Show Me The Receipt of Your Wristwatch (I)

Have you been to Nigeria lately? Share any experiences of burgelaries, armed robberies, fraud, etc.

Show Me The Receipt of Your Wristwatch (I)

Postby fw12 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:10 am

By Atsar Terver

The Nigerian Policeman could be nasty and in the most annoying of ways. And for me, since my very first encounter with the Police at the age of 14, they have consistently exhibited the same form of behaviour bereft of the politesse and professionalism expected of a law enforcement agency.

I received my baptism in Police misdemeanour at the age of 14. I was then in Form four at Government Secondary School Ushongo. Our Agric Teacher had asked me among other Prefects to assist him invigilate an examination for a junior class. While on ‘duty’, I caught this diminutive girl called Erdoo (not her real name) copying the answers directly from her notebook. In those days, such an act was a taboo especially in the Northern part of the country. Yes there was a time in this country when examination malpractice was embarrassing to even the students themselves. The Nigerian child had not yet been indoctrinated to accept the culture of examination fraud as a norm. So I reported her to the Teacher.

Erdoo was only physically diminutive; her fighting spirit was quite tall and sophisticated for a schoolgirl in Form one. In fact she was a militant of some sort as she had a gang of bad boys who fought her battles. I was to know this only after the teacher gave her a befitting punishment for her act and she vowed to deal with me.

Usually I would be the last person to leave the school premises because as a Library Prefect, I needed to rearrange all the books on the shelves at the end of each day. And so she waited for me in one of the classrooms. On my way home in the company of a friend, I noticed a group of boys trailing us and in their midst was Erdoo. I instantly smelt a rat. They soon closed in on us and in a symbolic gesture akin to the sign Judas gave his gang to identify Jesus their target, this tiny girl walked up to me and landed a heavy punch on my lower back. His boys then went into action straightaway.

Of course my friend and a passerby who was also our classmate intervened and I was set free to go home. I later learnt that Erdoo insisted my friend must pay for setting me free and so the fight continued in my absence until the Police were called in. I was picked up an hour later and thrown into a detention cell. Then began my journey into discovery of the rottenness in the Police system. And they have never disappointed me once since then.

In the cell, I found myself in the midst of hardened criminals. I can’t really say I came face to face with them because I could not see any of their faces. The cell was completely dark. I could only hear voices; husky voices, hungry voices and some nasty comments. They asked me my name and what brought me there. I refused to say a word. I leaned against the wall in the corner, unable to bear the pong oozing from their skins and the only hole in the wall which served as a urinary. The only ray of light that filtered in through this hole was quickly absorbed by their dark skins. One of them that sounded like a leader assured me that I was most welcome and that I should feel free to share my story with them that they could perceive I was a small boy and they decided not to touch me. Incredible! Here were supposed criminals who had the wisdom to know it was wrong to put a juvenile inside a detention cell; wisdom that the Policemen did not have.

Soon the news got to the School Principal and he quickly dispatched some teachers to come secure my freedom immediately since he regarded the matter as one to be handled by the school authority instead of the Police. A group of students also gathered in front of the station to demand my release but the Sergeant on duty rebuffed their entireties insisting that I must spend the Night in the cell. I was later to learn that Erdoo’s father had given the Sergeant some money to ensure that I slept in the cell to teach me a lesson. This Sergeant had called my father aside to ‘explain’ that if he could bring a higher amount than Erdoo’s Dad, then he would secure my release! My dad declined this deal and told him to take me to court if indeed he could!

Looking back at some of the decisions my Dad took while he was alive and those I have taken at certain critical times, I can say I took after him in many ways. For instance, he was not one to keep quiet in the face of tyranny or injustice. Somehow, I just find myself unable to keep quiet when Police cross their boundaries and attempt to encroach on my fundamental rights and freedom as a law abiding citizen. Incidentally this is what the average Nigerian Policeman hates, and I in turn hate them for it. I once told my younger brothers that if any of them should decide to join the Police, I will visit the welder to elongate the handle of my spoon so we could still eat together as our culture demands. Every time I encounter them, I have something to write about.

