It was an Okada rider friend of mine that told me about it last week, even before I saw the visuals on Sahara TV. An Okada (moped taxi) rider was riding his customer and child to their destination in Bariga, in Lagos. While she was alighting, the Okada rider sighted a policeman in mufti (as is their nature, especially when they intend to raid unsuspecting members of the public, justly or unjustly), coming towards him with the aim of "arresting" and milking him of his hard earned money, decided to bolt away, thinking the child behind him had alighted with the mother, only for the woman to begin to shout to him to stop so her child could come down from the bike. Unfortunately, this incident happened around Bariga market, with the crowd that could easily become a lynch mob at the slightest provocation. These, thinking that this was yet another case of kidnapping (especially for ritual purposes) successfully stopped the Okada rider and began to descend on him without hearing his side of the story, nor the womans' (whose child had by now been safely returned to her), whose appeal to them to desist from hitting the man was falling on deaf ears.




Interestingly, the policeman and his colleagues (who had by now joined in the melee) who were responsible for the fiasco in the first place, rather than help situate the matter in its right perspective, even if at the end of the day, they'd arrest the Okadaman and deal with him as they wished, allowed the man to be beaten to near comatose level before the woman with the help of others was able to gain access to the pummeling party, to relate the true side of the story, and they helped take the man to the clinic for treatment. That day Okada riders rode free of police intimidation and extortion in Bariga, because the Divisional Police Officer, without accepting responsibility for the actions of his men or apologizing for it, appeared to have prevailed on his men to sheathe their swords at least for that day, because of the seething anger amongst the populace when the truth of what actually happened was made manifest. In fact the Okadaman and the woman she carried were familiar with each other, and this wasn't the first time he'd be carrying her and her child.



Only a few of the inhabitants of Bariga felt that the coming of the new DPO will change the extortionist ways of the police in that part of Lagos. At the end of their evil stick are Okada and Tricycle (Keke) riders, sometimes the "Danfo" drivers though they have a strong union with connections with politicians and powerful people in the society that unless for serious criminal cases have become untouchable by the Nigerian police, as long as their palms are frequently greased with "shandy", "wazo" or any other pseudonym for any of Nigeria's currencies that the policemen routine collect at various points in Lagos where legally and illegally position themselves daily come rain or shine. Part of the proceeds from their "day's labour" goes into "deliveries" they make to the bosses in the offices, who assign them to "juicy" spots, like the areas around Bariga market in Lagos (for instance), with the heavy flow of traffic there. Some of it goes into the various "esusu" (like cooperatives) they join, to which they deliver huge sums of money daily, weekly or monthly, amounts that sometimes either equal, or more in multiples of their monthly emoluments, of which when collected eventually a few of them have gone on to build estates, even establish businesses.



It's a known fact that a large percentage of the Okada plying the Bariga route are owned by the policemen posted there, and the riders of Okada not owned by any policeman have to "settle" some policemen frequently, for "protection" in the days they have a falling-out with the colleagues of their "protector"; though a few times these have joined their peers in complicating matters, when their help is sought leaving the Okada riders in deeper shit and despair than they were before calling up their chargers for "protective aid". With these policemen in Bariga there's no gain, just losses, severally they'd carry out raids on the neighbourhoods arresting boys for just about any flimsy reason under the sun. Of course, only the Inspector-General of Police know that "BAIL IS FREE", Nigerians know that the contrary is true, and the amount they collect will make you wonder if police stations haven't become revenue generation centers, not for government, but those men in uniform. The Bariga police station at some point had an ATM within its environ before the immediate past Central Bank governor outlawed the siting of ATMs at locations other than around banks. While that ATM was there though, it was difficult for anyone who had "business" to do at that police station, to claim they had no money for bail.



When it comes to the police, President Buhari's "CHANGE" mantra holds no water. Even the state police commissioners who have been regaling the public with rallies of "Change Begins With Me" by policemen and women under them, know that it's just mere lip service and another money making adventure. Nothing in the extortionist behavior of the police have changed, rather the fees payable have astronomically increased owing to the "recession" in the air, and Nigerians have been left none the better for it. When last year, a policeman lost three of his children to a landslide in Lagos, not a few Nigerians and Lagosians were unsympathetic with the man, when it returns to their consciousness that the man is a member of the Nigerian Police Force, many of those unsympathetic Nigerians had a good reason to feel the way they did.









Published by m'khail madukovich