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Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 17:09 UK

Ivory Coast checkpoint bribes cost '$300m'

Rebel check-point (file photo)
Rebels took up arms in 2002 and agreed to share power three years ago

At least $300m (£200m) is paid in bribes at checkpoints in Ivory Coast each year, a business leader says.

"Every Ivorian today... has been asked to pay at a road-block," Chamber of Commerce President Jean-Louis Billon told the BBC.

He blamed "mafias" operating within both the army and the former rebel New Forces, who still control northern Ivory Coast, for the extortion racket.

The two sides agreed to share power in 2007 but elections have been put back.

Checkpoints remain common on both sides of the country which has been divided since rebels took up arms in 2002.

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Ivory Coast used to enjoy the highest living standards in West Africa but the political unrest has badly affected the economy.

Mr Billon told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the total amount paid in such bribes may be up to $600m (£400m).

This would be equivalent to more than 2% of the country's economy.

Mr Billon said he was quoting a study by the World Bank.

He also said the racket was organised by senior members of both security forces and was not just poorly paid junior officials trying to get enough money to survive.

Mr Billon told Reuters news agency that the cost of charcoal was three times higher than necessary because of the bribes paid at checkpoints as it is transported into the country's biggest city, Abidjan.

Reuters quotes an official in the defence ministry as saying that the check-points are illegal and being tackled.


What do you think about bribes being paid at checkpoints?

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

When I was escaping Rwanda (during civil war) this used to be the case every place we went to. If you don't have the right documents you can even get robbed. This is seen Throughout Africa; Bribing as way to increase your salary. When you go to get a passport it's very common for an officer to ask for a bribe so they can break the rules. This is very wrong. This means that if you have money you can get away with anything. It shouldn't be like that. I must say some African governments work very hard to eliminate corruption but most of them i must say are not doing enough. Corruption like bribery slows down development. Some countries in African have the potential to be the wealthiest countries in the world if corruption didn't exist. Look at countries like Nigeria and Congo. They have resources like oil and diamonds which can be used to feed the population and improve public services but look they are considered poor countries. What ever you do, do it for the common good and if you see something isn't right voice your opinion. That's what is going to take Africa to develop. It's not too late. Hail Africa.
Suedi Murekezi, St. Louis

What I find infuriating are the checkpoints set up on the roads. About 85% of drivers are breaking the traffic laws and the police/military/etc. could be stopping people and ticketing them for these traffic infractions. Instead, they randomly stop cars and ask for money, money that goes directly into their pockets rather than helping the country.
Beth, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

I was travelling west Africa in 2004 , started my journey from Abidjan by road to Accra, there were road blocks everywhere and the police and military were demanding money from everyone on the road, but I refused to a dime to anyone. I told them that I was an ECOWAS citizen and the treaty allows me to travel freely in all ECOWAS countries. It was dangerous doing that, but I wasn't even thinking about that when fighting for my right. Some passengers in the taxi thought I was crazy, why wouldn't I want to pay, its the norm. I told them that the norm was wrong. They have no right to collect money from you, we pay their salaries and they should be there to do their job not to collect money. Every checkpoint was the same. They would delay you for sometime, but was not in a hurry, if I was, i would have travelled by air.

From Ghana to Nigeria, all the police, customs and immigration officers demand money, but if you stand your ground you might get away with it, as I did. There was an instance, when I went to the Nigerian border(Semi) with Benin, the immigration officer saw my passport and said i should pay 200 naira, when everyone else was paying 50 naira, I asked why and he said because I was from Sierra Leone. I refused to pay him and he refused to stamp an entry visa on my passport. He asked me to step aside and I refused. I told him he was not going to see anyone until he is finish with me. He then had to call the chief immigration officer then (Jimmy) to talk with me. I told him I am an ECOWAS citizen and I have freedom of movement, so I am not going to pay a dime for the stamp.

The worst affected area is Guinea, where the only law is bribery. The security officers are ruthless and fear no one, as they've been given orders by their bosses.

