IN this country, a phrase that was created with the aim of dissipating the fears and misconceptions of the general public about the police force has more or less diminished into a hilarious irony. Say those words to a troubled Nigerian and experience a full episode of nervous breakdown accompanied with irascible transfer of aggression. It wasn’t like this in the beginning but today, it is so…
Last week, while embarking on one of my numerous voyages around the South West, I heard another one of the several tales of police misdemeanor, but this one struck a chord because it had a ‘happy ever after’ conclusion. Well, not for the police but for the victim. The man behind the wheels of the saloon car that conveyed me on this particular trip looked interesting. Interesting in the sense that he had a huge disparity with the regular look of members of the NURTW… pardon me, but this driver looked refined, level headed and responsible. He wore very decent looking clothes and had a sparkling gold band on his finger…invariably, he looked like a responsible husband and a law abiding citizen. I had read all of this in a few minutes because usually, I have the gift of seeing through people but I had no inkling that in a few hours, my intuitions will be confirmed and they were when he shared his recent experience at the hands of the police with the passengers aboard after we passed a police checkpoint.
“These people never cease to amaze me,” he began. “One would think they actually have the interest of the people at heart with the way they are paraded on the highways, but the truth is far from it. In fact, they make this country worse,” he lamented and began relieving his ordeal.
Recently, after conveying passengers to Africa’s largest city, Ibadan, he discovered a tablet in his cab. The device’s battery, according to him, was dead, but he knew for certain that a passenger must have left it behind. So, he searched for a matching charger and brought it to life. Few minutes after he powered the device, a call came through and he received it. It was the owner calling from another phone to trace the device and he was as a matter of fact, in luck. The driver immediately said, he told the owner not to worry, that he discovered the device in his cab and was willing to give it back. An elated passenger praised his integrity and honestly, virtues which are rare in recent times and they arranged for a meeting that same night. The owner, however, was Lagos bound that same night and was already in another cab heading for Lagos. The driver reassured him he would immediately set out for the Lagos Park to return the gadget and he did at about 9.30pm. But, when he finally got to the park where the owner of the device supposedly was boarding a cab to Lagos, he couldn’t get through to him; for like the love of a treacherous woman, our mobile networks disappoint the time one needs them the most. So, after trying in futility to get in touch with the owner for an hour, the driver gave up and decided to head home. Due to the lateness of the hour, he couldn’t get a motorcycle back home and he decided to walk.
It was on his way walking back home that the owner of the device eventually got through to him, pleading profusely while raining curses on the network service provider. Unfortunately, he had to leave for Lagos without the device but they made another arrangement to make the exchange the following day. A few minutes after the call, a police patrol van intercepted the driver and interrogated him. According to him, “I simply told the truth but it didn’t mean anything to them.” The driver was bundled into the back the patrol van and the police went on picking up strays from bars, clubs and roadsides till the van was filled.
At about 1 am in the morning, the police stopped the van at a junction and told its occupants to pay N5000 each if they wanted to be set free. Some people paid and were sent on their way while the others, who couldn’t afford to pay on the spot along with the driver, were taken to the station. As soon as they arrived at the station, they were told that their bail just became N10,000 and they should call their family members or friends to come for them.
From 6am, people started coming in and all the others were released on bail except for the driver. The officers got furious and told him to decide on who to call of rot at the station. Immediately, he told them he wasn’t going to pay a dime for bail because he had committed no crime. At that point, they decided to check his story and called the owner of the phone. The person corroborated the driver’s story and pleaded with them to let him go but they didn’t. The police insisted that someone must come to bail him. Left without a choice, he called his wife who had already been severely stricken with panic. When she got to the station, the police requested for bail of N10,000 which she said she didn’t have because her husband had committed no crime.
They later asked her to bring N2000 for his release and she refused still but since she was already at her wits end, she bluffed. She told them to go ahead and keep her husband but once he spends 24 hours unlawfully detained, she will be heading to the court. It was at that point that the driver was released unconditionally. At N5000, real criminals may have been released…people who may have been going to commit a crime and at N10000, more criminals may have been released that night, people who may have actually just committed a crime. However, the police couldn’t care less so far the money was paid but the police are your friends, aren’t they?