Things that happen in Nigeria (part 3)

By Adeola Aderounmu

One day Muyiwa got a short term contract to reinstall and upgrade the computer systems at a cyber café at Iyano Iba area of Lagos. Muyiwa is a software engineer and one of the several million Nigerians currently looking for proper and gainful employment.

The cyber café (name withheld) is a stone throw from where Muyiwa lives so it was easy to get him to do the job for in a fair deal with the owner of the establishment.

While Muyiwa was at work (fixing the tokunbo systems) his mother sent Tunji-the younger brother-to help make a phone call at the call centre just in front of the cyber café.

Like a whirlwind the men of the Nigerian Police force from a nearby station pounced on the business centre and arrested all the people inside the cyber café and everyone standing outside waiting to make phone calls.

Muyiwa and Tunji ended up in the same police van along with several other people and before they could shout mummy, they have been placed behind bars like armed robbers.

In the end both were bailed by a sum of N10 000, an amount that is more than 50% of the minimum poverty wage paid by the Nigerian authorities.

The above story is real and reveals one of the criminal activities of the Nigerian police.

Sadly this is what the Nigerian Police do everyday. But who is going to punish these criminals who wear dirty, stinking uniforms around town?

Many men in police uniform are smelly and drunk while on duty. Many of them-like the corrupt politicians-are not mentally fit, yet they are employed to work as police officers.

Many Nigerian police men and women do not know the statutory functions of the police. Their understanding is limited to the conversion of police station to somewhat of a bank where money change hands. For many of them the job is about implicating people and asking for bail.

I have written somewhere before about the Moniya police station in Oyo state where robbers and suspects are shot and thrown into the (Ogunpa) river at night. I know this because I’d lived across the street in 1996 during my service year in Ibadan. I asked around after several sleepless nights of hearing gun shots and my findings gave me shocking revelations.

This is probably a routine in police stations across Nigeria because of the congestion of their cells. Killing robbers and suspects, I was told, was a way to keep the inmates level manageable. So if you don’t pay the bail for the people you know they will be framed-up for more serious crimes or even killed. Policing in Nigeria has become a big deadly business.

After my service year, I did not spend one day extra in Ibadan. I was glad to leave IITA where Nigerian junior workers were treated like slaves in my department (PHMD) and it was also a relief getting away from the crazy police station that was about 3O meters to my all in one-room apartment.

The discussions bothering on the atrocities of the Nigerian police can be project work or thesis for the entire final year law students at the University of Lagos in such a way that it would not even result to repetition or plagiarism. They are mostly semi-illiterates or sometimes complete illiterates in uniform, acting (according to Fela) like zombies, for the most.

Cyber cafés are well known places for yahoo-yahoo or 419 activities and that has been the excuse used by both the EFCC and the other security agencies for raiding the guilty and the innocent. This useless venture by the Nigerian security agencies shows the scandalous lack of knowledge and a near zero-intelligence collection by them.

The right thing to do is to collect information about fraudsters, trace them, monitor them and arrest them with substantial evidence. This is a mirage in Nigeria. Rather than arrest a criminal, the Nigerian police commonly raid a group of people and lump them together. The bail sums will be huge.

If the Nigerian police have a warrant for the arrest of a man who is on the run, they will arrest all the members of his family in his place. This is simply senseless and shows nothing but stupidity and lack of understanding of the rule of law. It shows violation of the rights of those who have been unjustly arrested or apprehended. The act is criminal on the part of the police.

Even when the police in Naija make the correct arrest, they are eager to accept bribes or to extort whatever they can from the criminals and sometimes set them free. They are probably short-changing the judiciary that is also reckless with the spate of briberies, kickbacks and questionable judgements that emanate from the rotten institution. The law system in Nigeria is approaching total senselessness. Corruption has torn it apart.

All cyber cafés in Nigeria are reputed for regularly giving huge sums of monies to the police so that they can be allowed to stay in business. The cafes have both good and bad people as customers but it is the task of a well-trained police force to fish out criminals and let law abiding citizens do their daily chores-send emails, chat with family members in other countries and to maintain touch with the global events.

If the owner of a cyber café is a fraudster he should be charged accordingly using the evidence against him. It is wrong to apprehend the innocent because they are present when the guilty person is been arrested.

Nigeria is made to look like a lawless country going by the activities of the policemen. But they will blame it on the politicians and the lack of sophisticated instruments/equipment to work with. The police will blame their criminal activities on poor salaries. One can only imagine the type of training that they received as well going by the state and conditions of their academies prior to the popular Channels TV coverage.

The reputation of the Nigerian police from my point of view is similar to that of any other criminal. The Nigerian police will ask you for the receipt of your television as you take it to the electrician for repair. If you don’t have the receipt, you are in a serious mess. You can be locked up and lumped with real criminals. You can die in jail because you fail to produce the receipt of a television that is not working at all.

If the Nigerian police act on intelligence rather than impulse, they will not stop or question people moving around with their electronic devices. It appears that the code of the Nigerian police is “wear a uniform and oppress the people as much as you can”.

Poverty-both mental and material-has resulted in many atrocities on the side of the police. It is not impossible that greed is also a reason. The states of things in Nigeria are extremely sad. Conventional knowledge tells that the people of Nigeria find it impossible to live on their salaries. That is probably a fact for many people who have jobs. One can only imagine the plights of the jobless in the absence of a social security system. The minds of people have been broken.

