A THOUSAND CURSES ON THE MEN IN UNIFORM

A THOUSAND CURSES ON THE MEN IN UNIFORM

Stories of police brutality and harassment aren’t new; in fact, they’ve become sewn into the fabric of every Nigerian citizen’s experience as a Nigerian. For LGBTQ Nigerians, these experiences are even more guaranteed than the average Nigerian, and the horror of it is unbelievable.

And that, I suppose, is how I’d always imagined the experience of being victimized by the police: unbelievable. I knew the stories. I’d read some of them on Kito Diaries, Twitter and Facebook. And yet somehow, I never imagined I would one day have my own story to tell.

The night of August 8 has become a day I will never forget. I had come home from a week-long shift at work and was really looking forward to a weekend of vegging out in front of my laptop. Just watch movies, eat and sleep.

But first, I had to make a payment for something – deliver an amount of money to someone, an errand that my supervisor at work had asked me to help her do. So I got home, divested myself of all work stuff and took a nap. Around 5 PM, I was up, bathed and dressed, ready to go out to Omole, Berger, where I was supposed to meet the man my supervisor had directed me to by 6 PM.

A few bus rides later, I was at the junction where I was supposed to meet the man. I had just gotten down from the bus and was about to cross the road when I heard that hissing sound that people make to try to get someone’s attention from a distance.

“Sss-sss! Sss-sss!”

I resisted the impulse to look in the direction of the call, thinking instead that I’d dropped something as I got down from the bus, to which a pedestrian was calling my attention. I looked down around me, and when I didn’t see anything of mine on the ground, I proceeded to cross the road.

Next thing I knew, someone was grabbing me by the hand. Startled, I jerked around to behold an average-heighted, dark-skinned and chubby man. He looked faintly disheveled and toutish – definitely not someone I would ever want to stand on the roadside interacting with.

“Are you not hearing those people calling you?” he said.

“Which people?” I asked with a frown.

He gestured to a white bus that was parked a few yards away with its back to us.

I looked and then turned back to him. “And why are they calling me?”

He still had my hand in his grip and was pulling me. “Let’s go first,” he said.

I pulled back, feeling the beginnings of alarm thread its way up my spine. “I’m not going anywhere,” I said, my voice beginning to rise.

He pulled and I pulled back. I was positive that this was a kidnap situation and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to kidnap me.

Then, ahead of us, I saw the bus begin to move in reverse, slowly enough for a policeman in uniform to get down. He was walking briskly toward us and the bus was also moving backward toward us. The policeman had a gun in his hand. He got to us before the bus did and fixing a glare on me, he asked in that loud, authoritative and yet vacant voice Nigerian policemen usually adopt whenever they want to impress on you the importance of their position: “Excuse me, sir, what do you do?”

I was starting to realize what was happening. My day in the hands of police bullies was here. I just didn’t know how bad it was going to get.

“I work at the airport,” I answered.

“Which one?” he asked.

As I answered him, the bus pulled up beside us. There were other people inside it, but I was too focused on the policeman to take notice.

And then, the policeman said, “Enter inside the bus!” Before he had even finished the sentence, he was shoving me into the bus. I had my phone and power bank in my hand, and as I staggered forward, halfway into the bus, the man seated in the front row of passenger seats – another uniformed policeman – snatched at the phone and power bank, pulling them from my hand. At this point, even if I’d wanted to fight my way back from getting into the bus, I couldn’t.

They now had my phone.

So I got in. And my fate was sealed as the other two got in as well and the door was shut.

There were five of them in the bus in total. There was the driver (who I will call DRIVER); the one in the front passenger seat beside him (who I will call FRONT SEAT); and the one who snatched my phone and was seated on the front row of the back seat (who I will call PHONEMASTER). Then there was the one who had the gun and shoved me into the bus and was now seated on the other side of me close to the door, making us three that were seated on the front row (him I will call TRIGGER HAPPY); then the toutish one who approached me first who was seated on the second row of back seat (him I will call TOUT). And finally, the one seated by himself on the last row of the back seat (him I will call BACKSEAT).

