In line with the hash tags and the peaceful demonstration #EndSARS I remembered an anonymous story sent to me by one of my readers about their ordeal in the hands of the security forces in Nigeria as they traveled to the East during Christmas. According to her account, I cannot forget the horrific experience I had last year travelling by road from Lagos to Port Harcourt to celebrate with family and friends. That experience took away all the excitement I had looked forward to and made me promise myself never to travel by road to the east again. We were all excited to travel by road and looked forward to it despite all the horrible stories we heard about kidnapping, armed robbery and armed community/political thugs but we had no problem with all these rather we were constantly horrified by uniformed men.
Though the road was slightly bad towards the end of Epe we journeyed smoothly aside the slight delays we had that was occasioned by check points till we got to Ogun state. We were stopped by a team of highway policemen at Ogun who unlike the other ones that politely asked for their usual handouts, got me really worried because their manner of stop and search looks like their intention is to intimidate you into being at fault. Every car they stopped where actually asked to park and a minimum of thirty minutes or more will be wasted before they are asked to leave that is after they must have settled, even though most of these cars were families journeying to a distance.
When they got to us, they
asked our Driver to hand over his car particulars which he did and they began
to peruse all the papers one after the other, whilst at it they demanded for
the Driver’s license which was given to them also. Then the Policeman attending to us asked for
the owner of the car as if the owner of the car must be in the car always
regardless my husband said he was the owner and he quickly asked for his license
too. After strutting about
like a demi-god with the car particulars and licenses for fifteen minutes, he
announced to us that the car papers where genuine but he has a little issue
with the tinted glass permit. He
explained that even though he could see the registration for
the tinted glass permit, car number and my husband name online that the biometrics
capturing was not properly uploaded by the police personnel that handled the
biometrics capturing. We called the number
of the police biometrics people who explained that they had done the vehicle inspection
but experienced power problem during uploading but did not remember to fill in
the gaps when their system came up. What this meant is that we have committed a
big offence which will attracts a fine of Fifty Thousand Naira that will be
paid at their police station in Ogun
state or pay them a sum of Thirty Thousand Naira to absolve ourselves of the
offence there and then. See Gobe! All
the pleas from my husband and driver to reason with them fell on deaf ears;
even when we assured him of rectifying it as soon as we get to Port Harcourt.
We tried to persuade them that it makes no sense carrying a whole family around the town to correct an error made by the same Police in another state, since we were not directly responsible for the mistake made by the capturing machine. We tried to call the officer from the police force headquarters from where the permit was done to talk to them but this made our matter worse as their fangs of wickedness was now released to delay us. Our driver advised that we should give them Two Thousand Naira to pacify them and continue with our journey but that again heightened our offence even when the money was increased to Five Thousand Naira they vehemently refused and asked us to move our car farther from the road. Note, we were not begging to give them the money because we love or support bribing but because we felt ambushed on a lonely road, surrounded by a thick forest and anything can happen without an account of how it happened. By this time, my baby was crying relentlessly from the discomfort of heat, dust and police officers with guns, standing by her father and driver as if they committed any crime yet they did not bulge. One of them who claimed to want to help us advised us to bring Ten Thousand Naira and leave the place for our own safety.
As the haggling was going on a Police Hilux truck, with black tinted glass, carrying something covered with thick black leather at the back, was coming with speed. We all thought that it was a police vehicle, as soon as it approached the check point, and was being stopped by the police the driver zoomed off and refused to stop. The vehicle kept moving with same momentum and the next thing we heard was a terrible bang and sporadic shooting from the policemen at the check point. They shot the tires of the vehicle; because they suspected that the vehicle was carrying an exhibit according to them. We all had to take cover as they kept shooting without minding that there where human beings both young and old scattered around that check point. People screamed at the top of their voices out of fear whilst the policemen shot away with reckless abandon. As the vehicle escaped we quickly gave them the Ten thousand Naira they demanded for and left the spot instantly.
Aside this particular incident we had another horrible experience moving from Lagos to Port Harcourt, as each checkpoints had its own story. There where highway policemen, the ordinary uniformed policemen, Road safety, Customs, SARS and different kinds of state vigilante group on the road and at each of the stops you have to part with something or risk being held for something you do not understand.
My question is, what if the bullet had strayed and hit anyone there, what do you think the police will do? Will the police have accepted the responsibility, your guess is as good as mine. This is the country we live in. A country where the keepers of the law are the abusers of the law who make you pay for an offence committed by them. Is this not intimidation, they knew we were not responsible for the mistake made by the capturing machine yet they preyed on us. They were on the road to offer us safety yet they exposed us to danger and couldn’t care less. I expected to see them make a call to the next check point or even follow them to combat whatever crime they had suspected the driver of, but the moment the car escaped they went back to their usual business of obtaining by force (#OBF) from road users.
How do we begin to rise above police intimidation and harassment in this country? Will it be wrong to say that our police force no matter the department they belong to are terribly petty and unreasonable? These stories are one too many, yet nothing is done about them when will a common man feel safe in this country. Have we committed any offence by becoming Nigerians? Why should they use the same guns they bought with our tax payer’s money to openly and officially rob us, instead of protecting us. Who will be the voice of the common man against police threats, intimidation, harassment and brutality, if the youths do not rise to demonstrate against this ills? No better time than now, I join the youths to say it aloud
#EndPolicebrutality #EndPoliceindtimidation #EndSARS now
Thanks for reading please drop your comments.