It was a fateful sunny afternoon on May 16th 2012 at oyingbo market. I and my friend Emmanuel were on our way for an assignment. There at oyingbo market bus stop, were we negotiating with an okada rider to take us to our precise location, some group of persons rounded us up as if we were common criminals they were waiting for from an hideout. Immediately, I took a thorough observation of the men. First they were not putting on the regular black police uniform but instead they were on okirika polo.
One of the men came to me and showed up an ID card that I could not read its letters because it was probably done with those olden days type writers. He claimed to be a police officer. At first Emmanuel and I were embarrassed and I thought how degrading the Nigerian police had degenerated into. There was virtually no courtesy, not even manner of approach.
With mouth oozing with the smell of ogogoro and cigarette, the so called officer ordered that I should disclose the content of the bag I was carrying while his other partner interrogated Emma abusively.
As infuriated as I was on the inside, I remain calm on the outside. Then I ask him again, “can I please see that ID card of yours again officer?” he brought it out and as I stared curiously at it, he immediately put it back to where it came from, and immediately made a stunning gaze at me. His partner in this presume stop and search who held a rusted AK 47gun began telling Emma to corporate or they will deal with the both of us. The ever busy market was bubbling with its usual trading with people. Yet, no body seems to be bothered with harassment going on. May be they are used to this visits of extortion by the police and so ours was nothing special to warrant any attention from any passerby.
As the okada we intend hiring drove off the scene, the police officer with the gun came to me and shouted at me to open up my bag for inspection. I told him the same question I already asked his tired colleague who looked famished and urgently needs to eat. This officer said that he did not have any ID card with him and that since I can see a gun with him why am I bothering on asking him for an ID?
How callous this police officer thinks Nigerians are, so because you carry a gun in broad day light and parade the streets of Lagos qualifies you for a police man? I thought to myself. The officer looking warnout then said:
“you no dey see the gun way him carry, why u go dey ask am for id card eh! Make you dey there they blow gramma ok na here una two go tanda”
As embarrassing as this experience was for me, I began reflecting on the caliber of persons recruited to police our cities. No wonder when criminal tend to rob in broad light, police on duty run for their dear life, but when it comes to molesting innocent Nigerian they are ever ready. May be that is why “police is your friend”
Emma was already tired and been furious as I was. Then I asked both officers “can I see some warrant authorizing this stop and search exercise they claim they were engaged in?”
This time around, they were not ready to listen to neither myself nor Emma, the other grab his properly in a bid to threaten us. Then I said that to Emma, if these people don’t know how to be civil and that any attempt at forcing us would be a violation of our fundamental.” Emma nodded, but was ready to give in to their demand. Unknown to us their aim was to accuse us so as to lure us into a waiting yellow Lagos commercial bus parked distance away and filled with innocent people who fell for their antics.
In the heat of the argument an elderly baba walked into our midst, and as God would have it, the baba made the officers realize their action was wrong, I thought maybe he was an ex-soldier from the depth of his analysis. In the end, baba pleaded with me to open up the package I was carrying so as to stop the quarrel that has ensued.
I did as baba instructed because of my respect for the wisdom of the elderly and since nothing implicative was found, Emma and I was let go.
The officers immediately jumped into their bus that has already approached us and it speedily drove off probably to another location to hunt down unsuspecting innocent Nigerians………….
As this experience lingers in my mind, I began asking questions with obviously no one around to answer. Why have the Nigeria police been reduce to this level of begging in streets without understanding its constitutional role to society? If this is what the future of the police is in this country, then none of us is safe anymore in the land.