On 13th June 2009, I was in Lagos for some personal engagements. On arrival, I took a cab on my way from the Murltala Muhamed International Airport to Surulele. Along Western Avenue, by the Yaba link, the cab was flagged down by a Policeman. The driver pulled over respectfully and the Policeman bent over to my side of the car and the following conversation ensued.

‘Oga, come down for searching’ he said in an authoritative manner.

‘You want to search me or the car?’ I asked him calmly

‘You!’ he interjected harshly

‘You have a warrant for this search on me or you suspect something?’

‘It is a routine check ‘

‘But how do you decide who to search and who not to search please?’

‘There are no criteria Sir. It is at random’

‘Ok. Do your work’, I said as I stepped out from the car.

I stretched my hands aside as he frisked me quite professionally, I must admit. His hands soon found my wallet which was rather very fat at the moment. I could sense a spell of excitement in his eyes. Obviously a fat wallet meant a fat settlement, should the need for it arise. I pitied him though, as I was not ready to part with any ‘shishi’ of mine under whatever name he would call it.

‘What is this?’ he belched with some form of consternation in his tone as if he had found a gun on me.

‘My wallet of course’

‘Bring it out’

I did. He needed to be sure it was money so he could charge me with ‘money laundering’ in case he found no other issues against me.

‘Open it’ he instructed.

‘What exactly do you want to see in my wallet?’ I asked still trying to maintain my sanity. But my temper was already at boiling point. All the same I opened the wallet. It was full of crisp 1,000 Naira Notes. He nodded his head in a mischievous manner. At that point, I knew he would stop at nothing until he finds a loophole. As a last resort, he could work on my emotions to get me angry so we could go into a confrontation and then he could use that against me. Knowing this to be his plan, I resisted the urge to blow up. So I stayed calm.’

You are very thorough, unlike most Policemen who collect 20 naira and allow people to go’. I commended him, but in a way he would not miss the disdain. But I guess he did as he smiled childishly obviously enjoying the praise.But his smile lasted for a few seconds, and then his countenance changed again to a tight no-nonsense officer that he either was or wanted me to believe he was.

‘Where is your ID card?’ he demanded.

I reached for the inner breast pocket of my jacket at brought out my Identity Card. His countenance brightened again similar to the expression I had seen on his face when he sighted the content of my wallet.

‘So you work with an oil company?’ He asked as he snatched the ID card from my hand and refused to give it back to me.I obviously did not need to answer that question.

‘Oya what are you carrying in those bags? He pointed to my travelling bag and the Laptop carrier at the backseat of the cab.

‘My personal effects. I responded’

‘Open the bags.’

I did. He rummaged the bag carelessly and in the process ruffled my clothes which were hitherto neatly packed.

‘Officer, I am sorry you have the right to search my bag but none to tangle my clothes, so be careful ok?’ I cautioned him. At this point he picked out my cologne lifted it up quizzically and asked rather desperately: ‘Wetin be this?’

‘The name is there on it, but if you need help with that I can assist’. I said almost shouting.

He got the message and quietly dropped it in the bag and then reached for my Laptop.

‘Whose is it?’ He shouted pointing at the laptop.

‘Mine of course’

‘Can I see the receipt?’

‘Yes you can, provided you can show me the receipt of the handset and the wristwatch on your arm’. I said almost carelessly not minding what was going to come next. He was stunned for a while, as he rummaged his brain in search for a way to come out of the corner he had boxed himself into.

‘Are you a Benue man?’

‘Why does that matter? I am a Nigerian.

‘Na Tiv people de talk like this’

‘A ha, Tiv people? They talk like how?

‘Una no dey respect Police’

‘Point of correction, we respect police, we respect the law, but we hate injustice and foul play.

‘Take your ID Card. You are even my brother.’

I looked at his name tag and realised he was a Tiv man.

‘Are you letting me go because I am your brother or you have not found anything on me?’ I asked.

‘Are you a lawyer?’