My country (Sierra Leone) used to be the worst, but things are improving since 2000. They take bribes but in disguise. If they don't know who you are they beg you, but they don't impose it on you. This is only done after they've finish doing their job.
Abu, London, UK

A private and public sector partnership was launched in March, including ECOWAS, UEMOA, the World Bank, USAID and private companies across West Africa, to work on this very problem. It's getting results. Visit www.borderlesswa.com to learn more!
joe lamport, accra, ghana

Bribe, as the name implies is an unacceptable way by which money are been extorted or offered by public office holders, businessmen on the transit, travellers both local and international across the globe. Bribe is the grandfather of corruption which by numerous researchers has proven that is the solely responsible for Africa underdevelopment today. Every good government should ensure that corruption is reduce to it barest minimal. This is simply to guarantee future development of the nation. Corruption has saddle the responsibility of seventy per cent of every nation's underdevelopment throughout the whole world. Therefore, corruption should not be treated with levitude, it must be handle with all seriousness effort.
Joseph Odia Ose, Lagos, Nigeria

I'm Ivorian national, I feel right now very bad about bribery going on in my homeland at any level of positions. I'm deeply sorry for my beloved, once haven of West Africa and leading economy of ECOWAS member states. But hopefully things will change and recovery better situation. Thanks
Joachim Kouassi, New york, USA

This practice is most common in West Africa and especially in Nigeria where I am from. What beggars question is why police and the military who are supposed to be performing other duties constantly mount road blocks for this lucrative racket. It is appalling to note some confess that budgets have been made on "profits" extorted from innocent motorists and they unashamedly ask you "do you not want us to eat?" On one occasion, after having exhausted all possible excuse to charge me on health and safety issues, I was perplexed to be told by a mobile police officer that the smell of the steaming hot chicken I had just bought from a take-away could disorient my sense of judgement making me unfit to drive in that condition. Not wanting to waste any more time with this drama I had to part with 500 naira (£2.50) just to be let home. It is very shameful.
Uchenna Ononiwu, Liverpool, UK

Bribery and extortion are a way of life in Cote d'Ivoire. How are the policemen and soldiers going to stop soliciting bribes when the president and prime minister are champion pickpockets in every respect of the word? On a positive note, the fact that Jean Louis Billon can put a value to this means that there are people that care about the plight of the everyday person here. The Government has to allow the armed forces to extort money so that they turn a blind eye to their Grand plundering of this once great nation.
Deryck Kilala, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

This 'trade' is a disgrace to the African continent. Would to God that a means of curbing this affront to all that is just is found and implemented across West Africa. It looks like Ivory Coast is the worst hit West African nation, but the disgrace these supposed-to-be guardians of peace, law and order are causing happens in degrees in many West African countries, including my own Nigeria.
Martin Mato, Jos

Paying bribes at checkpoints has become institutionalised continent-wide. In Nigeria, bribes are requested not only at checkpoint, but at road junctions by all manners of law enforcement agencies, be it police, traffic wardens etc. Underpaid and undertrained police could always be blamed but that will be simplistic. Evidence shows it's more organised with senior officers earning a small bounty from the bribes. It has gone on for so long that it's being accepted as part of everyday life. Many officers are more interested in the bribes than preventing crime. The irony is the smuggling/theft haven't reduced because bribes can always be paid to avoid being caught. Innocent citizens are not exempted either e.g. bribes are demanded from road transporters just to have passage of way. Effect to the fragile economy and crime rate is quite significant. People fear to report because of extra-judicial killings to silence witnesses.
Abiola Owoaje, Middlesex, UK

All road blocks should be dismantled and anyone found in such act should be made to the full wrath of the law so that it serve as a deterrent to others.
Margaret Douglas, Jos, Nigeria

living in Ivory Coast 4 years now and still think is unacceptable. It is taking the country down. The officials and politicians fill their endless pockets open all levels, no money is put back in the country => people and country stay "poor".. except for the rich ones. No progress visible during last few years. Am disappointed. Must say the level of roadblocks in Abidjan with "forced payment" just to get passed with your car has decreased last 2 years.
arnold, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

