Friday, 28 November 2008

On......death and the Nigerian policeman

The average Nigerian is terrified of death. Well, who isn’t right? But Nigerians are especially scared about the prospect of packing their bags and jetting off to the land of their demise. Take the police for example.

I was covering a bank robbery in Lekki a few days ago and the Mobile police force atypically made it to the crime scene before the robbers had completely scarpered with the loot. However, when they did arrive, they were so reticent in exchanging gunfire that all but one of them took cover in a nearby uncompleted building. Only one aged, dedicated cop had the balls to engage in a shootout with three of the armed robbers. His pleas to his cowardly colleagues, audible in spite of the staccato pummelling of the gunshots, were the saddest footnote in on overall distasteful affair. “Assist me,” he cried. “We fit take them, we plenty pass them”. The valiant enforcers of the law, protectors of the civil populace, cowered in their hiding place until the gunshots had died down and the armed gang had comfortably escaped.

I waited and waited but no ambulance came to treat the injured and pronounce the dead dead. The latter was obvious enough though; the lack of movement in a lifeless body, horrible in its stillness, is a dead giveaway. I saw no ballistics experts recovering bullets that had embedded themselves in the road, the cars and the perimeter fence that had surrounded the gunfight. There were no CCTV cameras to capture the faces of the brazen crooks who thought it impractical to bother wearing any sort of mask. The police interviewed no witnesses and dusted for no fingerprints. Blood was allowed to congeal and no samples were rushed to a forensics lab. There were no helicopters combing the area. I saw a few guys trying hard to look inquisitive and serious. They were either detectives or constipation sufferers. The only thing the police did of any note was to look exceptionally befuddled by the whole thing.

You should see the vigour with which our policemen hound commercial vehicles. If one tenth of that enthusiasm was reserved for confronting criminals then our society would be virtually crime free. Instead of nurturing their talents, they nurture their potbellies. They fear death like zombies fear life. Look to the west and think of the countless law enforcers that sacrifice their lives each day in the name of the fundamental ethos of their profession: to protect and to serve. In Nigeria, they have an ethos too - to pickpocket and to steal. A motto which they are quite prepared to die for.


fantasy queen said...

you were there? omg, i heard the stray bullets got people, thankGod you came out okay.

i remember leaving lekki late for work that day and hearing the gunshots just after i drove past the bank.
it was scary, i got to work all shaky and few hours later in v/i there was a shot out near my office, from what you've said i'll assume it wasnt between the police and the robbers but just the robbers daring the police.

later that day, heard how the robbers got in their get away boat from lekki, the boat didnt start for a good 5mins, enough time for them to be caught, but no, no one bothered chasing...
its pathetic,maybe the CIS sort is a little too advanced for us but why dont we have sea patrols? its a known fact that most of the successful robberies escape with boats.

i guess thats nigeria for you...if only we had more cops like that one brave cop, then maybe...

fantasy queen said...

oh, and i'm first:)

AlooFar said...

To demand (or wish) that a robbery situation in Lagos take the face of a crime scene on New York street is, to say the least, asking for too much.

You see the case of Nigerian policemen and their misadventure with civility is a sorry case. And yet they don’t have the muscle to withstand a situation that challenges their professional competence the most.

Just this morning I almost got myself into a fit with some policemen. Let me cut the details… I was surprised (maybe not) that the driver of the vehicle I was commuting in was asked to pay a ridiculously huge amount, ON THE SPOT!... for an offence that still appears ill-conceived to me. “For what?” I asked the policeman. “Why should he pay N30, 000 just because he almost hit an okada? No be the okada man enter him front?”

He looked at me as though I was some waste product that just dropped from a LAWMA truck.

You know situations like this make one to think there is no hell after all. We’re in it here!

It was good no stray bullet touched you ;)

Atutupoyoyo said...

@ Fantasy queen: Yes I was sent there to report on the robbery. Don't worry i waited until the smell of gunpowder had gone down before I went. U neva call me o!

