For me, it really doesn’t make any sense to live in Abuja as a middle class earner and form unnecessary and unsustainable big boy; the reason why I don’t drive alone in my Sienna to and fro work, blowing empty feeling un-‘cool’. I pick people along my Nyanyan-Mararaba axis and it subsidies my weekly cost of fueling the car.
But it’s really not so simple to do that because of the ‘agbero boy’ in the name of NURTW. The two times I was in with them was so frustrating and it reminded me of the extreme of lawlessness in this country. They could remove your number plate, deflate tyres or even remove the car battery if you won’t pay their extortionate levy- don’t make any mistake to involve police, they get cut from them (Union Boys).
Ever since, I have always minded myself to be careful at certain stops to avoid them but one night, I faced the bigger evil- the police. At about a little past 9pm around Conoil, Area 1, I stopped to load my Sienna and headed home to close another day of work but just after moving a little bit, the Police Patrol van crossed me at Area 3 Junction. One of them alighted the van and ordered everyone in my car to alight that I’ve been arrested. “For what?” Everyone asked him but he merely said, “go ask my Oga, he say make I stop you.”
My mistake number one, I indeed alighted to meet the Oga and everyone in the car came with me to see the drama. “Good evening, Officer. Please what’s the problem?” I asked.
“Are you a lawyer?” He rather asked instead of answering my polite question.
“No, I’m not.” I still maintained my calm and polite demeanor.
“You be accountant.” He asked another question.
I responded no and posed my initial question again because I was beginning to get irritated and the people were wondering what the problem was.
“Identify yourself,” he said to me.
I reached for my card holder and brought out my drivers’ license, unfortunately I left my work ID in the wallet on my desk. I told him I’m a staff of Covenant Foundation Schools and demanded to know what I was stopped for.
After like fifteen seconds of thinking, he said I parked on the road to load passengers and that’s what he’s taking me to Station for. He had barely landed the statement when everyone with me sparked and affirmed that I cleared well before carrying them. After a couple of minutes arguing forth and back, he came up with another one that I have private number plate on my car; why am I using it for commercial purpose? “You will get to Station tonight,” he ordered another of his men to get into the car with me. At that point, people I carried had been pissed off and had left one after the other when the argument wasn’t yielding. I was so furious and ready to see where the drama will end. I wanted to see their worst- my second mistake.
I got back into the car, the police guy with me looked at me and said, “Bros, na wa for you o, simple thing and you’re there dragging as if you don’t know what to do.”
I got the message but I told myself I wasn’t going to give anything to them especially when I’ve not done anything wrong so I pretended I have no idea what he was talking about . I asked him what he meant and he said I should just see his Oga and I’ll go my way in peace. Sitting there in the car, the Oga came to meet us and asked his man, “how far?” He was told no show and he furiously ordered that I must drive with them to the Station on Lagos Street, Garki II.
Mistake number three, I told him I’m ready to go to that Station and he’ll tell me what offense I have committed, so I drove behind him and his team with one of his men in my car. On getting to the Station, he asked me to park outside the premises and hand my car key over to him but I refused, insisting that I must park the car inside the premises and write Statement before I can hand my key over if I must because I knew he has nothing against me. It was Friday night and time was already past 10pm, I had called my wife on the way to the Station and told her not to panic. The Inspector threatened to charge me to court first thing on Monday morning where I will most likely be fined the sum of N100k for using privately registered vehicle for commercial purpose and all other offenses he will list against me or I give him N20k only. He claimed that it’s my kind of car that is been mostly reportedly used for kidnapping people in the FCT and I could be one of the perpetrators, carrying those people I picked for rituals for all he cared. With my car spending weekend outside the premises without registering it or writing statement, I insisted I wasn’t going to bow the corruption of bribery especially when I have done nothing criminally wrong.
After a while, one of them came closer to me and asked, “Oga, where are you from?” I told him the response to the question has nothing to do with the matter on ground but he remained polite and was better spoken so I obliged and answered, “I am from SouthWest.”
“No wonder!” He said. “There’s no need for playing hard to get, you could have found something for Oga and end this matter long before we got here. Just talk to him and see what you can do.” From the initial N20k demand, the friendly one kept on mediating between the Inspector and I, reducing the amount gradually and asking if I would pay. “Oga, you have wasted our time so much that he won’t let you go just like that, he whispered to me. Give him any amount and let this be over with,” he advised. I told him I had nothing on me but he said I can do transfer or go to the Access Bank down the road to withdraw.
Noticing how much I have provoked the Inspector, the rest began to murmur and the mediator came closer with more serious voice this time, “bros, settle anything and go your way.” Just then I realized if I keep on being heady, it will be my word against four of them. What if they plant gun, contraband or drugs in my car and claim it was found in my car, who will be my witness in court? If I press charges or get charged to court, how much will I end up spending and God forbid if they’re able to implicate me with anything, for how long would I be gone over what I know nothing about? They knew if I know anyone in authority I’d have called and be free from them so they were ready to press me until I milk for them. That was the moment I realized why he asked the first question, if I am a lawyer.
With so much trouble I’ve made, I couldn’t sustain my patriotism and righteousness thinking of how the drama may swing, they got N2k from me with the mediator pleading for minimum of that amount, saying that I might have been allowed to go earlier with lesser amount if I hadn’t dragged with them and whatever I gave, it’s nothing compared to what the untold consequence of my doggedness could be- that confirmed my thought.
I left the Station at about 11.40pm and got home before 12am to meet my worried wife and sleeping children.
Can we really avoid or be freed from being corrupt in this country? I still ask since months ago of the ugly experience.