By Ben Ezeamalu
Two police officers were seated on a wooden bench in front of Pako Police post, Amukoko, when we walked in and made our way towards the counter.
“Hey my friend! Come back here,” one of them thundered behind us.
We retraced our steps.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked, balancing his gun on his knee.
“We want to see the D.P.O.” I replied.
“Is that why you cannot greet?” I looked across at the second officer seated at the far edge of the bench. If he was interested in us, he didn’t show it. His eyes were shut, earphones plugged in both ears, and his head was gently moving up and down, and sideways.
Probably, they’d not heard us when we walked in.
I told the officer.
“Are we deaf? How can you say you greeted us and we did not hear?” he challenged.
“Anyway, the D.P.O is not around. He has closed for today. Go and come back tomorrow.” I checked my time. It was a few minutes past 7p.m.
I told him we needed to see an officer on duty over a rather urgent matter, and he waved us inside.
At the police counter, an officer was trying hard to read a copy of the day’s newspaper in the poorly lit room. The smell from the adjoining, dingy cells filtered into the room, its overpowering stench hanging thick in the air.
“Yes?” He looked up, his eyes still squinted from focusing on the paper.
“Good evening officer,” I said.
“We are here to release our brother; he had just been brought in in a patrol van.” He relaxed his eyes.
“Oya go and release him now,” he motioned to the back of the counter.
“Go there and release him. Nonsense.” He unfolded the paper, bent over and started leafing through the pages.
“Officer, we are not quarrelling. And there is no need for us to start,” I said.
We; I and my friend, introduced ourselves and explained the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
“The people that brought them have gone out again. Go outside and wait for them till they come back,” he said with an air of finality, moistened a finger with his tongue and started to flip through the pages of the newspaper.
And so we sat on a wooden bench at the entrance to the counter, and began our wait.
An hour earlier, the officers from the Pako police station had herded a friend of mine, along with his girlfriend, into a police patrol van at Alafia bus stop, along the Badagry expressway.
Eyewitnesses told me their offence was threatening to ‘change it for’ (a street lingo which means ‘to deal with someone’) a commercial motorcyclist who almost hit them as they were cuddling each other near the bus stop.
So the oncoming officers, who saw the incident while patrolling in their van, arrested the two lovebirds, drove back to their station, locked them away in a cell and drove out again.
And so we continued to wait for the patrol team to return.
A handful of police officers, both uniformed and plain clothed, continually streamed in and out of the station.
At the counter, a lady officer who had just resumed the night shift, lighted up a mosquito coil and began a solitary praise and worship session.
Inside the compound, three officers standing at a corner were laughing over a joke. One of them had just been freed from where he’d been locked up inside their own cell.
“Officer Bako, who release you?” a uniformed officer asked as he walked into the compound and headed towards a corner of the fence to urinate.
On the wall was a charcoal-inscription, “Do Not Urinate Here”.
“Na Oga say make we release him by 9 (o’clock),” a second officer said, joining his colleague at the corner of the fence to urinate.
An unusual drama
A few minutes later, commotion was heard outside the gate, followed by the shuffle of feet.
“Officer, arrest him,” a gentleman wearing a plain shirt and carrying a small bag was telling the two officers at the gate. “He is my younger brother and I want him to sleep in the cell this night. He stole my money.”
One of the officers tried to forcefully drag the ‘younger brother’ through the station’s gate, into the compound, but the young man appeared too strong for him.
“We just arrived from Lafia (Nassarawa State). He had been acting strange for the past two days. I want him to be locked up,” the gentleman explained to the officers.
Two other police officers joined in the attempt to force the young man into the police premises and they eventually succeeded; but what happened next shocked everyone present, including the breathless officers.
One of the officers released his stranglehold on the young man and hurried to bolt the gate.
The young man managed to shake himself free of the clutch of the other two uniformed men.
With his back against the wall, he clenched his fists and delivered a Mohammed Ali-esque boxing exhibition.
Four quick punches flew out of his clenched fists in quick succession; the first two landed on the chin of the officer nearest to him, while the last two hit the other officer on the head.
Both of them staggered back, stunned.
“Yee!” Yelled the first officer, rubbing his jaw furiously.
“This boy punch me.” Like a deranged bull, he charged at the young man.
Another couple of blows from the young man, this time on both sides of the head, jolted him to a stop.
Then the police officer reached for his gun.
The young man stepped backwards, balanced his feet, his fists still clenched, and waited.
It is a common practice in Amukoko for audacious young lads, who are resisting police arrest, to engage the officers, if they are unarmed, in physical combats.
But this young man took his audacity to a whole new level – against armed police officers and inside a police station.
If he was scared, nothing in his facial expression gave it away. He had the average build of a young Mohammed Ali. While he did not possess the deft footwork of the boxing legend, the swiftness of his fists made up for that.
There was fire in his eyes and he looked like he was ready to punch away any bullet coming his way.
The officer stared at him, appearing to be weighing his options; he looked around quickly as if searching for something to reinforce his rifle.
For the second time, he rushed at the young man, this time swinging the barrel of his gun. It landed on the young man’s outstretched forearm. Two quick jabs landed on the police officer’s jaw.
The other officers, who had also gone for their guns, quickly closed in, and a gun barrel-hitting spree ensued.
“We go kill this boy here today,” one of them shouted.
By now, the number of police officers had risen to five and those without guns joined with their fists.
“Please do not kill him,” screamed the bag-clutching gentleman. “I only want him to be locked up in a cell to teach him a lesson.”
The police officers were no longer listening to him.
Gun barrels and punches continued to rain down on the young man, who had given up trying to fight back and was trying, though unsuccessfully, to ward off the torrent of gun barrels and fist blows.
“Let me go and look for wood,” said the officer who had received the lion share of blows, now visibly enraged. He dashed into the night.
He returned almost immediately clutching a log of wood and dashed towards the young man.
But another officer restrained him.
“If to say I don drink, I for shoot this idiot,” screamed the officer who had earlier bagged two punches.
An elderly officer, who had been watching the entire spectacle from a corner, advised that the boy be pushed out of the station immediately.
Another round of kicking and tugging began, this time in the opposite direction – in the same manner the young man was dragged in.
“Please, I want him to be locked up here. I don’t want him to go back with me,” the gentleman with the bag shouted at the officers.
The elderly officer shouted back at him.
“My friend, take this boy out of this place. You want him to be locked here? Go and lock him in your house.”
End of story
It was almost 10 p.m when the patrol officers returned.
Again we introduced ourselves; this time to a dark skinned officer who, we gathered was the leader of the team, a middle aged fellow named Supol Amadi.
“So you are the brothers of that stupid boy,” said the Supol. “Imagine he was romancing his girlfriend in public and, on top of that, wanted to fight an Okada man. They were constituting public nuisance and we could charge them to court. They should not use their romance to disturb the public peace.”
The officer proceeded to deliver a sermon on how the area was ‘a very violent-prone zone’ and any little fracas could degenerate into anarchy.
After his speech, he ordered for the release of the couple.