My personal encounter with the Nigerian Police have been very few and far between. The first time was while I was in the university in 2003, when I was nabbed by members of a task force set up by the Lagos State Government to stop pedestrians from crossing very busy roads, especially where there are already pedestrian bridges provided for the purpose. I hadn't used the bridge, and once I made it to the other side, a man walked up to me, and marched me to a waiting "danfo" bus, where I met some others who'd been as unlucky as I have been. Like me, their pleas to our "captors" with promises always to use the pedestrian bridge was like pouring water on a rock, save for the oldest man amongst us, middle aged, who brandishing an inhaler, claimed that his asthmatic condition worsens when he ascends heights, and therefore was let go, especially as he started to tremble and twitch violently, as he pleaded with the members of the task force to let him go on medical grounds.

The rest of us were taken to a Police Station somewhere in Shomolu, from Onipanu where we were arrested, and herded into a crowded cell, where one could only stand, to wait till Monday when the courts open to be charged seeing as it was a Friday afternoon. I had only ₦250 with me, so I couldn't avail myself of the opportunity to call home because the "official" phone lady of that police station charged ₦50 per minute to make a call to relatives or friends for help (those were the days GSM phones had just been launched and still cost an arm and a leg for a poor student like me to own). About an hour after we'd been in detention, towards evening, one of the policemen came by to ask us what we had so he could see if he could help us, to forestall our being in detention through the weekend. When it was my turn I explained to him that I was a student and gave him my wallet that contained my ID Card as well as money. He took the ₦200 and gave me ₦50, opened the cell and let me out. I was the only one that was let out, while the others who had called family and friends had to wait to be bailed. The only good thing that came out of that experience for me, was that while walking a few distance before getting a bus to my sisters' house to ask for money to return to school, I came upon a makeshift structure where registration for National ID Card was ongoing. Seeing that I hadn't been chanced to do that earlier, I used that opportunity to register and went on my way. I doubt I'd have owned one today if I hadn't been arrested on that day, of which I'm grateful considering that stress applicants undergo today to get the same national ID Card, though with advanced features.

My second encounter was months after the first, and my friends and I were returning back to campus after attending a birthday party not so far from school. Yes, it was late and we couldn't get a bus to take us home, so we trekked. All was well till we encountered these policemen a few yards from the gate of our school. Our explanation to them of nothing but the truth about our situation seemed to anger them such that I wasn't sure if one of them in particular was angry with the fact that we looked too young to be medical students, or that we had no right to be happy and attending birthday parties, while they were on the road working, enough for him to threaten to shoot us, and nothing will happen to him. Luckily, we hadn't been too inebriated at the time to try and question their harassment of us, rather the fear of the guns they had on them was the beginning of our wisdom, but I was quite shaken by the way we were verbally harassed and threatened. Interestingly, after they let us go, and we walked into school, then to the hostel area, and to our rooms, we said nothing to each other, and till date I've never asked my co-travelers from Agbe Davies' birthday party, what was going on in their minds while our ordeal lasted. 

Yes compared to what Nigerians go through in the hands of the police on a daily, I count myself rather lucky. But I've also seen friends who'd been served the short end of the stick. In one case two years ago, we had to rally round to raise  ₦100,000 to take a friend away from "SARS" detention at Ikeja, where he'd been detained at the instance of his landlord with whom he had a  misunderstanding at the time. The money wasn't even just so he could walk away a free man, but that he could be detained at the normal neighborhood police station, after he began to fear for his life, as the number of detainees (mostly suspected armed robbers and criminals) he was lobbed in with, continued to decrease by the day, not necessarily because they were taken to court, and from thence to prison, but because such disappearances was usually linked with gunshots heard in the vicinity of the detention area in the nights. On yet another occasion involving another friend, who was arrested during "routine raids", in what appeared to be a fundraising activity of the particular police station that conducted the raid, seeing as it was the past Eid El Kabir a few weeks back, each one of the "unfortunates" were made to cough out between ₦20,000 and ₦50,000 after signing an undertaking, stating even things as ridiculous as promising to stop walking about in the night. We paid  ₦20,000 in the case of my friend because we brought the head of the "PCRC" of our area to plead on his behalf, others paid more, and I shook my head as we walked away with him that afternoon of the last Sallah holiday, while the policemen began to gather in their haul for the day, probably to decide with what exactly they'd make a meal of the big ram that was already tied to a tree within the police station's compound. 