I am an ex-pat South African and work in the Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and can confirm that within five minutes of leaving our Construction camp we encounter "Rebel roadblocks". They are everywhere. Driving down south to Abidjan when we go on leave, we encounter probably about a dozen or so of these roadblocks, and there is a huge "official" one on the outskirts of Bouake, where north meets south. The soldiers are generally friendly, but brisk and a bribe is the order of the day in order to proceed. Even a simple shopping trip to Korhogo on our off-day, the main road leading into Korhogo is manned by uniformed soldiers wanting a bribe. Whether they are Ivorian military or Forces Nouvelle is open to debate, but the roadblocks are there. Otherwise, it's a great country with great people.
Peter Hunt, Korhogo, Cote D'Ivoire

I was refugee in the Ivory coast for 14yrs, and there is nothing you do without paying bribes. I lived in a Camp about 5km from the main city of Guiglo, there were 4 gates before reaching to Town. Every day I leave the camp to search for food for my family, either by undertaking contract in the big town. I lose 50% of whatsoever, on me that day before passing those gates. I was stripped naked and my mobile phone taken away on one occasion because I didn't have the money to bribe the officers. Bribes in the Ivory coast is hard to understand, Being a foreigner you're the target with all the documents.
stanley NEBO, Coffs Harbour, Australia

Bribes is like a virus and destroy country's economy gradually if not tackle properly. Ivory Coast is no exception to this accusation. Bribes is a serious culture at security checkpoints in Ivory Coast, and practice daily by security forces and my experienced is dating back 2003 when I was a young Liberian refugee living in Taboo, a town 30 km away from the Liberian and Ivorian border. security officers without conscious, intentionally call for any amount from vehicle operators travelling to Taboo via Abidjan and while angry passengers look on before departure. Refusal, the vehicle will be parked until demands are met.
Thomas B Mawolo, Harper, Liberia

I lived in Ivory Cost for more than seven years before I relocated to South Africa, about four years ago. This bribery issues is not new to both the citizens and the foreigners living in the country. I remembered travelling from Abidjan to Soubre, the journey that should be less than 5hours, but because of the several checking points, we spent about 25hrs on the road. And each checking points will be paid a huge some of CFA. Which will affect the business men and women and the end-users at the end of the day. Surprisingly, this is the disease that has been affecting the whole African States, excluding none. Is only that this was published. It will be more than billion dollars if the researched was on Nigeria Police and road blocks.
Adewale, Pretoria, South Africa

I just came back from Ivory Coast with my wife and 2 children. As a white British man visiting family in Abidjan for 3 weeks, I found the check points (which were a lot!) I was stop numerous times in the City and in Bassam. For no reason at all the police seem to just pull over random cars for doing nothing and say we were speeding (which we did not) and start demanding money! I noticed this all the time and it seems the police just move from place to place and just start pulling you over .This is an outrage for the people of Ivory COAST and the GOVERNMENT should be ASHAMED of themselves. If the country is to get out of the situation their in -It has to start with the government! I was told by family that The President demands this treatment and even had lowered the price then it used to be. Allez les e' le' phants!
Stuart, croydon, England

Nigeria checkpoints is $300b with a 'B'.
Arinze, Abuja, Nigeria

Giving bribes at checkpoints is terribly abhorrent. Perhaps the amount in my country Cameroon could double that of Ivory Coast. Here bribes are paid in open-air. These bribes are given, for reasons that remain obscure. What the govt does with these illegitimate money is rather debatable.
Ayuk Brandon, Limbe, Cameroon

Ivory coast is rebel infected but what of other countries who permits border bribes. A Nigerian or Ghanaian going to Senegal through Mali will pay more than co Eocwas citizens in the border post just becos they are from these countries, this has been going on for than a decade without nothing being done about it. It is most painful when Nigerians and Ghanaians are being singled out for special prices, and the price has been fixed, at diboli border it is 5,000cfa for these two nationals , into Senegal for a Nigerian or Ghanaian it is 10,000cfa , when you are going out it is 5,000caf at kidira border and nobody is doing anything about it, your refusal to pay is a refused entry for you. it is the price for Nigerians and Ghanaians is the only response you get from the immigration officers. They have rubbish the essence of Ecowas, i just hope the government will do something about this border corruptions, what is not clear is whether the immigration officers are trying to send a message to these countries immigrations for extorting money from their citizen or it is becos they are English speaking countries it is hard to tell.
Martin, Dakar, Senegal

