October 20, 2018

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No! The police is not your friend – Roli Afinotan

No! The police is not your friend – Roli Afinotan

If you’ve lived in Nigeria long enough, you’ll know that the Nigerian police, in most cases is not looking out for you.  How much do you really know? is the question here.

On my way back from work a few days ago, I stopped at Abulegba junction where I was to take a keke marwa to my last bus stop. This was at rush hour. Rush hours are always crazy.  You had passengers trying to find transportation, passers-by and the traders – food, gin, agbo, floor boutique, CDs were being peddled everywhere you turned.

I stood with others waiting  for keke to my destination, bike men were everywhere though, wooing passengers. The first keke came around and people rushed in. Before the next one came I calculated where it would stop and was prepared.

I was right and I was the first one in. As soon as I entered – more like flew in – the keke had to reverse into a better position so other passengers could get in as the bike men had taken over the whole place; and he had to be careful so he did it slowly. Next thing we heard was people exclaiming in Yoruba like he had gotten a little too close to someone or something, that’s what I thought because I didn’t feel the impact, if any contact was made. I was not prepared for what happened next.

A man came to the keke driver’s side and slapped him on the head. Keke driver was shocked, came out and pushed at the man’s chest asking what was wrong with him. Oga didn’t answer, just slapped him again, on the face this time.

Now this man was bigger and the keke driver’s attempt to slap him just suspended on the air. The man just held him by the front of his shirt, and continued landing slaps, then threw him against the keke, rocking it. I had been inside the keke all this while but when this happened, I was glad for the first time that kekes did not come with doors. I went out the other way.

In my head I was still wondering what was happening, when the man brought out handcuffs and threw it on the seat of the keke. He slapped the driver once more before reaching into his pocket for an ID. Yes, police ID. The keke driver just weakened. Meanwhile we still did not know what his offence was.

 

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O ma se o!” a woman said in Yoruba; others added their voice to hers: How e go follow police fight sef? 

The driver now prostrated to apologize to the policeman, collecting more slaps in the process from him.

Everyone around, traders, other keke drivers were also begging on his behalf. 

I watched this show of shame for a while before losing interest knowing how it would end. The driver would beg for a while longer, then settle his way out of the mess by parting with some money. It hurt me that as citizens do not know our rights. Even if he had committed an offence, the first thing was not a beating. The police is meant to protect, or as their slogan goes, be your friend. 

The police force needs to be trained and enlightened on the significance of their roles as police officers. Their abuse of power has become so much: pump bullet into a citizen for refusing to give money, beat people up, expect to be treated as gods.

Until a reorientation takes place such that they become protective of others, we definitely cannot be friends.

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