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28 Oct 2017

From Barbershop to Cell: Naval Officer Narrates How He Was Dehumanized By Some Policemen Who Collected Bribe From Him

A member of the Nigerian Navy has shared shocking and traumatizing experience how he was bundled into a police van by officers who later threw him into cell.

A Naval Officer, Ay Suave has narrated the sad and traumatizing experience he had in the hands of corrupt and heartless police officers. Suave took to Facebook to share his experience.

He wrote: "From barbershop to the police cell, yes you read that right, last week Friday I was arrested by the police and taken to the police station for apparently doing nothing. I almost didn’t speak up about this cause I felt really demoralized and dehumanized if that is a word because the happenings of Friday 20th of October 2017 really broke my spirit and yes made me sad to be a citizen of what seems more like a jungle than a country.

I almost didn’t write about this because I am very skeptical about bad publicity and being someone who has friends and acquaintances from all the continents of the world I am apprehensive of being responsible for bastardising the already ugly image of the country to outsiders thereby justifying their perception that the country is a terrible place to visit. I almost didn’t speak but I thought to myself if South Africans continued hiding their plight during the apartheid and without the help of the international media would the apartheid have ended. I realized much recently after watching the speech by Dike CHukwumerije at the 23rd African summit, what the speech made me realize was the power in words in uniting people and voicing out the opinions in a way that is civilized and non-violent. Due to the inspiration drawn from various sources I decided to narrate my ordeal and make people understand that Nigeria is a great country , has amazing people with amazing potentials, however, a lot of the authoritative figures in pivotal institutions choose to abuse their office and use their office to intimidate and oppress the people who they are supposed to protect and who’s tax pay their salaries. On this occasion, the institution I would like to talk about is the Nigerian police force.

So I went to the barber shop and while waiting my turn, I decided to go get top up for my phone so I can make some calls; the power on my phone was low so I plugged it into the power socket to charge it up while I went out. Less than 20 meters from the barber shop I was approached by an armed Policeman, he didn’t even say anything to me and just dragged me by the trouser and started dragging me towards a Van, I was both startled and dumbfounded, soon enough, I found my voice and I asked the policeman what I had done, when he didn’t respond, I struggled to get his hands off my trousers and the next thing I heard was 2 gunshots after which up to 3 other policemen gathered and started battering me, I screamed out at them that I was a regimented officer of the Nigerian Merchant Navy but they disregarded what I was saying, obviously because my looks don’t corroborate my claims, as I keep a beard and an afro-punk which is not a synonymous look to the Nigerian Navy so they must have assumed I was impersonating. I was then bundled into the van where there were already about 6 people in the van about 2 men and 4 women, with the appearance of the women, I immediately presumed they were prostitutes. I attempted to get the attention of who appeared to be the most superior officer amongst the Policemen, “Espirit de Corp, request benefit of doubt”, the man just looked at me in disdain and ordered an officer to release tear gas into the bus and they locked the door. After about 20 minutes the policemen got into the van and with another of their vans proceeded to some brothels and bars and arrested more people until the bus was filled to the extent that up to 8 people were seating on seats meant for just 4 people. We were then driven to the Police station.

While en route to the police station, I spoke to a gentleman seating side me requesting to borrow his phone to call my father and assured him that I’ll get him off as well once I get in touch with my people. The only number I have in memory was that of my father and he was currently in London but I still called him anyways cause I knew that he always roams his line whenever he was out of the country, once he picked I told him,”Daddy, awon olopa se arrest mi bi ti mo se bota kuro ninu Barber shop”, meaning Daddy I just got arrested by police men while coming out of the barber shop, he was appalled and asked who’s number I was calling with and I told him one of the victims, he told me he would reach out to his contacts and asked what Police station we were headed, after I told him he told me to keep the line open and accessible. Few minutes later my sister called me to tell me Daddy called her and can’t seem to get in touch with his police contacts and he already ran out of top up on his phone, I then told her to help me contact my friend and his brother who was a Police officer via Instagram to tell them what was happening, not too long I got a call from my friends brother at this point we were already behind the counter at the police station and they were already processing us before putting us in cell, he asked me to give the phone to the closest police officer to me and I gave to one Lady and they had a conversation during which I overheard her saying the order for the raid was from the Area commander and she couldn’t release anyone until the people who arrested us came back as they were already out again for another raid, after they were done with their conversation I was given back the phone and I spoke to my friend’s brother, he assured me that there was nothing to worry about that he would try to get in touch with the DPO(Deputy Police Officer) and once the people that arrested me get back from their raid I should call him and he’ll speak with them. Having heard many stories about police cell, I approached the policewoman who was on the phone with my friend’s brother and asked if I could wait behind the counter and not be put in cell due to the terrible stories I’ve heard, she told me the stories were all fables, I’ll be fine, I should just get processed I’ll be out before I know it. She must have seen the wad of cash on me when the processing officer was taking our belongings cause after about 2 hours in the cell, she came to get me out and put me behind the counter as I had requested but not until I paid her some money.

After being processed and put in cell, on getting into the cell the inmates shouted on us that were just coming in to move to the lower division of the cell, the lower division they were talking about was the toilet, we were all rammed into the toilet which was dark, filthy and stank of faeces and urine, I became nauseated and after a while my body gave in and I threw up all over the floor, the people around me started laughing at me. I spent close to 2 hours in the toilet cell all the while praying that this ordeal should pass over as fast as possible, as if God answered my prayer, I heard my name being called and I proceeded to the entrance of the cell with the fellow who lent me his phone to contact my people, the police woman then let us out and told me to pay a sizeable sum to sit behind the counter, I paid the sum requested and also negotiated for the fellow with me and also paid for him to be with me behind the counter. After about 5 hours of getting to the police station the head of the police who raided us walked in, I told him someone would like to speak to him and I tried reaching my police friend but he wasn’t picking his phone at this point cause it was already the wee hours of the morning and he seemed to have slept off. When I couldn’t read my police friend, we were ordered to be put back in the cell.

Later that morning, the manager of one of the brothels that were raided came in to bail the prostitutes who work in his establishment and the customers arrested, the policewoman who I had paid to stay behind the counter earlier on then appealed to him on my behalf to include my name with the names of the people he came to bail and assured him that I have enough money to refund him whatever the cost may be, the man agreed and that my friends was how I was freed. I obviously settled the manager and the policeman to show my gratitude.

So that is the jungle we find ourselves in, that is how innocent citizens are maltreated and oppressed by the Nigerian Police. What if I didn’t have the money to get myself out or the connections to get myself out eventually, what would then become of me?. Like I said initially, I didn’t want to say anything, cause I found the encounter very humiliating. I understand that not all police persons are bad or necessarily corrupt but the bad eggs put to shame the fine ones. The Arab spring came to be through the masses speaking up so therefore I implore you all to never stop speaking, hopefully one day we’ll get things right and the derelict systems that are for our own good would serve us the way they are intended to and this jungle would become a great Nation filled with civilized people with the right attitude.
God bless us all. Concerned and victimized citizen."

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