@ Aloofar: But is it really too much to ask the police to interview a few witnesses? Or for an ambulance to pick up the wounded and not a police van? Or for the bullets and residue to be recovered from the crime scene? At the very least some poor kid will not pick it up and start playing with it.
Guy which area was that in? I witnessed something very similar in CMS this morning. Was it the same?

bArOquE said...

Atutu, whatever these things are that you are asking, ARE TOO MUCH? so far, it is unobtainable in Nigeria, as you have come to find out...the fact that the police men couldnt exchange fire is what i dont get...

UndaCovaSista said...

"covering a bank robbery"? Are you working as a reporter now? Just curious...

It's a sad state of affairs really. Funnily enough, as i watched pictures of the Indian commandoes being lowered by helicopter onto that building in Mumbai, i wondered what kind of response a similar situation would have got in naija. I mean, come on! If members of our police force, supposed upholders and enforcers of the law, cant even engage with a bunch of armed robbers that they apparently outnumbered then what hope is there?
I salute the one guy who at least made an effort. Sadly he's only the exception that proves the rule!

Anonymous said...

....first principles might just be the solution. What means i? Did they (policemen) join the force 'cos of passion & zeal or 'twas a free (job) opening in a 'jobless' estate?

doug said...

I'm currently reading a book titled the 'The Godfather Never Sleeps'. Its a compilation of witty articles by a renowned journalist from the late 70's and early 80's. Remarkably this blogpost might well have come out of that book.

Where is the progress I wonder?

Anonymous said...

I am with rethots on this one. If the policemen entered the profession because of a dedication to protecting civilian life, then they may show a sense of heroism. However, perhaps they wanted nothing to do with Guns and the like, but were compeled by a failing economy, one where to get any job is considered a miracle. I mean one cannot expect a baker in NY to go to War and fight bravely. NO?

guerreiranigeriana said..., wow!...*eyebrows raised*...stirs up many a questions...happy you left unscathed but that is absurd...i don't know if i believe that the other cops were afraid...seems to easy...oh naija!

fantasy queen said...

you see i've been accused of being a witch, but no evidence has been found.
the truth is i'm not a winsh,thus i wasnt able to get your number:)
send me your number.

Jaja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaja said...

Contrary to what some of the commentors say, I dont at all think its asking for too much. They may not have the latst DNA testing technology like in Newyork, but the situation calls for the concern and effort that they swore to give. They could at least interview witnesses. collet evidence. The obvious atitude of the police that people are expressing shock over is caused by another thing that lies much deeper: Irresponsibility.

It didnt matter that they were at work and they are under oath to act in a certain capacity.
We as a collectivity do not demand proper behaviour from ourselves. We whine when it affects us. If its our brother looting, God has opened a door. when its someone else, we pray that they die a violent, untimely death.

These things happen in our society because they can. Because we let it. We have let it, untill now it has a thick, complex life of its own.

I am certain I am not speaking in abstractions. When we, or you, being in a particular situation where bulshit is showing face, can refuse and say, 'such and such a person has stolen so much that now the owner has noticed' ( am paraphrasing from Achebe's 'A man of the people') until that precious moment when we can risk it and be brave enough.. we can only moan and hide and say how disgusted we are,( I am in this group and am tired of being there, I might as well shut up)

I respect the excellent, matchless spirit of people like Atutu, who hope against hope and Try, who havent fallen for that mental laziness of saying 'we can never change!' Who is dreamy and mad enough to wish to make anything better; who is practical enough. Who is a shinning example of how we, as Nigerians can try; who we should imitate

Afrobabe said...

Hmmm so u waited for me to leave then u came back abi...glad to see u plan to reform naija policemen..

Naija is the one place u can kill ur husband and start yelling 'thiefs'!

Barbarella123 said...

How much are police (the so called protectors of our safety and lives) paid??? If one of them bit the dust in the line of duty, who would take care of their families? Dont get me wrong, it pisses me off majorly when i get stopped by the police and they ask for a hand out but really how much and how often are they paid?

It still always boils down to the same problem.. It is a question of goverance. The people in power just do not value having a good police enough for them to actually deserve one!!!

Naughty Eyes said...

