin as a safeguard because of its decentralization properties. Rather, he just thinks police officers are far less likely to look for a crypto balance than a fiat balance to see if hes ripe for extortion.

[The officers] dont think to check [bitcoin] notecase apps, because most of them dont even know what bitcoin is and even think bitcoin is a scam, Adedoyin said.

The second reason he has bitcoin is he hopes the price will keep rising. Like many other bitcoiners in the region, he sees it as an investment that power pay off in the future.

But for now, he keeps most of his money in bitcoin as security against the next time the police come banging on his door.


The drawing card in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest print media standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent in operation subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Unconfiscatable? Using Bitcoin to Resist Police Extortion in Nigeria

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