They were all in uniform except TOUT.

At this point, I was shouting, “What did I do? What is all this?”

I was panicked. I couldn’t believe how quickly I had gone from the citizen minding his business on the street of Lagos to someone being apprehended by the police like a common criminal.

I was still shouting, demanding to know what I did, when TRIGGER HAPPY slapped me on my head, telling me to shut up. Before I knew it, he had slapped handcuffs over my wrists.

FRONT SEAT turned around in his seat to look at me and was saying, “This one na one of them. E go be one of them.” He was now talking to PHONEMASTER. “Check him phone very well. See as him dey, e go be one of them. Yahoo boys, na so them be. See as e dey like yahoo boy.”

So okay, these guys are looking for scammers to extort, I thought, trying to calm myself enough to believe that since I wasn’t into internet scam, then surely, I would soon be let go.

PHONEMASTER had my phone in his hand. It was already unlocked because before I was confronted by them, I’d been typing something on my keypad. And unless I tap the screen to lock it, the phone screen takes a few minutes to go to sleep. So, PHONEMASTER had access, and he was going through it. DRIVER had engaged the gear and so we were on the move, driving away from Omole.

BACKSEAT began asking me questions, like what I do, where I work, where I’m from, where I live. Just random questions that was clearly a tactic to keep me occupied and less focused on whatever PHONEMASTER was doing on my phone.

But I couldn’t keep my attention away from what he was doing with my phone, and with each furtive glance, I could see him skimming through my emails, and then checking my phone apps. He apparently didn’t find anything “incriminating”, before he then proceeded to my WhatsApp.

When I realized he was going through my chats, I began to get apprehensive again. I always clear my WhatsApp of any damaging chats, but in that moment, I could recall two chats I hadn’t cleared before stepping out: a conversation between me and my boyfriend in which a few endearments had been exchanged, and a chat where my friend gisted me about a hookup he had. I knew I was in trouble. This situation was about to become less about yahoo boys and more about –

“HOLD THIS GUY VERY WELL!” PHONEMASTER suddenly burst out. He was talking to TRIGGER HAPPY, while pointing an outraged finger at me. “Hollam well! E no dey do Yahoo! Na another thing e dey do! Hollam very well!”

“Wetin him dey do?” FRONT SEAT asked.

He didn’t answer him. He just kept on shouting as he went back to my phone, “Hollam well! Na another thing e dey do! Hold am well make e no run away!”

I wondered at the absurdity of what he was saying. How was I going to run away from inside a moving vehicle whose door was shut and blocked by one of them?

Meanwhile, BACKSEAT was asking him what he saw and he stretched his head forward to see what PHONEMASTER had turned my phone screen in his direction to show him.

“See am!” PHONEMASTER exclaimed. “E dey tell boy, ‘I love you.’ See this other one where him and another person – see the profile picture, na boy dey there so – and naim two of them dey talk, ‘So he didn’t fuck you well, that’s why you ran out.’ See am! Him be homo! Na homo e dey do! E dey tell boy say him love am!” His face was twisted with disgust as he talked.

BACKSEAT sat back on his seat and said to me, “So you be gay. Na gay you dey do?”

Before I could respond, he had swung his hand forward and slapped me hard on the back of my neck.

“Na gay you dey do, eh?” Slap, slap! “See as you fine finish, come dey do gay!” Slap, slap!

The back of my neck was burning from the pain of his slaps, and for the first time since my abduction, tears started stinging my eyes. He kept on shouting and hitting me, and every time I tried to duck, TRIGGER HAPPY would shove me forward back into the line of his blows.

PHONEMASTER was now talking to me, “So this is what you are doing, eh? Don’t you know this is against the law in Nigeria? Don’t you know it is life imprisonment that is waiting for you?”