I agree with most of the views expressed here though I do wish we had a much better Police than the one we do have now especially when it comes to investigation. Like Afrobabe said, you could kill your wife/husband and start shouting "Thieves!" (it would be hard convincing the people in the village though).
I'd like to see those AK-47s being put to better use instead of for mowing down innocent civilians or drivers that refused to drop "shandy".

Afolabi said...

It's painful reading this post..just makes one annoyed, at how things are run back home.

There was another robbery in V.I, I was reading on online Nigeria, about a Glo. worker who got killed by a stray bullet. And I haven't read of any arrest yet.

So you were covering the scene as? Or were you just there by chance..

bumight said...

you cannot enjoy your work unless you do it well, and you can't do your work well unless you enjoy it.

Most nigerian policemen dont enjoy their work, so how do u really expect them to be productive? it isn't asking for too much to collect finger prints, blood samples or at least even just recover bullets, then again were they really trained to do so? are there repercussions if they dont do it?

Naapali said...

Atutu, thanks for your own bravery in reporting and in questioning the absence of simple police work.

I am always surprised and disappointed in our collective lowered expectations of our fellow countrymen. Not only were the police (the supposed elite squad MoPo) unable to take on the robbers, but they could also neither assist the wounded or process a crime scene.

We can point fingers at government and governance all we like but we are the government wherever we live. It is not too much to start raising our expectations of ourselves.

NigerianDramaQueen said...

As always, very well-written.
I especially liked: "In Nigeria, they have an ethos too - to pickpocket and to steal. A motto which they are quite prepared to die for"

-Ironic but true. But then again you cant blame some of these policemen...they stand under the sun all day with pitiful salaries, and barely have guns with enough bullets in them or squad cars with enough gas in them...

Carlang said...

It certainly is Sad.

The Nigerian Police has become a ridicule amongst law enforcement.
Even the cops of Burma consider them a joke.

I don't feel it is right to lay the blame solely on the force though.

If i were a cop, even I would be reluctant to die for a system that continuously refuses to appreciate the merits of caring for those who care about us.

Then again is the deplorable system of recruitment. The Nigerian Police employs "Anybody."

Until we have a better system were admittance is guided not only by a person's enthusiasm to join, but his established character and commitment then I am afraid we will have more stories of effete police work.

Not all cops are bad though as your post rightly pointed out.
What happened to the lone brave cop.

Please tell me his was not the stiff frame lying unattended on the street.

darkelcee said...

really sad.
but the truth is all that action u described, we only watch on Zone reality or crime investigation channels. our police no sabi their left from right.

Thank God for sparing ur life my bro.


Being a police officer or some type of first responder is not an easy thing. I respect them for choosing to be the first on the scene and the last to leave. I do not envy them their job.

That being said, however, you have spotlighted the problems with the Nigerian police in a way that needs no rehashing. Our police force is considered a joke. They are fodder for comics, cartoons and jokes.

The state of our police force is simply a reflection of the state of affairs in Nigeria. The parallels are too numerous to mention.

The reality is that we get what we pay for, to some extent. The cops don't get paid well, so they take their money from those they are meant to serve. despicable and inexcusable, but true.

Additionally, characteristics like valor and bravery are highly undervalued not just in Nigeria but everywhere. How can we then be shocked when our cops would rather protect their lives than engage in a gun fight?

And despite these realities, our Senators and President get 100% salary increases and we are all too busy hustling to survive to notice, care and/or call for equity.

Anyway, I am glad you weren't harmed in that madness.


Why are people saying that Atutu is asking for too much?

A well run and organized society has these things - detectives, CSI agents, cops that not only shoot back at robbers, but kill them if that is necessary to protect life and property. These things do not just exist in the West, there are African countries, smaller than Nigeria, that have these, even though their jobs are not as fancy as what we see on TV.

We cannot sell ourselves short, people. if we do not expect to have the things we need to lead relatively 'normal' lives, we won't get anything. If we do not work to get them, either through requiring them from our 'elected' officials or creating the structures we need ourselves, then things will get worse in Nigeria.


keep writing, I enjoy reading your blog stop by my space some time:)

Waffarian said...

brother, get in touch...

we need to yarn, seriously...

