@csrf
police

05.05.2023 Featured REPORTER’S DIARY: I Challenged Lagos Police, ‘My Friends,’ for Punching a Driver, and They Arrested Me

Published 5th May, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

To be honest, it may be easier to make sense of life’s more complex paradoxes than to wrap my head around how the police, one of Nigeria’s law enforcers, earned and maintain a reputation for notoriety.

We see it, experience it, and even protest against the manner in which the police operate, but I personally cannot reconcile how and when it became commonplace.

What I can do, however, is juxtapose the events that led to my arrest on Wednesday night, with a public relations message the police has become known for — ‘Police is your friend’.

At about 7:40 pm on Wednesday, May 3, I was making my way through Awolowo Way in the Ikeja area of Lagos State when I heard a man barking loud orders to another man on the pedestrian walkway.

I turned to see that the man giving the orders was dressed in black, and had a sheathed dagger with him. “Come down!” He ordered the other man who was driving a minibus (popularly referred to as korope).

There was traffic gridlock at this time, and vehicles were moving slower than walking pace, but this korope had crept into the walkway to beat the jam. In my head, I assumed this man with the dagger, whoever he was, was about to effect an arrest for the traffic offense.

READ MORE: Area F Police Arrest FIJ Reporter for Telling Them to Stop Punching a Driver

I was wrong. Oh! How wrong I was.

Upon getting closer to the scene, I could see clearly that the man with the dagger was donning a blue camouflage pair of trousers, and a black top with ‘MOPOL’ inscribed on it. He was a mobile policeman.

I go burst your tyre now; get down from this motor,” the policeman ordered as he kept flashing his dagger. “You don de do am before, today go be your last.

A few minutes later, a vehicle arrived the scene after crawling through the traffic. In it was a couple of policemen dressed as the first policeman. The time was 7:47 pm.

FLURRY OF PUNCHES ON LAGOS ROAD

Nigeria's police slogan

When this vehicle arrived, a policeman whose name I later learned to be Inspector John Vincent, limped out of the front passenger seat, and charged for the korope driver who had now gotten out of his vehicle.

What followed were punches. A visibly enraged Vincent threw multiple punches at this driver who first made to kneel, but was now forced to run around his bus for safety.

Passengers began pleading. The dagger-wielding policeman, Inspector Nathaniel, was cussing on top of his voice, and the scene soon became chaotic.

At about 7:53 pm, Vincent got back into his vehicle, and was driven away. I followed this vehicle to see where they were heading to, and behind me were Nathaniel and the driver walking and talking.

Nathaniel, whose tone was calmer now, began advising the driver to beg Vincent, so it was clear to me that the vehicle wasn’t going far. The vehicle took a detour, and arrived at the gate of Watercress Hotel off Awolowo Way.

It was in front of this hotel’s gate that the policemen decided to act as judge and executioner.

READ MORE: FIJ Journalist Bails Self After Lagos Police Arrest

While taking pleas from passengers and the driver, the policemen were lamenting. Vincent was explaining to his colleagues how he had his arm resting on the windowsill of his vehicle when the driver made attempts to overtake them from behind.

He said the driver hit his hand and quickly zoomed off when he realised he had hit a policeman.

In-between the period of the assault and the current developments, I had dialed the phone number of Benjamin Hundeyin, Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, and then called the police complaints response unit.

After detailing the events to the response unit, I offered Nathaniel my phone to speak with his superior to explain why they assaulted the driver instead of arresting him.

Nathaniel spoke with her, then seized my phone and ID card, and ordered me to get on his motorcycle as I was under arrest. Yes! I was under arrest for asking why the police took the laws into their own hands instead of following due process.

And lest I forget, the police in Nigeria never read you your rights, and seldom tell you what you are accused of. They only hurl unprintable names at you, and threaten to detain you until the fight in you is broken.