The problem with checkpoints is that they are a necessary evil. Sadly, corrupt checkpoints are everywhere. Apart from undermining and mocking their intended functions they can be seen as an irritable distraction on already terrible roads. More dangerously though, security personnel extort money, aid and abet smuggling, and deliberately close their eyes to illegal weapons and substances that can have a devastating effect on society. Is it the case of a criminal being asked to guard the prison???
Tom Tootia, Ibadan, Nigeria

Bribery always pushes prices of goods and services up, in that the quantum of the extortions are always added up to the goods and services which directly deprives consumers.
Andy, Accra, Ghana

Bribes of this nature are becoming common in Africa. For instance, Zambian checkpoint police officers suffer this corrupt syndrome. As a result they have caused a number of accidents where a number of people have lost lives after a policeman has accepted a bribe sometimes as little as US $2 & allowed non roadworthy vehicles to proceed. This is causing embarrassment to good governance achievements made by selfless Africans. As a journalist myself & working for a community radio I talk about such corruption which is sometimes blatantly supported by politicians. But when I do, I sometimes receive threats. However, since some people in villages still drink unsafe water because of corruption which has snatched resources from the poor I have no intention to stop because I have a duty to make Africa a better place.
Joseph Nyirenda, Itezhi Tezhi, Zambia

Hey, dash is the mother's milk of the police and military personnel at the checkpoints of the African countries. Officers even bribe higher officials or posting officers for the lucrative assignment to border posts or checkpoints. When an officer at the checkpoint asks for your particulars, he/she is not asking for your identification or driver's license, he is saying where is mine? Parlance understood. And this is the bane of the African society. This God-awful behaviour is not peculiar just to the checkpoints, it pervades the society top to bottom. The harm to the continent is incalculable in terms of arrested economic development, poor health, decrepit infrastructure, anaemic energy production let alone the moral fibre of the African nation. It saps everything.
RAZAK ABBAS, ANNANDALE, VA. USA

In fact, i know a little bit better about Abidjan, i was there some years back, i need to close my business down because there's no profit in my business all the money goes to the police pocket at the checking point especially from Noel to Abuassio and from there to Abidjan it so worst,t here's a place called cafe nouer, if you don't give police bribe there, they won't allow you to go, so you must give, if you like or not so it so terrible, the government need to do something about it.
Babatunde ifekoya, London, United Kingdom

Rwanda's story should be a good lesson to Ivory Coast. Ivorians need to send law makers in Rwanda to learn how this tiny Central African state has managed to overcome corruption and bribes. Many people think bad leadership can be root cause of bribes and corruption due to luck of stopping it.
Kayita, Windsor

For me this is not strange, I live in the Ivory Coast to be precise (Zouan Hounien) as refugee for 6yrs during the war in Liberia. We were harassed on a daily basis, we even change our dress code to dress like Ivorian boys just to avoid been noticed. Harassment is a usual thing for Ivorian that's why they don't travel outside easily.
Stephen Miapeh, Jr, Monrovia, Liberia

Checkpoint are for security reasons and Ivory Coast has had checkpoints since I was a child and I remember my family paying at checkpoint just to go to another city in the same country and this is damn wrong. with the right documents you still have to bribe to travel within Ivory Coast. It has to stop because it is not right.
Kobblah Lawrence, Atlanta, USA

If that is the case, I will only assume it is about 1billion dollars in Nigerian considering the size of the Country and the fact that at every junction you have a police road block. My policy when in Nigerian is to always have small bills on me when out driving to pay for my on-the-spot illegal road tax.
Tex Oduah, Sunbury, UK



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