What have emanated from the foregoing are different types of evils in different offices or agencies across Nigeria. It is worse on the streets and in homes. People are confronted by the continuous dual threats of robbers and the police.

In a society where people worship money and mysterious riches, in a society where poverty and penury is plaguing more than 70% of the population, anything can be done to get sudden money and overnight wealth.

There are confirmed reports of the Nigerian Police who transport “certain” prisoners from the cell and let them go on free foot. In return they are known to raid bus stations at night (say from 10pm) in order to substitute the criminals they set free with the innocent people they have “captured” at the bus stations.

They do these things because they have been paid huge sums by the criminals and their families or gang. These stories are true even if they don’t make the news for various reasons including the Nigerian factors. People who tell the truth are endangered species in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Police are involved in many more atrocities, they are so lawless! If you report a robbery at the police station physically, you are likely to be arrested and detained. The police may accuse you of being the robber and accuse you of trying to cover your crimes. Ordinary Nigerians are like pawns in the hands of the police. The police in Nigeria are never your friend, don’t be mistaken about that!

The Nigerian police are known to listen to fake reports, collect bribes and arrest innocent people. If the arrested person has no connection, he or she will remain in the Nigerian hell. No one will listen to him or her. The Nigerian police have many bad and rotten eggs parading the streets.

If you have a problem with the police or you are trying to find out the status of the person who is in the police detention, they will tell you that the officer in charge of the case is not around and no one else will give you useful information. Your trips to the station become endless. Imagine that there is an officer in charge of a case, just like in the bank where you have different advisers for different activities. The police in Nigeria think they are running a bank because of the large sums of money that change hands daily at their stations. The police are very unreliable I must add.

Police trouble in Nigeria can take breath out of your body. You need to be mentally strong to remain collected as you try to explain your innocence to the people who understand only the language of money. They are like vultures and they can ruin you and your business. They can shoot you while checking your car or vehicle particulars. Don’t argue with the trigger-happy, drunk police officer in Nigeria, even to this day and minute! Their reputations remain the same, bad!

In some areas of Lagos state policemen and soldiers are now plying the okada trade in the evening and night. What they have done to the okada riders since the Fashola ban are unspeakable things. Passengers and okada riders have died as they try to escape from policemen and soldiers.

Does Governor Fashola of Lagos state know that policemen and soldiers are now into the okada business in certain areas of Lagos? If his answer is no, then he has a real problem with the management of his domain. I don’t support the use of okada because of the dangers involved and I hate with unreserved passion the fact that policemen and soldiers in mufti can use take over this business despite the ban. What a lawless bunch! Criminals in uniform! Mr. Fashola, wake up and smell the coffee in the suburbs.

If you live in Nigeria and you don’t have a top police officer or a well-known wealthy, corrupt politician as your family friend, you are probably taking a great risk. I know many innocent people who have been rescued from the claws of the police with a phone call from the top. What if these people have no helper?

Indeed things are not supposed to be like that. I am not supposed to be afraid that the police can do me harm or even implicate me. But these things happen. I am not supposed to rely on a top police officer or a corrupt politician for my freedom. There are internationally recognised laws that guarantee my freedom and human rights.

In Nigeria depending on which side you find yourself, your rights are not guaranteed. The police can do you “anyhow” or “kill and go” as we used to say. Ask around Nigeria, “what is “yellow fever”?

There are bigger questions if you ask the family members of Nigerians who have been killed by state or federal sponsored terrorism. Who killed Dele Giwa? Who killed all the activists and politicians that have died over the years during military and civilian regimes?

In fact Nigerian military dictators and politicians are the greatest offenders here. Through the unitary system of government, through massive corruption and through the destruction of the judicial system, the rights of Nigerians have been taken away from them. Millions of Nigerians were born into a system where their rights and future had already been stolen or mortgaged even before they were born. It’s like been born into modern day slavery.

The Nigerian dilemma is a huge one that did not start with the atrocities of the police or other security agencies. It was a socio-political problem that ravaged the economy and crept thereafter into every known sphere of the Nigerian life destroying whatever/whoever it finds.

The negative activities and criminalities perpetrated by the Nigerian police are also a pure reflection of the failed Nigerian system. What is working as it should in Nigeria? The system does not regulate at all.

Radical political restructuring, massive investments in free public education, unprecedented turnaround in the electrical power sector and out-of-the-world turnaround in technology and manufacturing are among the things urgently needed in Nigeria. Public institutions need to be rebuilt on functionalities and trust across Nigeria. People are too corrupt and the entire system is rotten. It stinks!

The beauty that some people especially the politicians try to reflect about Nigeria are too superficial. Majority are suffering in several ways. These majorities are the category of people who are least heard. Nigeria’s progress will continue to be tamed until the majorities who are living in penury and who are exposed to social injustice are allowed to speak out, have influence on their societies and utilise the best brains for the appropriate tasks.

If Nigerians start on the right path today it will take decades to rebuild the system. It’s easy to destroy and it’s going to be hard to resuscitate. The more we delay the more Nigeria decays.

I think it is so clear now that the major political parties in Nigeria are all the same. It appears that the same old monsters of IBB, OBJ and co. are the deciders of our future. What a hopeless situation!

Do we want to maintain the useless unitary system and the cycle of idiocy? Do Nigerians want to keep fools in power because of the “turn by turn to chop” syndrome? What kind of a country are Nigerians leaving for their children and grandchildren?

When will this shameful circus end? What do Nigerians want and where do they go from here?

aderounmu@gmail.com

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