My police brutality experience

>> Wednesday, September 16, 2009

hello darling blogville.
Ahhhhhh my life is so busy I don't even know how to think peacefully anymore.
Apologies for coming "back" but actually just disappearing again.
I miss reading all the blogs, I miss blogging, I miss getting the responses. The thing is, since I got back from Nigeria my life has changed. I've started university AND I'm still working. Plus a number of private issues. In short, I am extremely busy. It's taken some time for me to just get my head above the water (at least I think I'm there now) so i am hoping that now I can stop by at least once a week to begin with but I hope 2-3 times a week as soon as I get the hang of this.
Today I won't have the chance to read up but everyone thank you sooo much for your welcome back wishes. I have to write this in the last 20 mins I have left at work.

Okay, over to Naija...
We arrived mid-July in Lagos. I had the chance to meet up with my dear Enkay who is absolutely gorgeous of course :-) and super sweet. She helped us out with a bunch of things.
From Lagos we quickly went to the village. Our goal (If I haven't menitoned it before) was to finish up the house we've been building. Anyone who's been involved with that knows what a HASSLE it is. We just wanted to get it off our back so my MIL can finally have a nice and safe place to stay..she's been staying in Onitsha which is just hell on earth and we want her to retire and live the sweet life..she done suffer enough.
We arrived at the house, it looked beautiful, but was full of half naked men (workers). We had no doors on any of the toilets and we didn't get any before after 2 weeks. My MIL and I were the only women in the house and 10 men walking around all the time working. I got my fair share of testosterone, lol. But it was ok. We worked hard all those days, cleaned the yard from all the bricks and waste from the building, painted the walls, helped with the tiling etc. We were disappointed upon arrival because the guy in charge had told us that it was a lot more finalized than that! We'd been pushing him and pushing him and turns out he was cheating us anyway. But that's another story I'll get back to another day. The worst part of it all was that we had to travel to Onitsha to get construction materials, doors, etc.

One of the days we got caught up in go-slow (surprise surprise) and just got stuck on the highway. I was on the phone with my mother. Suddenly I heard gun shots. I hung up the phone to see what was going on. A man ran towards our car, passed us on the left and disappeared. A second later a car drove up towards us and stopped right in front of us. Out fell a man. Blood everywhere. The police came shouting and screaming and the man was crying and everyone else was screaming. they'd managed to shoot him (the driver of the car) with this pump action gun and blown nearly all the bottom part of his leg. It looked awful. We got away as soon as we could, but turned out the guy wascompletely innocent. The stupid police had just shot him because he didn't hear it when they told him to stop! From that day, I started getting a bit more shaky whenever the police stopped us. And let me tell you, they did EVERY day, EVERY chance they got. Jeez, their road blocks were sometimes located every 100 yards! Mad men.

Fast forward

We're on our way from the village to Abuja to pick up my parents from the airport. We leave 6:30 am in the morning to make sure we travel while it's safe. We had planned to get a driver (and we really wanted to bring our car to Abj, but didn't want to leave the car with a driver we didn't know) but because of a number of mishappenings, we were stuck alone. I told my hubby I'm sure we could do it. We were supposed to cross Onitsha and meet up with someone we knew in Asaba. We had my MIL with us together with one of the workers, but they dropped at the beginning of Onitsha. We only had to get through Onitsha on our own. My hubby knew the way and it wasn't supposed to be a problem that early on a Saturday as long as we don't stop.

We reached a police road block and with their grumpy faces they first asked for the documents, driving licence, to look inside the trunk. My hubby got out and showed them the boot.
"Ok, let me see the engine compartment" the policeman said. I shook my head inside the car. These policemen! Always looking to fuck you up!
My hubby said ok, fine I'll show you but you'll find nothing there, and opened up the lid.
"Where's the engine number" the police man said angrily.
Hubby said, well this is a new car there is no such thing as an engine number its only the chassisnumber of the car which you can find here.
The man was looking for something to catch us for and was clearly unhappy he hadn't found anything to arrest us for. They wanted blood that day.
They continued studying the documents (which I am SURE they couldn't even READ)..idiots of no comparison..
"Well, in short, your glasses are tinted. Where is your tinted-permit?!"
Hubby: Tinted permit? every police man we meet is talking about this but as you can SEE *showing him the windows* our windows are not tinted, you can see everything and everyone inside the car.
the policeman laughed in an evil way and talked loudly to his policefriends "This guy ey, he think he go just cheat us like this? Hahaha. Who are you this kind big man you travel without documents"
hubby was getting frustrated but kept his cool
"Come on Mr police officer you see I am just carrying my wife we are going to the Abuja airport and you know the roads are not safe. Can you please allow us to go?"
"HEY. You are a nigerian. YOU know how things work here. YOU are coming to the police station and we are seizing the car"
Hubby: Come on police officer please I don't have time to waste you know we can't go there. I am so scared and stressed right now because we really need to get going and you know everything is ok with our documents

Blah, blah, blah. In short, another junior policeman entered the back seat of our car with his AK-47. He was sweaty and had this angry expression on his face, the one all police and military men put on to intimidate you and let you know they're superior.