BACKSEAT interjected, “And it is worse than Yahoo! Yes! Don’t you know! This homo thing is worse than Yahoo! It’s a worse sin than Yahoo! God is more against it than Yahoo! And you’re doing it! So you be gay!”

“Why you still dey ask am?” PHONEMASTER snapped at him. “No be the thing wey I dey show you for him phone be this? The guy na correct homo!”

“Make we carry am go police station!” BACKSEAT said. “Make we lock am up! We go beat am well-well! Nobody go ever find you. Your people go look for you taya, they no go see! You wan dey do this nonsense wey them dey do for Sodom and Gomorrah, come carry am come Nigeria! We go show you today! We go make sure say you no go ever do am again!”

PHONEMASTER appeared particularly infuriated. “We will kill you today!” he began swearing at me, getting so incensed that he swung his fist to punch me in the chest.

He was going to punch me again, and I jerked back from him, my body hitting TRIGGER HAPPY, who promptly shoved me back.

“Where do you think you are going to?” he shouted at me. “You wan run? Oya, run now make I see! Run!” With this, he lifted his gun and pointed the business end of it at my head. “Run!”

Throughout this period, I’d been afraid, but not that afraid. As they threatened me with locking me up in jail and beating me, I still maintained a semblance of calm, of detachment that everything was going to be alright.

But the moment that gun was pointed at me, terror was unleashed inside me. Death became very real as I found myself eyeing the opening attached to the long barrel through which my life could end. And he had his finger inside the space where the trigger was. I was petrified by the thought that any wrong move could make that finger slip down on the trigger and end my life.

This was when I began begging. The tears that had stayed in my eyes were now slipping down my face as I began begging these criminals to pardon me and let me go.

“Sir, please don’t do this to me,” I pleaded, looking from one uniformed criminal to the other. “Please, don’t do this to me. I am not a bad person. I don’t have anybody in this Lagos. I am just trying to survive here. Please…”

“You don’t have anybody, and yet you have client that you are doing homo with, eh?” PHONEMASTER sneered. “We will kill you today. You are doing homo and you are saying you don’t have anybody. Don’t you know it is people who have somebody that use to do homo?”

“Please don’t kill me,” I begged, acutely conscious of the muzzle of that gun pointed at my head.

“See as you be sef,” he said. “How much do you even have in your account? You dey work for airport, abi? How much you get for your account? How many accounts you get?”

“Just one. And they have not paid me in some months,” I lied. “I don’t have any money.”

Even as I told this lie, I knew I’d be found out immediately, because the man had returned to my phone to search through my text messages. And it wasn’t long before he came upon my last credit alert from UBA and saw the notification that came with the payment of my salary barely two weeks ago.

He turned a glare to me. “You get money come dey lie say you no get money, abi? Is this all you have? You sure say na only one account you get?”

“How much dey there?” BACKSEAT asked.

He told him. BACKSEAT was angered by this and he turned on me again, hitting and slapping me. This beating went on for awhile, interjected by PHONEMASTER’s threats that they were going to kill me.

Finally, BACKSEAT eased up on me long enough for PHONEMASTER to ask me for my ATM card. I didn’t come out with it, and I told them so. But of course they didn’t believe me, because TRIGGER HAPPY began rifling through my pockets. He didn’t find any ATM card, but he found the money that my supervisor gave me to deliver on the errand that brought me out of my house. It was 35,000 naira. Crowing with pleasure, he handed the money to PHONEMASTER, whose eyes had begun to gleam with greed. In fact, all of them suddenly looked very fired up by their obvious avarice.

After TRIGGER HAPPY reported that he didn’t find any ATM card on me, they looked stumped for a few moments. Wanting to seem cooperative, I suggested that I transfer the money to any of their accounts. PHONEMASTER shut that down, saying that they use government bank accounts.

Clearly, these criminals wanted their robbery to leave no traces back to them.