JOURNEY TO AREA F POLICE STATION

It was one of the most reckless motorcycle rides I had ever been on in my life. Nathaniel kept swerving and riding dangerously through Ikeja until we landed in front of inspector Lohman, a policeman in Area F Nathaniel handed me over to so he could go fetch his colleagues and the driver.

The time was 8:13 pm. After dropping me, he handed my phone and ID card back, and asked Lohman not to let me go until he returned.

Two minutes later, I tweeted about my arrest, and called a colleague of mine.

Vincent and Nathaniel arrived the station at 8:22 pm, and we began moving from counter to offices telling the story to different people.

“Are you charging me with a crime or not?” I kept asking whoever cared to listen.

“Do you have evidence of the allegation you made against these men?” The police would ask back.

It became my duty to teach the police that I was their suspect, and the one under arrest. I told them that if they wanted access to my phone and personal effects, they would have to charge me with something, and then take me to court where I would then defend myself.

“You should have ensured that the korope driver was brought down to the station, because he is the one that was assaulted, so he is in the best position to explain this case,” one officer told me.

I asked him how he expected me to have done that when his policemen placed me under arrest. Was I to arrest the driver on my own, then arrest the policemen too?

Vincent and Nathaniel, in the middle of contradictory statements, successfully agreed on alleging that I connived with the driver to cause a distraction so he got away; same driver whose key they seized, and whom I left with them upon my arrest.

A short while later, I was before Awe Olukayode, DPO of the station, who asked if he could see my phone as well. Again, I declined, until a charge was brought against me. Olukayode instructed that we all go to the Defence Intelligence Unit (DIU) of the station to make statements.

“Oga collect his phone, he de record us as we de talk,” Nathaniel kept telling his superiors as we moved through offices.

I told them I needed to make calls, and it was my right to do so, so I did while taking their questions.

“You will sleep here with us today, and I will throw your phone into water,” the female officer who was taking my statement told me. Nathaniel quickly cautioned her by saying, “Madam, no talk like that o, he fit de record us now and he go say police wan throw hin phone inside water. He no go know say na joke you de joke.

After taking the statement, Olukayode came down to speak privately with Nathaniel and Vincent, then a Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) came down to do same.

This DCO called me aside to have a private conversation. He made it clear he did not believe the narration of the policemen, but asked that I forgive them.

He said they would be letting me go, the matter had got to their superiors, and they wanted to do due diligence. He asked the female officer to hand me a bail form to fill and then let me out afterwards. The time was 10:45 pm.

I filled the form and listened to Nathaniel and Vincent lament about the troubles of the night. “It will be my birthday in two days’ time (Friday), and see the stress I am going through,” Nathaniel said.

“I am the last policeman that will collect money from anybody. I swear with my god,” Vincent added.

I left the station at about 10:51 pm on Friday night, and saw the same public relations message from the police — ‘Police is your friend’.

Between you and I, I think a more accurate message for the Lagos police would be ‘Olopa ma ko everybody leni‘.

Ojukwu is a reporter with FIJ in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Published 5th May, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

Advertisement

Our Stories

Brigadier-General Stabbed to Death ‘Repeatedly’ in His Abuja Home

OPINION: Raising the Bar for Press Freedom in Nigeria

Minister Bosun Tijani’s NIN Slip Purchased Online for N100

Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire

After Ojukwu’s Abduction, Orelope-Adefulire Asks FIJ To Pay N100m or Risk N500m Lawsuit

Pius Awoke

After FIJ’s Story, DSS Releases Ebonyi Lawyer Detained Since 2021

Fire outbreak at Christ Embassy

Factory Workers Worry About Possible Spread as Christ Embassy Fire Continues

First Bank

First Bank Customer Debited Twice for Loan Repayment in May Hasn’t Got a Refund

GTB

GTB ATM Held Auto Dealer’s Card, Then N810,000 Left His Account

B-GAG HEALTHY MEDICINE Illegal but Marketed in Nigeria

Nigerian Police

Is FESTAC Police Station Lagos’ Most Notorious? Its Atrocities Date Back to 2006

Advertisement