Ebuka Anichebe, Managing Director of Jean-Paul and Associates Consultancy, has narrated how policemen, who mounted a stop-and-search post along the Warri-Port Harcourt road, demanded N500,000 because he couldn’t immediately produce a receipt for his laptop.
The laptop was at least four years old.
Narrating the incident on his Facebook page, Anichebe said he was on his way to catch a flight at the airport in Port Harcourt, after concluding a three-day training in Warri, Delta State, when the car in which he was being conveyed was stopped by a certain 'Afolabi', a mobile Police officer.
The other occupants of the car in which Anichebe was travelling were Uche, the driver, and Ross, the navigator guide.
Anichebe said that after searching the trunk and inside the car and finding nothing incriminating, Officer Afolabi went ahead to check the pigeon-hole, from which he pulled out “a whitish looking substance tied with red material and a strangely etched kolanuts with engravings".
After questioning, to which the driver responded that the items belonged to his madam and was for her “protection”, a senior officer, Ogoli, was called to intervene. A more thorough search produced cash in excess of N125,000, plus ATM cards and Anichebe’s four-year-old laptop. When he couldn’t immediately produce the receipt, the laptop was confiscated, under the guise that he was a ‘Yahoo Yahoo Boy’.
In a swift turn of events, the ‘suspects’ were bundled into a police patrol vehicle and driven away from the stop-and-search scene to a lonely road, instead of the Police station, and along the way, the officers insisted that Anichebe must pay N500,000 for his inability to immediately produce the receipt.
After some back and forth, during which Anichebe made a veiled threat to report the matter to higher authority, Afolabi tried to reason with senior officer Ogoli and an agreement of N30,000 was reached. Thereafter, Officer Afolabi, obviously trying to save his job following the threat of being reported, proceeded to beg Anichebe for forgiveness.
THE FULL POST
Attn: Nigerian Road Users and Travellers!
The Police is your friend... or so they say...
Well that statement can be vehemently argued by almost any Nigerian who has had a first-hand experience with a Nigerian police officer.
On the 5th of August 2018, after a fruitful 3-day training programme that held in Warri, I embarked on a journey from Warri to Port Harcourt airport via a private car hire arranged by the hotel where I had spent the last four days.
It was a white Toyota Corolla Sport, and the occupants were: Uche the driver, Ross the navigator guide, and myself the passenger.
We had driven for about 30 minutes when our vehicle was stopped by a MOPOL officer, whose identity label identified as Afolabi. The driver pulled over and was asked for car documents and driver’s licence.
Those details were promptly provided. Next thing, the young officer proceeded to check my luggage which was in the trunk of the vehicle.
I found it strange, but agreed to play along, after all, there was nothing to hide. After searching through clothes and finding nothing implicating.
He decides to make an unwarranted search of the entire vehicle, before I could say "hey", the officer had gone into the pigeon-hole, and like a modern-day Houdini, he pulls out a whitish looking substance tied with red material and strangely etched kolanuts with engravings.
He quizzes the driver what this paraphernalia is, and the driver says it's owned by his madam for her "protection".
The police officer chooses to rebrand this strange object as being voodoo or "jazz" in local lingua, and calls the attention of his superior officer whose identity label identified as "Ogoli". Unfortunately I don't have his I.D number.
Inspector Ogoli begins playing "good cop, bad cop" with us – Ogoli as bad cop and Afolabi as good cop. And so "bad cop" orders for the arrest of the driver of the vehicle and its occupants.
As someone who makes a living teaching people on communication skills – including but not limited to: persuading, cajoling, negotiating and reframing, I make an attempt to intervene as I had a Air Peace flight to catch by 9:30a.m.
Inspector Ogoli as this point is demanding that handcuffs are placed on the driver of the vehicle, which his junior officers numbering four in total proceed to carry out promptly.
Uche, the driver, is whisked away into a nearby black patrol vehicle and then Inspector Ogoli begins a more thorough search of the entire vehicle and my personal belongings.
While ransacking and rumpling my clothes he discovers that I have in my possession an excess of N125,000 in several one thousand naira bills inside my laptop bag.
He demands for a receipt for the said laptop, and I inform him that the laptop is at least 4 years old and I cannot be expected to have it handy.
This answer curiously doesn't seem satisfactory enough for him and so he commands one of his goons to confiscate the laptop. At this point, I'm really trying hard with every drop of restraint and emotional intelligence left in me, not to explode in anger.