Barbarella123 said...

Hmmmm.. When did Nigerian become a well run and organised society? I commend Fashola on all that he is trying to do in Lagos state but, but I think he is coming in from the wrong angle with this beautification project of Lagos. He really should deal with security first. Infact I feel that rather than having the "Nigerian Police force" in Lagos being that they can be quite incompetent and underpaid, we should have a Lagos Police force instead. Omotola Jelili did something like that in Unilag and it kept Unilag open while other University went on strikes repeatedly.. Security over beauty any time any day..

Anonymous said...

I just made up my mind. When my OPT expires... I will NOT be moving back to Nigeria!

Anonymous said...

OMG!!this post hit home!!omg!!!!naija is a failure!!!naija is a failure!!!! that what we call in people get away with murder..and there's nothing anybody will do about it!!when i was in 9ja i was joking with my brother and i was like do you know if we kill someone now and then drive to 3rd mainland brdge and throw the body in the lagoon no one will find out!!and that is so true...if it was here the possibility of them finding you is high!!is it finger prints, or the fact that some eyewitness saw a car oarked and people lifting stuff from the trunk,or maybe a CCTV at a stop light or something!!!!WE are a messed up country...there is no value for human life!!i know we are suppose to confess positive things but na mennn....i dont the comment above me i dont think i EVER want to move back home again!!!

Atutupoyoyo said...

@ baroque: But why is it unobtainable bros? Other than a paper and pen, what special equipment is required to interview a witness? I interviewed about ten eyewitnesses, some of whom were able to describe to me, in great detail, what the robbers were wearing, their physical features, the type of car they drove and even the fact that there was a woman amongst them. And all their stories corroborated. Why was the police not doing any of that?
@Undacova: How I have missed you. Yes I am now working as a crime reporter in Lagos. By now you should have started on that course right?
I am glad that you mentioned India. It is not a bad country to model ourselves against. In spite of similarly poor police welfare, there were still some cops clearly trying their best to avert the terrorist threat.
@Rethots: A very valid question. If it is ‘just a job’ then clearly they will not put their lives at any kind of risk. As with most things in Naija, the biggest problem lies with the government. They have singularly failed to provide any kind of incentives for civil servants.
@ doug: I will certainly look out for that book. Sounds like my kind of thing. I remain confident that change is coming but the rate at which it is coming would embarrass a snail.
@ Temite: Yeah it is the same argument. Is it just a job or do these guys actually give a shit about solving crimes. In my opinion every job is worth doing well.

Atutupoyoyo said...

@Guerreira: Don’t worry you will be safe when you come. Keep your nose clean.

@ fantasy queen: Okay na e dey come

@ Jaja: Well said that man. We continue to lower expectations when really we should be reaching for the stars. Some of the procedural police work is so basic that it requires no specialist equipment to carry out. I just pray that I continue to look at Naija with fresh eyes before they get dulled with the glaucoma that is apathy.
@ Afro: LOL. Our paths will still cross.

@ Barbarella: Well put. However in every other country you will find that public servants are disproportionately paid to the rest of the population. They are overworked and underpaid. It doesn’t stop them from doing their jobs properly. But I agree there should be more incentives in place to protect our policemen. Life and family cover would be a decent start. Decent, hole-free, boots would be another.

@ Naughty eyes: Isn’t it scary how they brandish those AK-47s when it is patently obvious that they lack the training to use them properly?

@ Afolabi: Hi bros been a while. Yes I was covering the scene as a reporter. I was also at the VI robbery which happened on the same day. This is unfortunately armed robbery season with Christmas approaching.

TheAfroBeat said...

That is indeed a sad picture you paint of the lone ranger cop (probably one trained in the earlier days when things MUST HAVE been better) trying to convince his colleagues to do their grossly underpaid job. To be fair, i would never be a policeman in nigeria (or anywhere else for that matter) - the pay is crap - but then again, that's exactly why I'm not. So these men need to do the same and move onto better paying less risky jobs...aah, but then again, as you've rightly pointed out the "fringe" benefits of the job are really what they're after.

How are things in Lagos o? Are you into journalism now? (you mentioned you were "covering" the mishap).

