The day was 28th August, 2015. It was like every other Friday night. The whole family – comprising me, my wife, my younger brother, my brother-in-law and my younger sister – sat in the living room preparing to see a movie. Suddenly, I remembered that the following day was going to be a Saturday, an environmental-sanitation day. On such a day, movements are usually restricted in Lagos from 07:00hrs to 10:00hrs. I realized that we did not have bread at home to serve as breakfast on that Saturday. I quickly asked my brother-in-law to go and buy bread and some eggs, down the street, before it got dark.
The time was around 20:00hrs – 8pm local time. This was at Atunise Street, Olowora, Isheri in Lagos State.
While my brother-in-law was leaving, my younger sister – who was playing with his phone – did not want to release his phone to him. She said that she was listening to songs on the phone. It took my intervention before she
could release the phone. Thank God he went with the phone. No sooner had he left than I received a text message from him. It read, “Police don catch me o. I am in trouble.” Meaning he has been arrested by the Police and that he
has found himself in trouble. On seeing the text, I quickly told the other members of the family, picked up my wallet, which contained my identity card, picked up my key and phone and stormed out of the house. The idea in my head was to go identify him and tell the policemen who arrested him that he is not a criminal. Little did I know I would be gone for a while too!
On getting to the scene of the arrest, I called out to him, wanting to meet the policemen. To my amazement, the policemen retorted and asked who I was.
Before I could utter a word, they descended on me and slapped me severally. I was ordered to sit on the ground like the others that were arrested before me. They never stopped hurling derogatory words at me.
Shortly after this, my brother and my sister came looking for me. They were arrested too and were ordered to sit on the ground. We sat on the ground for some time before we were ordered into a stand-by black-maria truck parked a few meters away. We were ordered, thunderously, to tie our shirts to one another and march in a single file into the truck. While at this, we were being shoved like animals and slapped relentlessly. All these were done without any officer asking us for any form of identification. No one read our rights to us. Their words were meant to be obeyed without asking any questions. In fact, arguing with them amounted to nothing as they threatened to shoot anyone that refused to obey them.
We left the place of arrest and were driven to the local police station in Isheri. There we were marched into the station and were ordered to sit on the bare floor. All the policemen on duty also insulted us like we were criminals. They profiled us and marched us into one single cell. After finishing their procedures, they marched us out into the black-maria truck ready to be transferred. It was unbelievable to me when they started shooting sporadically into the air as the truck departed from the station. Fear
gripped me when I noticed that the truck was driven with reverse motion, at high speed, to Ikeja. Some shots were fired into the air as we drove to SARS headquarters. I have never been so scared in my life!
On getting to SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) Area F, Ikeja, we were ordered to disembark and sit on the ground in front of one of their offices.
It was then that I saw these men very well. They were armed to the teeth and appeared drunk. I noticed that talking to any of them was useless as the other guys, who attempted to, were rebuffed. One of them, who looked like their boss, made a feeble attempt at explaining our offence. He tried to explain that our offence was walking in the night. I checked the time after this and I noticed that it was not 23:00hrs yet. This was incredible! Like seriously? Is there any law against walking in the night in Lagos State or Nigeria as a whole? It is obviously a slap in the face of the Nigerian Police. I could not believe my ears. The boss told his men to put us into various cells as our bail could not be processed that night. We were ordered to remove every personal effect on us and surrender them before we were marched into various cells. We were 32 in number. They started shooting into the air again. One of them even told his colleagues that we should be wasted.
The condition I met the cell was horrible. We slept on a cold hard floor, with a pungent smell. Everywhere was pervaded with the pungent smell emanating from the toilet in one corner of the cell. The toilet has no door.
There was no water to flush. For me, the smell was unbearable. We were 58 in number in the cell with tiny space for sleeping. I could not sleep because of the odour and the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes were many. That night, I felt so pressed and I needed to use the toilet. I was not allowed to, by the older inmates, because there was no water. I waited in pain until the following day before I could ease myself.
On the following day, we were marched out in batches to write our statements.
This was some minutes before 11:00hrs. While we were waiting to write our statements, three representatives from Atunise Landlords’ Association, together with my wife, arrived to bail us. My lawyer also joined us. After much negotiations, they agreed that we should pay twenty thousand naira (N20,000) for our bail. Our photographs were taken and we were released after payment. We left the place around 16:00hrs on 29th August, 2015.
It is unfortunate that this is kind of Police into whom we entrust our lives.
The whole scenario smacks of incompetence, unprofessionalism and hooliganism. It exposes the level of corruption in our society. Must we degenerate to this level? I chose to pen this down to let people know the ills being perpetuated in the society by the men who are supposed to bring law and order to it. It is shameful and must be discouraged in totality. It lies in our hands to rid the society of the nuisance in the name of policemen.
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