If someone puts their hands on you make sure they never put their hands on anybody else again. ~ Malcom X
Once again we are seeing incidents of police brutality. I earlier wrote that it is not as if these shameful acts of our police officers abated after the #EndSARS protest. No, it just happens that they now try to avoid the cameras but unfortunately for them, Nigerians are bolder, so they record and expose the crimes on social media.
However, it is worrisome that many seem to have given up on getting justice. It is not unusual to see comments like “nothing go happen”, and “they will be released the next day” when the police authority reports that perpetrators have been arrested.
Of course, it’s easy to understand these feelings in a country where those tasked with protecting citizens are oftentimes the ones harming and in extreme cases taking the lives of citizens. But sometimes it is impatience and ignorance rather than despair that let off offenders in uniform.
But we cannot relent. We must continue building Nigeria to a much saner clime. I will scroll back to 2003 and narrate my experience with police brutality to show that our police officers will actually do their job if we demand accountability.
I was driving to Enugu with 3 friends when we were stopped at Oji River. After searching my car the police sergeant demanded the vehicle documents which I willingly handed over to him. He then started asking silly irrelevant questions and I initially answered till he asked where I made the money to buy a BMW.
For one, Amawbia to Enugu is my regular route and I barely had issues with policemen over the years. Secondly, as a businessman who travels frequently on Nigerian roads, handling the police is a prerequisite skill. And finally, I am a friend of the police by virtue of proximity as my filling station is opposite the State CID and I actually supply the state command petroleum products.
So I was more angry than perplexed and retorted, “You should have asked who I am instead”.
To which he instantly barked, “Oh you want to impress your friends eh kwa. You want to show them that you can handle the police. Oya come and tell me who you are”.
He immediately grabbed my jeans by the waist and started dragging me away. It all escalated so fast that I was halfway to the parked pickup van before I recovered from the shock and raised my voice in protest.
“What have I done?” was replied with slaps until he got to the van and asked me to jump in. I refused and continued querying him about my offence. My friend who also recovered from the shocking incident rushed across the road to his superior asking him to intervene. I felt relieved when the inspector, an elderly man shouted at him.
“Hey, Samuel hold it there!”
The inspector crossed over and asked him what happened. He said I insulted him and refused to obey a lawful order. To my utter dismay without hearing from me the inspector ordered me to jump into the van!
Of course, I refused again. An action which I will regret for the rest of my life.
They numbered about four and all of them descended on me. I was beaten to a pulp with fists and batons and by the time I was eventually bundled into the van my left shoulder was dislocated. All the pleas from my friends fell on deaf ears. I was asked to surrender my car keys and my friend was ordered to drive my car to Enugu with them. In that excruciating pain, I was left behind the van as they drove all the way to Enugu. For context, a dislocation is classified as one of the most painful injuries. Some police officers can be heartless!
We got to their station and I was ordered to sit on the floor. The DPO came out, heard their story and then invited my friend into his office to hear from him. I was later called in and when he heard about my shoulder the first thing he did was to feel the joint. It was evident that this was an experienced officer.
He immediately shouted at the inspector.
“So you injured this man and instead of taking him to the hospital you brought him here?”
The inspector tried to say that I was acting but he was shouted down and instructed to take me to the hospital immediately.
I was driven back to the Orthopaedic hospital where my shoulder was fixed. We went back to the station but the DPO had left and we were told to return tomorrow.
The next day I came with the full paraphernalia of a successful businessman. I had my lawyer, a colleague in the oil industry and my mentor who incidentally was the DPO’s friend. The idea was to intimidate the entire station and that was exactly what we did.
The officers were summoned and pulled off duty. The DPO asked them to plead with me not to submit a petition to the commissioner. For the first time in my life, I witnessed and relished the humiliation of offending police officers as they prostrated and begged. I refused and told the DPO that we will submit the petition.
The following week an officer friend, the inspector’s daughter and her husband sauntered into my office clutching a bottle of wine. She introduced herself as a teacher, her husband works at UNN. They pleaded for me to forgive and withdraw my petition. She went on to explain that they have been begging their dad to retire since his 5 children could take care of him but he refused because he wanted to be promoted to ASP before his retirement.
My friend explained the reason behind this; apparently, there is a huge salary/pension margin between the two ranks. Well, I called my lawyer and we agreed to withdraw the petition but insisted that costs must be paid. I forwarded my bill of N65k to them and they paid in three instalments mostly with crumpled N20 bills from ‘toll collection’.
About 2 years later I was stopped at 9th Mile and I recognised the inspector. When I asked why he hadn’t retired he replied that he was yet to be promoted, possibly because of his disciplinary record. I promised to talk to the DPO. When I called the DPO who was now in Law school he told me that the inspector deserved his punishment. Case closed!
In 2021 I saw the sergeant loading a bus at a petrol station. I pulled over and asked if he recognised me. Of course, he didn’t. I reminded him that because of his brutality, I have a recurring shoulder dislocation and drove off while he was still drooling apologetically. From a police officer to a motor boy? Take this from me, bad police officers rarely end well.
A lot of people say that there are no good police officers but it’s a lie. I have met some fine gentlemen in the police force. If an institution is weak then it is run by rogues whose character reflects poorly on the entire establishment. I previously wrote on the need for more advocates to check the impunity of rogue officers.
Nigerians should be encouraged to file a report regardless of their perception. And this is for many reasons including the two that I personally experienced.
1. The erring officer could be punished as a deterrent to others and justice served for the victim.
2. Even if the officer isn’t punished, your complaint has been filed. That may work against the officer because if 100 officers qualify for 10 positions, their disciplinary record is usually exhumed to determine who gets promoted. Nobody keeps records more than the police. That is why they always tell you to “write am down”. So please report any misconduct but more importantly, put it in writing.
Like Malcolm X said if you are a victim of police brutality or any form of abuse of power, try your best to make the oppressor pay for their actions. The justice you seek isn’t just for yourself. It helps in building a just and fair society. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?