Not confiscable? Using Bitcoin to Resist Police Extortion in Nigeria

Not confiscable? Using Bitcoin to Resist Police Extortion in Nigeria - Bitcoin NigeriaNigerian programmer Adebiyi David Adedoyin hears a knock on his apartment door. He just woke up and headed for the bathroom. He decides to take his time. He'll answer in a minute.

But the blows become stronger and more urgent.

Opening the bathroom door, Adedoyin sees someone clawing the window of his apartment. “There is someone,” says a voice. Probably the police are trying to get in, he realizes, from all the stories he's heard.

Adedoyin is sure he has done nothing wrong. But with the Nigerian police, it doesn't matter. He may still need to prepare for trouble.

While thinking about what to do next, Adedoyin is thankful that some of his money is stored in bitcoin. His crypto wallet is in a hiding place that agents probably won't think of checking. This means they are less likely to steal it.

Police corruption

Although there are many principled police officers in Nigeria who help deal with crimes, police corruption is pervasive. Many Nigerian police officers are known for extorting and sometimes torturing citizens rather than helping them solve legal dilemmas.

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

This is a well documented phenomenon in Nigeria. In recent years, an online social media movement has emerged against the police. On Twitter, people use the #EndSARS hashtag to advertise the poor treatment they receive from the police. SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a particularly brutal and suspicious wing of the Nigerian police force.

Human rights research organization Human Rights Watch released a 102-page report outlining abuses painfully in 2010.

“Human Rights Watch research revealed that people who refuse to pay bribes are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and threats until they or their family members negotiate payment for their release. Extortion-related clashes between police and motorists often result in more serious abuse. Evidence suggests that on numerous occasions police officers severely beat, sexually assaulted or shot dead ordinary citizens who did not pay the required bribes, ”the report reads.

Tricks and strategies

Adedoyin notes that Nigerians must develop their own tricks to avoid police extortion, especially young Nigerians who are the main targets. Some people walk along different paths to avoid walking near the police.

 "Now it is up to each person to prevent themselves from getting into such situations," he said. The practice is quite common that Adedoyin has been extorted more than once by police officers, and his friends have too.