FRONT SEAT then suggested that they use PAGA – you know, these money dealers who you transfer money to, and for a modest fee, they will give you the cash equivalent. The others agreed.

“Oga, make you dey pray say make we find PAGA,” PHONEMASTER said to me. “Better pray o. Or else, we will expose this your face as person wey dey do homo. We go put your face for internet, so everybody go see you.”

Somewhere inside me, I wondered wryly which one exactly they wanted to do to me: jail me, kill me or expose me on the internet. I was now tired, exhausted to my very bones. Tears were flowing freely down my face and I felt anguish slowly eating away at my insides.

But I was about to know more pain. For as DRIVER was still steering the bus around in search of a PAGA office, a text message dropped into my phone.

The text was from Ecobank, an account where I keep my savings. It was a notification of interest paid into the account, and the text had my available balance stated in it. This was the money I’d been saving for a few years, since I started a steady job. This savings was my everything, and it had grown into a substantial amount.

And PHONEMASTER saw it.

This was another lie I’d told which had just been found out.

“So you get another account!” he raged after he read the text. “You get another account, eh? So na lie you talk when you talk say na only one account you get, eh?”

This unleashed another round of beating from him and BACKSEAT. Somebody’s fist broke the skin on my face and I began bleeding from the cut. But I wasn’t even focused on the beating. I was focused on the budding devastation that was slowly creeping through me as I cussed at Ecobank for choosing that moment to compound my pain.

Eventually, they found a PAGA office in Agidingbi; it was inside a shopping complex. DRIVER parked in a spot close to a small market, and they warned me not to shout or draw any attention otherwise they would make me pay. I don’t know if it was fear or exhaustion that robbed me of the will to fight them anymore, but I acquiesced and stayed silent, while FRONT SEAT took my phone and bank account PIN – after confirming to PHONEMASTER that he knew the USSD codes for UBA and Ecobank – and vanished inside the premises of the plaza.

The rest of us waited in silence. With each heartbeat, I tried not to think about how much I hated these men and how penniless they were about to render me.

Eventually, FRONT SEAT returned with a poly bag that was bulky with my money. He gave my phone back to PHONEMASTER, who contemplated it for awhile, before handing it over to me, saying, “We for take this phone join, but make I just pity you.”

I almost barked a humourless laugh at that. Pity me? So you know what pity is?

DRIVER did a u-turn and began driving back to Omole. As he drove, PHONEMASTER and BACKSEAT took turns preaching to me. “You have to stop this thing you are doing… It’s not good. It’s not welcome in this country… If we were bad people, we would have exposed you to your boss. We would have gone to that airport where you work and told them what you are doing so you will lose that your job… This will teach you a lesson, so that you will stop this thing you are doing… God is against it. It is a sin…”

I didn’t respond to anything they said. I simply stared straight ahead, hating my life, hating them; as far as I was concerned, they were dead to me.

They eventually got to Omole, and TRIGGER HAPPY opened the door and practically shoved me out of the bus. I had enough will in me to look at the back of the bus as they drove away to see if I could capture the plate number. But the bus had none.

Then with mounting trepidation, I checked my phone for the debit alert. There was none. FRONT SEAT must have deleted it. So, I checked my account balance for UBA.

It was empty.

I checked my account balance for Ecobank.

It was empty.

These criminals in uniform had drained me of my salary and my life savings, and left me with bruises and pains on both my body and my soul.

I wanted to cry, but tears wouldn’t come. I wanted to die, but I didn’t even have the strength to step into the main road to get hit by oncoming traffic. I thought about what cruel fates had come together to imagine I deserved this when all I’d ever done was live a good life. I felt lost. I felt drained. I felt hopeless. I felt like I had no direction, no bearing, no purpose.

Then I took up my phone and typed a message on WhatsApp to my boyfriend: “Babe, I just got robbed by the police. Please, come and get me.”