Allied said...

When are u going to update this blog?

The Boob Sistas said...

Some scary s**t there. And i'm thinking of moving back to Nigeria...*shudder*

Merry Christmas.

Smaragd said...

an eye-witness said that when the police officers were questioned by pple around for hiding, they said and i quote " u no see say their gun better pass our own? who wan die?"

and i thought to myself, even if your guns weren't up to par, aren't they (the guns) still capable of killing? i heard one of the armed robbers was stationed @ Tanties, outside o, in the open with a weapon, and NOBODY dared to shoot him!

I blame the government! i heap all the blame on them! why? because i also wouldnt want to die for a country that doesnt give shit about me! A policeman told me recently that his take home was 18k! what can anybody do with that?

now because they are ludicrously paid, they take bribes and even rob! nothing makes that right, but desperate times call for desperate measures! they have families as well.

i wouldnt ask for them to be given state-of-the-art weapons, no sirree! they have those "dane" guns now and they are trigger happy (with civilians only, i dare not imagine what would happen if they had better weapons.

it's not exactly as though the police in developed countries rake in money, but they are at least comfortable! and they would do anything for their country because they know the country cares about them.

about the CSI runs, there is no point teaching an old dog new tricks, we would have to get rid of half of the current force and recruit young, intelligent peeps en-masse (care to join the police force anyone?) b4 we can even begin to imagine that happening.

it's extremely sad that the police force does not even care enough to collect simple easy-to-obtain evidence at crime scenes though.

A friend of mine recently jokingly said that he and I should rob a bank since it's so easy these days and the worst thing that can happen to one of us is a shot in the leg! i laughed then, but i realised later that this is exactly what these robbers are thinking!

enough talking Atutu, u've got me started now! welcome back home anyway.

Smaragd said...

oops! i apologise for the "long things" Atutu, i tend to not talk at all or talk too much, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Compliments of the season.

chibs said...

I like your blog. You write very well. And don't be so hard on the police men. If they die who will look after their families. Even the thieves you have to pity them small. Some of them tried other ways. Understanding is what we need in naija. We're all suffering because of those above. Ati armed robber ati police man. Lord knows why I'm pontificating on your blog.

And also A-Hall is not that bad. We became tougher when we moved to Poka. Yes it finally happened.

deola said...

Complement of the season!

Afrobabe said...

Happy new year...

'Yar Mama said...

Happy New Year. Your blog was one of my favourites in 2008. Thanx

Ms. Catwalq said...

it's 2009...update and reply your emails...Happy New year


happy new year

Severus Snape said...

happy new year...
You were lucky, believe me...

theicequeen said...

They were either detectives or constipation sufferers. The only thing the police did of any note was to look exceptionally befuddled by the whole thing.

buahahaha at that!!

but you are so right..i remember at some point thinkin bout naija and CSI...what a joke..dna evidence ke? but then they harrass people for carrying goat without receipt..

hope Naija moves on...

misssssssssed your blog

Anonymous said...

Dude where are you??


Flowers and Poetry said...

Where art thou?


Heya! This is my first time on your blog. I will be back. Stay fabulous. It keeps 'em guessing. Ciao.

jollof said...

I like the motto, "to pickpocket and to steal". Good article.

My World said...

The plight of the 'naija cop',kai!!!

My World said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Feral Female said...

Fantastic write up. This post sums up my opinions too about the subject.

Much ado about nothing.. I guess.

lamikayty said...

Yikes...thought this post was recent until I saw the "Happy new Years"! Pls update...
Nice blog....
About the policemen, as much as i hate them i do not blame them.
One police man caught jumping over a fence to escape from robbers was questioned and his reply...
"Dey tell you say this uniform na bullet proof!"
Nobody wan die o!

Anonymous said...

ohhh we nigerian is like we are in prison we dont have any chance to say to narrate what is going in our country espicially when sth going wrong with you and police man.
and our leaders both muslim and christian are so stupid so what life is this...?

i my self young journalistwith great vioce iam calling attension of our leaders to try as much as possible to rebrand our country for better result.

have a nice day

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