'I am just wondering what would have happened if I were an Ibo man or an Effik.'
fw12
Nairaland Junior
 
Posts: 147
Joined: Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:35 am

Show Me the Receipt of Your Handset (II)

Postby fw12 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:11 am

I collected my ID card from him and took two slow steps back to the taxi, turned to look at his face. It wore so much disappointment. On my part, my expression was neither of gratitude or triumph. I was piqued at the role tribalism played in the whole saga. Supposed I stole that laptop, then my being a Tiv man would have set me free until and unless I happened upon a non-Tiv Police officer? On the other hand even as the laptop was mine, I would still have ended up at the Police Station if the Policeman was non-Tiv?... I was still in these thoughts when the Taxi Driver interrupted them.

‘Oga, You no de stay for this country? ‘

‘Why? I stay in PortHarcourt’

Why you come de take risk with olopa like that? Those people them bad well well.

‘What risk? I just made sure I did not give him something to lay hands on’

‘Dat na the problem. If you argue too much with dem, dem go get angry. You be lucky man o. If be say you no be him broda, the man for drag you go station.

‘Station for what offence? I would rather follow him to the station and clear myself than part with one kobo to ‘settle’ anybody. We can stop their excesses if we know our rights and their limits. The problem is that Nigerians are too impatient; always in a hurry. Instead of spending two hours to clear themselves, they offer bribes and move on. The police in turn get used to this. So anybody who is unwilling to give them the bribe is considered recalcitrant. When more and more people refuse to give them bribes, they will decline in their antics. They will learn to stay within their limits...’

‘Oga leave that one o! Olopa no get limit! Dem fit shoot you come talk say you be arm robber. I don see many many thing wey de happen for this Lagos o. Next time just settle them and go your way. A word is enough for the wise.

Indeed for many Nigerians, this Taxi Drivers’ counsel is quite germane. What with the spate of extrajudicial killings by trigger-happy policemen reported almost every other day in Nigeria? The Apo six murder which is perhaps the most cruel of the many cases is still fresh in our minds. It is the story of one Mr. Ozor who drove his girlfriend visiting from Lagos in the company of four friends, to a club. They later ran into a police checkpoint and engaged a member of the police team in an argument. The police said they were armed robbers, and fired at them. After the shooting, the survivors were taken to an Estate (called Prince and Princess) where they were executed and hurriedly buried at Utako District in two shallow graves!

When I published part one of this article, a reader responded with a tale of how his friend lost her mom in UK. When they flew the corpse home, her family went to the airport to claim it. On their way back, at the junction just after the International Airport (Lagos), the Policemen there waved them down for checking. One of her cousins came down to explain to them that they were carrying a corpse and nothing else. An argument ensued and before you knew it, her cousin was shot. He died on the spot.

One thing that is common to both cases (and in many of the cases) is that, an argument preceded the shooting. It appears that what triggers the gun is the inability of the ill-trained policemen to engage in intelligent, civil, courteous, and polite exchange with members of the public. But such an exchange is sometimes inevitable especially when one is accused of a nonexistent offence and has to explain himself or stand the risk of being implicated in something he knows nothing about. In such cases, silence is not an option and yet, you argue at your own peril!

I recall another experience just two weeks ago. On 28th June 2009 I was on a public transport, operated by Benue Links and travelling to Gboko in the company of 13 other passengers of the bus. At a (illegal) checkpoint between Aba and Umuahia, our vehicle was flagged down. The driver stopped and the Policeman stretched forth his hand towards the driver in the familiar manner expecting the driver to squeeze some Naira notes inside. Rather than do this, the driver looked surprised. Obviously it was strange to him because Police don’t normally collect ‘egunje’ from government-owned vehicles.

Sensing the drivers unwillingness to ‘cooperate’ he ordered him to clear the vehicle off the road and open the boot for checking. The driver complied. After a thorough search in the luggage without any ‘find’, we thought we would be back on the road again in seconds. We were mistaken; the Policeman seized the Driver’s Licence on the excuse that the back windshield of the bus was tainted. He claimed that they have instructions to impound any vehicle that carries tainted glasses.

I quickly put a call across to a friend who is a Senior Editor with NewsWatch in Abuja. I knew I would soon engage that officer in an argument, which could cost me my life, and I wanted my friend to be a witness or at least, he should know what happened so that after they might have shot me and began to reel out their lies, my friend could tell the world the truth.

