So I’m back in Lagos working now. I’ve been here for about three months and it’s really much better this time around. My own house, my own car. I’m more independent than ever. But that also has its problems.
Last week, a friend and I went to salsa class and then decided to to go The Ice Cream Factory. On the way out, I turned the wrong way on a one way street. As soon as I started driving a police vehicle drove up and blinded us with their lights. Four of them jumped out of the car and walked up to the car, AK47s slung across their shoulders like schoolboys lazily carrying their backpacks, no thought to the possible danger of them accidently shooting a round. They were young, bored and saw us as an easy way to make some beer money.
One of them approached the car and yelled, “Wind down! Wind down your window.” I cracked the window slightly, taking care that the button did not automatically roll the window down too much allowing them to stick their hand through. I had been through that one other time, giving them the opportunity to unlock the door and get into the car. I wasn’t going to take that chance again, especially at 10 o’clock at night.
“Wind down! Wind down!, ” the officer continued to yell, upset that I didn’t open the window more. I told him that I could hear him. He continued to yell and I got exasperated. There was really no talking to him. I called my company from my mobile phone. Security answered and I told them that I was close to the Law School and that the police were holding me. They asked me a couple of more questions about my car and my location and told me they would call me back.
I could hear the officer still yelling at me to wind down my window and I shook my head. The officer turned to his mates incredulously, “She is on the phone like she’s calling her boyfriend.” He turned back to me. “So you won’t wind down your window?” He nodded to the guy on his left. They started to let the air out of my front tires. The crowd was starting to show up and watch the officers. Seems that watching the police harass citizens is better than watching an Africa Magic movie.
My company security arrived in about 20 minutes. They rolled up in a vehicle that looked just like a regular Lagos police vehicle and told me to wind my window down. I refused. For all I know, they could be these jokers’ friends. That pissed the lead company security officer off. He walked to the car and asked to see my ID. I asked to see his. He said, “Don’t you see the emblem on my shirt.” I told him that anyone could get a shirt like that. I refused to roll down my window any further until I talked to my company dispatch and they confirmed it. Needless to say, the security officer wasn’t very inclined to help.
He went and talked to the police and they did what they do, talk, shout, beg, agree, repeat. Finally the security officer came over and said, “You know Lagos police consider driving the wrong way a serious violation. So, I’m going to talk to them and settle this thing but you will have to bear the cost.” I said okay, and called my friend N and her husband to come with some money since we didn’t have much on us. The company dispatch called and asked what was going on so I told him that the security officer was going to negotiate a deal. Dispatch blew up!! They cursed that security officer out something bad. By the end of it, all I had to do was get out of the car and apologize to the police officer for disrespecting him by not rolling my window down.
The security officer, clearly pissed off because now they are in trouble for trying to organize a bribe, sulkily went off to find someone to inflate my tires. They did that I followed them home. Again, clearly pissed since they are supposed to follow me. My friend was nervous the whole time but since I’ve been through this a couple of times, to me it was just the same ole, same ole.