On the 29th of March 2017 I woke up at 4am Nigerian time in Accra, Ghana and started to get ready for my return to Nigeria. I had to take a flight from Lagos to Kaduna and then by road to Abuja. Upon getting to the dreaded Murtala Muhammad Airport, I found out I had left my few Naira which I needed to make my way within Nigeria, at the hotel. The only option I had was to go to the bank and collect some money across the account. After being dragged left and right by Nigerians at that airport (you cannot stop the hustling), I ended up with one old Alhaji. We made our way to Osolo way and the man said there is another branch of the bank that I wanted on the opposite side of the airport road. We changed course and meandered as taxi drivers alone can. In a bid to shorten the journey, the man used a shortcut which took him through Apakun Oshodi. As we were about to burst out back onto the express road, a motorcycle (Okada) overtook us and asked the driver to stop. Two guys and a lady alighted and came to the car. The taxi driver told them I was his passenger.
They asked to know me and I gave them my ID cards. I told them what I do for a living and all that. They took a cursory look at the ID and said I should follow them to their station at Mafoluku (Makinde). I had a 1.30pm flight on Air Peace to catch to Kaduna. I asked them why I needed to come to their station. Was I being arrested? If so where was the arrest warrant and what is the charge? One of the ‘plain clothes’ policemen named Stanley was obviously an alcoholic or drug addict. He had his veins sticking out of his neck and his speech slurred. There was no way I will go with these people anywhere and so I stood my ground. In no time, these aggressive ‘policemen’ were making up charges. They said I was drunk. Another said I had a mental problem. They said I was a fraudster they had been looking for and all that. I decided that these people could be kidnappers and so the only weapon is to draw public attention. I alighted from the car and stood in the middle of the road and stopped traffic. People came out of their houses to see what was going on. One boy – probably 11 years old – was standing in front of a house on my left whispering something to me. I could make out he wanted me to stand my grounds with them. They later called some men from SARS. Then I followed them to their notorious station. Here was I, ‘jejely’ trying to make my way to the bank and airport, but now being diverted to some dingy police station. In this rudderless country!
I went to Makinde Police Station in company of a uniformed policeman and another in plain clothes. On getting there my luggage was searched and I was asked to open my laptop. One detective who could hardly operate a laptop pretended he was doing something worthwhile on it. All he saw were articles and half-chewed articles. It was even then I remembered to tell them I was a journalist too… well a columnist. And that I have been for more than 12 years. I had warned them earlier that what they were doing would have consequences. I also told them that I was a political party leader. But I chose not to call my party people who could have appeared in their dozens. We were over 7,000 in number then (18,600+ now) and Lagos is our largest catchment.
Anyway, it came down to ‘as we stop you, you for just come station na’. Who does that, in this Nigeria full of kidnapping? The burly yellow plain-clothes policewoman among them said ‘ehh we just want to ask you wetin you bring for us’. But they were vicious! They weren’t looking for small money. They are in the business of extortion. At some point at Apakun Oshodi, the residents trooped out in my support when Stanley tried to rough me up and it was going to be a major incident. One woman told the driver that these policemen did that too often in that area and that they recently broke her son’s teeth with the butt of their gun in a recent ‘arrest’ on that street. They just lurk there and believe they can prey on innocent Nigerians. Coming from Ghana where everything is so orderly, one couldn’t help but hate Nigeria. I called the DIG of Police in charge of FCID at that point though. Long story. Maybe he believed I was a criminal despite knowing me at least from a distance for over one year.
After wasting my time, they were begging for money. One of them asked me to take a picture of the dump that they called office where they hung their rags and shoes. I told them I already knew the problem; that I was a friend of the police, but I know that it’s one’s ‘friend’ that was likely to be one’s albatross. Igbo people say ‘onye ma mmadu ne gbu mmadu’. They laughed aloud, released me to go catch my flight just barely in time… I know they got the message that it’s not everyone they stop brashly on the streets that will follow them to some station like an idiot. They also saw that a flash mob was developing that could make the situation very sticky for them. I hope the people of Apakun Oshodi could get more confident as a result of my strong-headedness.
Mind you, there is nothing wrong with ‘stop and search’, but using one’s position, uniform or arms and ammunition to extort civilians is totally unacceptable. The Punch carried a report yesterday 19/08/2017 which highlighted this problem. The business of chasing ‘yahoo boys’ is big among Lagos police especially, and spills over to Ogun, Oyo and other South West states where young people are serially brutalized, especially in the poor areas. This nonsense does not happen in Victoria Island. It also doesn’t happen in the north of Nigeria. I don’t know what comes over policemen posted to Lagos, and the Commissioner there had better act.
The Punch reported how they killed a woman in Isheri who was just minding her business, while purportedly chasing yahoo boys. Another guy who is a banker in London and his sister were abducted by police and extorted until he was released at 3am. Another man narrated how he was beaten black and blue with his fiancé. Yet another narrated how these plain clothes policemen – sometimes working with SARS abducted him from the gate of a bank in Lagos and extorted him for N100,000 just because he had a good phone. They make at least N500,000 a day per team at the minimum. Sometimes they make N3million daily. See http://punchng.com/police-raids-turn-money-making…/. President Buhari, welcome back, but this is the country we have become under your watch sir! This is just not the way to be as a people and it is unacceptable. In many parts of Nigeria, when we are not busy kidnapping ourselves, slaughtering children for money rituals, we are burning young people to ashes. The world is watching.
IG of Police. I support your work, but beyond your HQ, your men have become hardened criminals. Many work hand in glove with kidnappers, others kidnap themselves. This is not how a country should be. Please find a way and shake up the entire Lagos command. This is beyond the pale.