There are other instances that I will not mention here, but I mustn't stop without adding this one. I'm sure while you're reading this, you'd probably be wondering why we never contacted lawyers in almost all of the cases that my attention was called to. This is because I have found that there are some lawyers that feed off situations like these. They hang around police stations pretending to try to offer help to those in detention, while working in cahoot with the police to fleece the detainees of all they could possibly. More often than not, when those cases go to court, they put up very weak defences, or fail to help protect their "clients" from outrageous bail conditions, that will end up seeing the detainee become a prisoner "awaiting trial" for years in the many gulags scattered allover Nigeria, and not without collecting their charges to the fullest sometimes with threats to abandon the same case they jeopardized right from the onset. The only lawyers that can bring you out of police detention are the top so called SENIOR ADVOCATES, and they can even effect free bail for their clients, unfortunately they aren't usually available for and to the masses, who are usually at the mercies of extortionist members of the Nigerian Police Force and their collaborator lawyers. 

When recently the Nigerian Police expressed their disgust to a recent finding that suggested that that outfit ranks the worst in the world, many Nigerians were left wondering in bewilderment. A friend even said it is wrong to even classify Nigerian police amongst the worst in 2017, because they hadn't even arrived here yet, seeing as their crude tactics is still in the seventeenth century. Recently, the police in Rivers State paraded two suspected killers of a staff of Shell Oil Producing company, stating that they were apprehended using DNA and forensic science. Interestingly, it was a case I got to know about from my host when I arrived Port Harcourt hours after the ugly incident had occurred, and I'd written about in one of my blog posts. I learnt later that it was detectives hired by Shell that took saliva sample on the head of the victim to Holland, with which they matched the DNA with some staff of Shell and subsidiaries/oil servicing companies before the culprits were nabbed, because if you'd been to Shell R.A. in Port Harcourt and the company, and seen the security apparatus therein, you'd also agree with the investigating team that the killing of that man was an inside job. Had one of the perpetrators not spat on the head of their victim after their dastardly act, they'd probably would've gotten away with it. Sadly, the police in their statements never mentioned nor acknowledged the contribution of the Shell Police and their local and foreign detectives in their statement.

In fact, it was disbelief at their ability to solve the crime the way they said they did that evoked my desire to find answers. How a police that we saw recently stepping over blood and evidence around a dead bank robber in pictures that went viral following that exchange of fire between gallant policemen and robbers, at a Zenith Bank branch, was beyond my comprehension. A Nigerian police that invited the FBI to help it crack the case of the murder of frontline Lagos politician, Engineer Funsho Williams, only to find fingerprints allover his body,  that may have included that of police personnel, as they flippantly desecrated the crime scene like the civilian family members and sympathizers that thronged the home of the late politician, after news of his gruesome killing spread like wildfire. But I digress, because my focus and all I want to say is that despite so called noise by the police hierarchy that bail is free, the reality on ground is otherwise, and even more notoriously dangerous because innocent Nigerians are losing their lives, or having it truncated temporarily because they cannot afford the huge amounts policemen, on the roads and in the stations are demanding from their "hostages" before they can let them go, boasting that nothing will happen to them even if they shoot and kill their victims, as the hierarchy who are also involved in their own mess (if you consider any of the allegations against the Inspector General of Police by Senator Misau to have some truths in it) at their level, cannot then decree to rank and file what they should do when they haven't come to equity with clean hands. 

Despite the very few instances of the Nigerian Police Force rising to check the troubling trend, of cases where hapless Nigerians (mostly adolescents and young people, under the guise of combating cybercrime, with their phones and laptops confiscated, and their online privacy violated all in the bid to dig up incriminating evidence, which in the eye of the uncouth policemen, include legitimate online businesses that many Nigerian youths have turned to, because of the absence of physical jobs to employ them) are arbitrarily rounded up on the flimsiest of reasons, and forced to make withdrawals using their ATM cards, or transfers from their mobile devices, or have families run helter skelter to raise funds, as you'd find with kidnappers demanding ransom. The sad reality is that for every policeman dismissed and tried for these acts of extortion, inflicting of bodily harm and injury on their victims, as well as extrajudicial killing of those who dared to question the authority of the armed policeman to dehumanize him/her, there are multiples of such happening under the radar, so much so that when AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL comes up with figures, Nigerians have come to just read them without any outrage, because of the helplessness and hopelessness of their situation. Even the  Public Relations Department of the Nigerian Police have grown a thick skin, and now hardly responds to new findings, except those that have managed to make it into the international media. When they do respond, they offer some of the lamest of excuses that in no way addresses any of the concerns raised by the bodies that have painstakingly offered testimonies (at the risk of the lives of the victims of police mistreatments) and empirical evidences. Admitting wrong done, talk more apologizing doesn't even come up, and therein lies the motivation for the impunity that continues to stare Nigerians in the face in the name of BAIL IS FREE, when it is absolutely not, at the hands of the police that should protect and serve the people. 




Published by m'khail madukovich