Policeman: GO
Hubby: Come on man, please, can't we just settle here, what do you want? We can't go to the police station
Policeman: No I have orders, You are going to the police station
Hubby and I: Come on man police are always giving us so much trouble. Why? We are only on holiday and it's like you guys don't even want us to come. You know we haven't done anything wrong why can't we just settle you here and now what do you want from us
Policeman with a louder, more assertive voice: WE ARE GOING TO THE STATION NOW.
Hubby: OK! fine, fine. Where do you want me to drive?
Policeman: Go straight
We drove down the road. I was feeling nervous because this man was so agitated.
I turned around completely to the police officer and started talking to him in a respectful manner, explaining to him that my hubby was just stressed, that if he could please let us go we could give him something to settle him, that my hubby is worried about driving on that road etc. He smiled at me in a condescending way and started lecturing me on how we should behave towards him, that he has a gun.
My hubby whispered to me that maybe we should call the embassy for help. He grew up in Onitsha and have seen awful things there before. I said that he should wait. He grabbed his phone and the policeman grabbed it out of his hands.
Hubby was sweating and I could almost see his heart beating outside his T-shirt.He was freneticly thinking what to do.
Hubby: Come on man you have to let us go lets settle
Policeman immediately got very agitated and screamed loudly YOU GO STRAIGHT DOWN RIGHT NOW OR I WILL KILL YOU MYSELF!
hubby was getting upset. "what do you mean man, what have we done wrong?"
Hubby: You want to kill me in front of my wife? in my home country? while we're on holiday? is that what you want?
My hubby had kept his cool for so long ,watching them talk down to me, listening to them humiliating us and commanding us for so long he was getting agitated.
Policeman: I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL RIGHT NOW. He grabbed his AK and started loading it. Put his finger on the trigger. He pointed it to the back of his head while we were still driving on the crazy roads of Onitsha.

I didn't think at all, I just acted. It was a reflex. I grabbed the edge of the barrel or whatever you call it. I don't know. I dragged it away from my husbands head and pointed it towards the ceiling. Oh I didn't mention I had been crying and begging earlier to make the man stop being so angry. The man just went apeshit on us. He started fighting me over the gun, inside the car while we were driving. I cried stop, stop, stop please please stop! He was fighting to point it back on him and his finger was still on the trigger. This probably happened in the course of 10-30 seconds but it felt like forever. We batteled back and forth and the car was swinging from side to side. He finally won but got thrown backwards so he couldn't put the gun close to his head again, only aim from the corner of the backseat. Again I acted in reflex and got out of my seat and stood up against/leaned on the drivers seat to make sure I covered my husbands head and body. I knew he wouldn't shoot me. He didn't have the guts. The man reached over my stomach and grabbed the steering wheel while we were driving. He started turning it. This was in the main street of Onitsha so the traffic was crazy as it is. We finally got under the head bridge, crashed with the car in front of us and there was about 10 policemen standing there. My husband winded down the window immediately screaming for help.
I was shaking and crying. I didn't not get away from his seat until the police man was outside the car again. Now followed more than an hour of negotiations.

Thank GOD for the people there who noticed it all. A massive crowd gathered and was shocked by the sight seeing that we were obviously 'foreigners' most especially me, and I was bleeding everywhere crying. The battle with the man had lead to multiple bruises and cutwounds on my body. Thankfully due to several contacts in combination with all the people in the area, they allowed us to go. But I just CANNOT believe them. In the crowd of 10 policemen they were divided in half, half of them supported us and said they should allow us to go, then the other bastards were looking for some kind of blood revenge. I don't freaking understand till this day...
I got out of the car but was commanded to stay inside. I overheard one of the policemen saying "Come on, lets just kill him and throw him in the gutter.. they can't do anything and she'll just go back home"

I mean, excuse you! What the hell is going on?
We reached Abuja in one piece in the afternoon, allthough a bit later in the day. Needless to say we were stopped by the police at least 20 more times but whenever they saw my bruises they just let us go.
I've never experienced such a thing in Nigeria before. I don't know what was up. We'll never use our car travelling in the east again, most especially Onitsha. If I ever cross that city again it will be through air or ABC-transport. It took us about 3 days to get our heartrate back to normal. I am telling you, it was so close. So close. I shiver just thinking about it and we are still in shock allthough this happened soon 2 months ago.

It leads to me wondering what in the world leads to such greed and brutality. Next time going I will really reconsider. So much for the rebranding of Nigeria.... The police that is actually supposed to protect are the ones we have to fear the most?

Okay people this was the short version of the story I hinted about in my other least I think I did. I will be back soon to check on your blogs. Have to run and catch the bus!

Lots of love! Miss ya'll :-)

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