The biggest incentive to crime in Nigeria remains the inability of our security agencies to find and punish criminals; until the situation changes, we will remain in this climate of fear.
They say the day monkey is going to die; all the trees in the forest are slippery. The time was 8pm, and I had spent 3 hours in traffic, breaking my first rule of driving in Lagos. Usually, I do whatever it takes to avoid standstill traffic; even a newbie knows this is prime time for the highway bandits that mingle with street hawkers. On this day, I defied the heavy traffic, determined to get home in time for that day’s episode of Tinsel, a bad decision. Still ruing my poor decision, I absentmindedly drifted to the extreme lane, another no-no in Lagos traffic.
It took me a few minutes to see him; he had a gun in hand, and approached my car. I looked behind me, saw my jacket on a hanger, and knew I was an obvious target. That was the third rule broken; bandits in Lagos traffic usually relate a hanging jacket to a decent job and a fat wallet. As usual, he walked past my car, sizing the situation up; before I knew it three of them had surrounded the car, gun in hand. They asked me to open the door; stupidly, I refused. After what felt like an hour of bargaining, the leader put two bullets in the gun and asked again, this time without the niceties that accompanied his previous requests. Defeated, I lowered my window, and submitted my phone. If I thought the gift appeased him, I was wrong. He wanted my wallet, laptop and anything he could get from me. Luckily, the traffic eased during this round of negotiation, and I sped off, with his hand on my back door. All of this happened in while passengers in the vehicles around me anxiously looked away, hoping they were not next in line. Amazingly, the Adeniji area (where this happened) was devoid of the usual mob of LASTMA officials and policemen that evening.
I made a formal report the next day at a police station. The policemen on duty told me to thank God I was not shot, and warned me not to negotiate with robbers again. I muttered something like “don’t worry, Psalm 91 has got me covered” and left the station. The next day, I retrieved my line, found a phone to slot the SIM card into, and normal service resumed. Lagos has been under siege for a while, with recurrent tales of armed robbery and kidnapping going on unabated. The response from the police has been predictable, tough talk with limited proof of execution.
A few days ago, unable to sleep, I turned to social media for entertainment. A distressed man was sharing his experience with a mixture of fear and gratitude; he had just escaped from gunmen in Gbagada. Another victim was in was not so lucky; he tweeted that someone had been killed. Later that day, I realized I had mutual friends with the gentleman that was killed. The most chilling part of this story is that he was shot without a hint of resistance. The victim, Ugo Ozuah, got married seven days before he was brutally killed. He was seeing off a visitor who had come to congratulate the couple on their wedding when someone in a van pulled up, and shot him in the chest, twice. According to eye witnesses, the occupants were clothed in police uniforms. As expected, the Police Force is denying the killers were their men, saying “anyone could have worn the police uniform.” The normalcy with which the Police Force said anyone is alarming; and possibly the biggest tragedy of this incident.
A young man has been cut in his prime, his bride widowed within a week of what must have been one of her happiest days. Yet, the people who committed this horrible crime still walk among us freely. The police force needs to abandon its tenuous denials and focus on capturing these killers. The victim’s memory and family deserve no less. The biggest incentive to crime in Nigeria remains the inability of our security agencies to find and punish criminals; until the situation changes, we will remain in this climate of fear.
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