After about 50 minutes of delay, the officer commanded all the passengers to go into the vehicle, ordered the driver behind steering wheel, while he displaced one of the passengers in the front seat and took over. He ordered the driver to move; that the vehicle was impounded.

All the while I was watching the drama silently having remembered the Lagos Taxi Driver’s advice. But I could not hold it anymore. At this point I came down from the vehicle, walked up to the side of the bus and asked him in the most polite words I could summon at the moment.

‘Officer, may I ask you where you are taking all these people to?’

‘To the Police Station. This vehicle is under arrest’

‘I may not argue with your ‘arresting’ this vehicle,(I remembered that not long ago Police in Ilorin arrested a goat for armed robbery) but you have no reason to take us along to the Station unless we are under arrest as well, in which case you will need to explain the offence to me and each one of these passengers why they need to follow you to the Station’ I stated with an air of authority that baffled the Policeman and even my co-passengers.

‘And who are you? Are you challenging my job? Who do you think you are?’.He barked angrily.

‘Calm down officer, I am not claiming to be anybody here ok? I am just a law abiding Nigerian citizen on a legitimate journey on a public highway. So tell me why you think I need to be something else before you will explain a simple action of yours. Are you not working for the good of all citizens, I mean the big and the small, the high and the low, the rich and the poor?’ I poured out like rain.

‘Look, you can continue to speak your grammar but I bet you will sleep here’ he stated with finality in his tone as he stepped out of the bus, abandoned us and went on to stand on the middle of the highway and continued with extortion of other motorists.

Meanwhile, the passengers turned their frustration on me. They blamed me for ‘offending’ the Policeman. I told them not to worry, that he can only delay our journey but he can’t stop it. While they were deliberating on how to contribute some money and beg the man, I told them to count me out and I walked some meters away from where they were standing. I called my friend in Abuja and briefed him of the new development.

While I was still on that call the unexpected happened. An oncoming vehicle, which was on high speed suddenly, knocked the Policeman down. His gun was flung into the bush. The man went down, attempted to get up but slumped again. In a split second, the victimizer became a victim.

As things would happen, just the day before, I had concluded a First Aid course in my workplace that qualified me as a Designated First Aider (DFA) by the Nigerian Red Cross Society. And here was I, just one day old as a DFA, faced with the responsibility of saving a life in a real life scenario. It was a sudden call to duty to which I must respond.

In a split second, I needed to identify what is the most important first step to take. I needed to be sure it was safe to touch the man. His colleagues who were some meters away may mistake me for the culprit and do me harm. Then there was the danger of another on-coming vehicle, which may cause multiple accidents. So as the passengers rushed to crowd round the victim, I ordered them to stay away. They obeyed because they have come to see me as someone who knew what he was doing. I borrowed a Caution Sign from another ‘victim’ who was being delayed by the same Policeman to cordon the area.

There was no First Aid box with the Police or any of the travellers. However In the Course we were told to make use of what is available, so I beckoned on the passengers to come closer and asked them to donate their handkerchiefs, which they did gladly despite the fact that it was this same Policeman that was their adversary. Nigerians are indeed good people.

With those handkerchiefs, which I converted into bandage, I was able to contain bleeding from the major wounds. Luckily for him he did not suffer any fracture, or wounds on the head or chest. While all this was going on, none of the Policemen who were with him came near even to witness what was going on. Rather they went after the car that hit him, the driver of which did not even attempt to run away. They descended on the poor driver with gun butts and battered him mercilessly. One even removed his helmet and threw it at the driver in an apparent gesture to impress his boss.

I was angry. ‘This is an accident. Leave the driver alone and come and arrange how this victim will be moved to a hospital. If you kill that driver, there will be nobody to pay for his treatment ok?’ I shouted with authority. To my surprise and that of the other passengers, the Policemen obeyed my order as If I had become their commander.

‘Remove our driver’s Licence from his pockets’, I told one of the policemen. He did and handed it over to our driver. ’You can now go’. He said.

As they drove the wounded officer away, I checked my time; it was exactly two hours since that Policeman flagged down our vehicle. I looked down my legs; his blood had stained my trousers. ‘What a day!’ I murmured quietly as the journey continued.
fw12
Nairaland Junior
 
Posts: 147
Joined: Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:35 am


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