So I step aside and make an attempt to make a phone call to my brothers and the good folks who played host while I was in Warri to intervene.
Inspector Ogoli threatens me at gun point to surrender my cell phone. He takes out my wallet and counts my ATM cards and somehow comes to the conclusion that I was a "yahoo-yahoo boy".
The driver in the meantime is attempting to make a deal by the side to regain his freedom and fulfil his contract in transporting me to Port Harcourt. He offers a bribe of Five Thousand Naira (N5,000). This offer is instantly rejected by the police officer and he receives 3 hits of a baton to his legs by Officer Ogoli for that "chicken money" as it was termed.
I attempt to solicit and implore on behalf of the driver because as far as I am concerned, possession of voodoo isn't a crime. This argument gets Inspector Ogoli really furious and he makes a threat to have me stripped and beaten up.
I step back from making any entreaties and shut my mouth up. (Arguing with a man holding an AK-47 on a lonely highway is never a brilliant idea).
Officer Ogoli now demands that we (driver, guide and myself) are escorted to the station in Asaba and asks me if I can drive. I reply that I don't have a driver's license. So he takes command of the Toyota Corolla and I ride shotgun in the front passenger seat, while another officer is at the back seat.
The stench of old stale sweat, cheap whisky and cigarettes on the breath of both officers is unmistakable, I ask that the air-condition be turned off and the windows are down as I try to manage the urge not to throw up.
With Inspector Ogoli driving, he takes a strange shortcut off the express road and about 8 minutes of driving inside a lonely road with the other police escort vehicle trailing us behind, he begins quizzing me about who I was, what my occupation was and where I hailed from.
Here I was thinking the yahoo-boy label was going to be my new identity at the police station black-board where they register new offenders.
I make a final attempt to rebrand my image as a tribemaster of The Highly Paid Experts Network Community and leader of Rainmaker's Academy and perhaps inflate my deflated ego, while praying silently that bad weather will force a delay of the flight from Port Harcourt to Abuja.
Officer Ogoli is adamant and continues to demand for payment of half a million naira or else he will whisk all of us to the station till Monday.
So I tell him that it will be better he carries out his threat as there is no way on God's green earth I was going to part with N500,000 for possessing a HP laptop (calling a bluff like this must be done tactfully).
I remind him that I will of course be given the opportunity to make a phone call and then we will let things take a different course. I make my own veiled threat that no less than three (3) police vans will be dispatched from the company I was consulting for.
This gets the attention of the young officer, Afolabi, who was accompanying us at the back seat. And he pleads with his superior to park the vehicle and let's "discuss".
I wonder what we were doing all this while!
Anyways, after Afolabi reasoned with the hot-headed Inspector, discussions quickly moved from pleading to bargaining and I manage to negotiate his demand from N500,000 down to N30,000 and paid them cash.
The young officer Afolabi then begins to preach to me about forgiveness and how "God might be saving me from something" if I was on the road. Some sermon!
I offer a wry smile and nod politely as I'm in no mood to start a debate on ethics, values and religion. Besides, there is a flight to catch.
The handcuffs soon came off the driver's hand, my laptop and phone are reunited back with me and the car keys were handed over to the rightful owner.
But lost time can never be regained.
We quickly regroup to find our way out of this newly found "short-cut" deep in the bushes of Ughelli and continue the journey to PHC, when five minutes later, we discover that a nail had mysteriously punctured our right rear tyre.
Another 10 minutes delay ensues and the driver changes to a spare.
We finally got to Port Harcourt International Airport by exactly 9:40a.m. and I was informed the flight had left 10 minutes ago.
All flights were booked solid and so I had to begin another three-hour wait and renegotiated with airport officials and touts to have a standby ticket issued to me.
After 2 hours of uncertainty and a resignation to make alternative plans to travel via road to Abuja and risk getting there by 10p.m, a "lucky break" happens and I get a ticket sold to me for nearly twice the cover price. I happily pay for it.
It is now 5:30p.m and I am headed on a train to Kaduna from the Idu Railway Station.
Tomorrow morning, the team of Jean-Paul and Associates Consultancy Services will continue its mission of training even more civil servants on behavioural change, personal & professional effectiveness so that issues like this don't have to become a daily occurrence on our roads.
Maybe someday, policemen like Inspector Ogoli can become a lot friendlier and civil to road users and citizens.
One day at a time
Tag a #PoliceOfficer