 

FINAL WORD: After talking this over with Pink Panther, I felt compelled to ask this community for help. I am starting over as a result of my ordeal, and in the past few days, it hasn’t been easy trying to find my footing. I have been fortunate to have a few friends who have been considerate enough to send me a little something here and there. But it has been hard. I would really appreciate any kindness from the good people of this community, any acts of generosity that will tide me over till I am able to start earning again. Anything I can get will be most appreciated.

Anybody who is touched enough to help can reach me via email on bobmanuelndu@gmail.com or simply send whatever you can to the account information: UBA, 2096077090.

Also, if anyone has any information, suggestion or strategy that I can employ to use and get back at these criminals in uniform, please also reach out to me via email.

Thank you and may your goodwill be returned to you ten times over.

Written by Bobmanuel

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  1. Minxaspis
    August 14, 08:00 Reply

    I wish we could hunt them all down, amputate all of them , blind one of their eyes, break one of their legs and plug their teeth’s out with pliers , if I ever get arrested they will see drama upon drama even if they want to kill me ,I won’t give them 50kobo,
    I feel for you sweety I wish I had a job I would have sent you something, right now am still job hunting

  2. Morgan
    August 14, 09:15 Reply

    This is really sad. This same Berger where I stay. Sorry about your ordeal bob. Ransome actually told me about this before I read it on here. Things like this has me leaving my phone at home when I’m going out and I don’t really need it. Sorry once again

  3. Dillish
    August 14, 09:32 Reply

    Won’t TIERs be interested in something like this?.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I hope help comes soon

  4. Femi
    August 14, 10:26 Reply

    This is really sad. So sorry you had to go through this.

  5. Mitch
    August 14, 11:44 Reply

    A billion curses on them!
    Every last one of them!
    Animals! Umu anuofia!

  6. Eddie
    August 14, 12:17 Reply

    Fucking bastards… My heart goes out to you for real!!! Stories like this make you feel such rage and helplessness at the same time… If I could make them die painfully remotely, I would.

    • Tariq
      August 14, 15:16 Reply

      If this is my very Eddie.bright,

      Pls reach me here: 08122301081

      I deactivated the account I use to chat u….

  7. Tariq
    August 14, 15:13 Reply

    This is really sad…

    May the culprits meet their Waterloo!

    @poster, sending u love n light..

    One can never be too careful..
    May we all be safe n never meet such undignified miscreants in uniforms.

    The police is not ur friend!

  8. Taena of Myr
    August 14, 19:40 Reply

    Next time they ask you your profession
    Tell them you’re a lawyer ?.
    That will first scare them.
    You shouldn’t have Given them your password to the account.
    If you weren’t caught sleeping with someone or getting married.
    There’s really no evidence to put u in jail for

  9. Zoar
    August 14, 21:51 Reply

    This is the reason I get really scared of moving around in Lagos because it’s as if it gets worse with each passing day in that state. If it’s not the police then be sure it’ll be Kito gangs, it just gets worse existing in this part of the world. Living in Nigeria is more than a hell’s Experience. May you get the necessary help and comfort you desire because this Experience actually comes with PTSD.

  10. geminiguy
    August 15, 00:45 Reply

    Reading this, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. I almost couldn’t read the whole thing cus it just made me so sad. I wish I could support you financially but I dob’t have the means for that. But the curses that I have rained on this men, it will catch them.

  11. Seth
    August 15, 18:57 Reply

    I think you should forward this story to a human rights lawyer. Or a reputable news website. This is too much. There’s no push back at all from anywhere so why will they ever stop. I think you can get this out there and they’ll even keep you anonymous.

  12. Malik
    August 16, 12:53 Reply

    Sad and frightening. So sad you had to go through that.

  13. Jericho
    August 17, 17:40 Reply

    I’m so sorry about this. Trust me I feel your pain

  14. Frank
    August 18, 00:06 Reply

    If you can get the paga guy then there is a chance you would get back some of your stolen money. So sorry for what happened to you. Will send you my widow’s might

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