Will the Police Ever Change?

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At about 10.20pm last Tuesday, my phone rang. I was already in bed and was very reluctant to yet take any call. It was my nephew on line. He just lost his dad, some five weeks ago. I ignored the call. But he kept calling. I managed to pick when he called the fourth time. It was a distress call. He has just been arrested by some policemen. “What did you do”?, I asked. “Nothing”, he replied. I asked three times, and he reiterated his innocence three times. I offered to talk to any of the policemen who arrested him, but they wont take any call. My nephew explained that they were about twelve persons just rounded up at a bus stop in “Boundary”, in Ajegunle area of Lagos. They handcuffed all of them. My nephew was just alighting from a bus. He was returning from work, still dressed in his overall work outfit. He showed his ID card, but the policemen would not listen. They were all thrown into a waiting Danfo bus and straight to the cell in Ajeromi Police station. The police call the exercise/operation “raiding”. I asked him what the police are accusing him of.

He said something like “late night movement”. Moving around at 10.15pm is late night movement, and that is an offence? Nobody answered. All attempts to speak to higher police authorities proved abortive. Choiceless, they all had to sleep in the cell. By Wednesday morning, my niece who went to see the arrested brother in the station was not allowed to see him unless she parts with N1,000. A policewoman, Corporal Mary Ogbeyi insisted she must be paid the money before she’d allow the sister to see her brother in the cell.

I had called the DPO of the station, one Mr Busari who claimed that “all the people raided last night have been transferred to the state command”. It was wrong information. My nephew was yet in his cell. I told him so and he promised to get back. When he did, few minutes later, he claimed my nephew had been released, going by the report he was given. Again, it was not true. The fellow was yet there in the cell. I asked the DPO what the offence is/was that warranted the arrest in the first place. He was somewhat mumbling and stammering. He suggested that “they may have been found in a black spot area”. The bus stop is the black spot area. And anybody found at the bus stop, aka Black spot area at 10.15 pm is a criminal that must be clamped into the cell even when he is able to identify himself. But Mr Busari explained that, “it was when I saw him in his overall this morning, that I asked them to release him, because that showed he was coming from work”.

I demanded that the N1000 charged by Corporal Mary Ogbeyi be refunded immediately. They complied. And my nephew was released.

But what about the rest of the raided victims who had nobody to call the police? Is this policing or terrorism of the citizenry? It is actions like this that perpetually give the police a bad image, and as my mother would say, “no matter how much you wash it, the nose of the dog can never be white clean”.