Police, communion of silence and currency of fear
NKEMDI (real name) is an IT professional and anything he does not know in that sector is not worth knowing.
Despite his proficiency, he is still battling with the prospect of getting something worthwhile because our country, painfully, is becoming an anti-intellectual one where professionals are not head hunted and, you need to know ‘someone,’ who knows ‘somebody,’ to win lucrative jobs.
Fortunately, ‘someone,’ mentioned him to ‘somebody,’ who chose to call and ask him to “come immediately,” for an impromptu IT consultancy job at night caused by a sudden difficulty.
Nkemdi couldn’t miss this opportunity and, he went with a lightning-speed, resolved the task at past 11p.m.
On his way back after this assignment, he crossed a road to flag down a taxi home but saw from a distance what looked like a four wheel drive parked right in the middle of the road.
He panicked. Who wouldn’t be – in Port Harcourt where crime is quickly becoming a criminal flux? To confirm his reservation, he heard gunshots precisely coming from where the vehicle on the road was and, he scampered with all of his being for safety but unfortunately because Port Harcourt has too many uncovered manholes, many other man made mines on its road, his leg got stuck in one and he broke his ankle.
It took the combined efforts of some ladies who heard the gunshots, and who at first also fled like he did, to help, lift him up to a safe location where they all hid until the bedlam had presumably gone.
These guardian ladies helped him to the road moments later to flag a taxi because he couldn’t walk. However, it seemed the drama was only just starting. A four wheel vehicle drove towards them, stopped suddenly and suddenly came a barking voice: “Stop there or I will shoot.”
Three men in mufti came out of the vehicle brandishing guns with a girl in tow and the next thing, he heard was, “is he the one?” “He looks like one of them?” She said.
Consultant was in a dream land and managed to ask, “who are you referring to as the one and what is happening here?” “Shut up,” the men in civilian clothes said to him. “Thieves, you mugged her of her phone with your gang a moment ago.”
Spurious accusations by a group – that had not bothered to identify themselves by showing an identity card. The ladies who helped the consultant to the road tried to no avail to explain what happened earlier and why they were at that spot in search of a taxi but they were shouted down by these men and were asked to leave.
“Oya, enter this motor.” They told him. “Please, who are you?” he asked. “We are police officers,” they replied. “Please show me your identity cards,” he demanded. He was hardly able to bat an eyelid when they shoved him inside the vehicle, instead. What can a man with a broken ankle do but to obey men armed with guns?
Despite suffering a terrible pain in his ankle, Nkemdi managed to ask the lady in the vehicle, “Please, how much is the value of the phone that you were robbed of?” “N3, 000 (three thousand Naira),” she responded.
He offered to give her the money so his captors could set him free even though it was morally wrong but the police officers refused. “Please, I have a broken leg, take me to the station if truly you are police officers, or take me to a hospital so I can seek medical help,” he begged them.
At this point he was positive that they were not agents of government. Surprisingly, however, they drove into a police station, which confirmed that they were really agents of government. Within moments, they drove out again telling him, ‘‘so you can take us to the rest of your gangs.”
Despite providing an alibi and even asking that they call the influential person he went to work for that night, the policemen refused. Luck plays out to one’s advantage sometimes as they decided, finally, to drop the girl off at a bus stop after a long unnecessary rigmarole which wore on into the next day. They also asked him to “get out.”
There was a challenge; he couldn’t walk and he asked that they drop him off at home but they refused. He even promised to pay for the help, but they didn’t oblige him.
Though, Nigeria is battling with a high level of delinquency, which needs law enforcement agencies to handle, it is outrageous and infuriating to have these agents deal awfully with ordinary citizens.
Who should police officers protect, citizens of Nigeria – without prejudice, or only the rich? What happens to the browbeaten people?
It is despicable that officers can treat a citizen with so much impertinence and abandon him on the street even when it is obvious that he needs help.
It is equally vexing, when such a citizen is law-abiding, and puts efforts legally to eke out a living in a country that fails to notice resourcefulness and reward same. Aren’t officers supposed to crosscheck facts, show identification especially if they are in mufti and on assignment?
I wish they knew that Nkemdi had to crawl and beg people coming from night vigil to help stop a cab for him but like the Pharisees; they refused to be good Samaritans, looked at him, hissed and moved on.
I wish they knew that he also crawled to a Church but the security man there didn’t trust him enough to let him in nor did he make the attempt to stop a cab for him which made him to sleep out on the street like a destitute.
I wish they knew that he called his flat mate but trust our telecommunication network; he couldn’t get through to him all night.
Help came for Nkemdi at 5 a.m. the following day. We can imagine the possibility that if he had had an internal bleeding injury, he might have bled to death before dawn.
Some police officers in our country do not seem sufficiently apprehensive about the welfare of the citizens which makes many believe that it is easy to die under their watch.
Abah wrote from Port Harcourt. firstname.lastname@example.org 08023792604