Monday, 26 November 2012

Don’t Go To A Bar in Lagos, You Just Might Be Arrested!

If you are an active member of the Nigerian tweetosphere, you will have seen this story trending on Saturday. Here’s what really happened
On Friday, the 23rd of November, my friend went for a drink in a bar near his house. Members of the Nigerian Police Force came around 11pm and picked about 7 of them up from that bar. Dumping their victims into the back of a black van, loosely referred to as a “Black Maria”, they went on a raiding spree. Picking patrons of different pubs and bars around the Yaba environs, there was no method to the madness. There was no case of profiling; they picked girls and guys! One guy was hauled out of his car, leaving his bewildered girlfriend behind. They went into bars, just randomly dumping people in the back of their vans and they headed towards Sabo police station.

Fortunately, their mobile phones were not collected so my friend went on a tweeting spree. By the time the battery of his smart phone died, he had been transferred to the Task Force office in Alausa. As I drove to Yaba in the morning to get him some form of identification (seeing as he had just gone on a leisurely stroll down the road) I went through different stages of anger. Mostly at the state of things in Nigeria. The question that kept reverberating in my head was “Can a man not peacefully spend his money in a bar any more in Nigeria?”
We spend hours in traffic plying through bad roads. We get home and there’s no power supply. We can’t turn on the generator because there’s fuel scarcity and the queues to buy petrol stretch over a mile long and then we can’t even go to a bar to have a cold drink? I don’t know about you guys but the problem with this country runs deep.
By 9am the following morning, the ‘officers’ who picked them up had still not told them what their crime was. The girls amongst them were thrown in solitary confinement and the guys were locked up in a little enclosure.
As friends and family of the people who had been held hostage gathered outside, testimonies were shared of how this was a regular occurrence. Someone said “This is December time, when dem police dem dey broke, dem go just go dey carry people up and down. Na money una go take bail una sef commot. No be serious matter” Another person said “People wey no get any person toh come for dem, if dem stay for 3 days and nobody come, dem go move dem go Badagry! From dia, pesin go just miss.”
I literally shivered! Badagry ke? I hurriedly grabbed my phone, asking my friend to find out what the procedure for using money to regain his freedom. He was surprisingly very calm. Knowing he’s a bit of a smart mouth, I asked if he hadn’t been running off his mouth at any of the police guys, to which he responded “Omo! I’m gentle oh! They’re brushing guys here. If you behave like you’re too smart sef, they’ll beat you black and blue.”
A few hours and a whole lot of Tweets later, somebody called someone who called somebody else and KB was released. The questions, however, remained unanswered. “What was their crime?” “Why were they picked up?” “If we supposedly live in a society were the constitution is the grundnorm, should things like these still happen?” If in a democracy, civilians can’t exercise their rights to move freely then I weep for my nation.
We need to NOT tolerate these things as the norm. We need to NOT make excuses for extra-judicial killings. we need to NOT accept what is WRONG as RIGHT!
We need to say “NO!”, and if you don’t think we should, then remember, that like a Ferris wheel, these things have a way of coming back around.
How do we ensure that these things stop? How do we bring this to the notice of the Inspector General of Police? Whose responsibility is it to make sure that law abiding citizens are safe? How do we ensure that the State Government puts a stop to this kind of extra-judicial bullying.
Let’s do something, anything because my heart bleeds for my country.
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