Nigerian Customs officials illegally detained and assaulted a Chinese businessman, this should worry you

When we were sent this first-person report of corruption and unprovoked violence against a Chinese businessman who immigrated to Nigeria five years ago and has built a life here, we felt obligated to publish it verbatim. There is a severely underreported scourge of violence and extortion against immigrants from countries and regions Nigerian border and customs officials consider inferior to Europe and America and it is important that we document these injustices and call for reform in the sector. 

This is Finn’s story. 

My name is Finn, I am a Chinese businessman who has lived in Nigeria for 5 years. Over the past 5 years, I became a part of Nigeria and Nigeria has become my second home. I love this country so much and the warmness of its people. I am writing this story to shed light on the unjust treatment I suffered in the hands of uniformed Custom officers in Ikeja, Lagos. I am sharing this story for myself and for the numerous individuals who have suffered similar unjust actions (in various forms) in the hands of various security officials.

On my way to pick up a business partner on Friday 9th of February, at the Customs office area along Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Ikeja. Three customs officers approached our vehicle, which had myself (Chinese), driver (Nigerian) and another passenger (Nigerian) inside. They shouted at the driver to park, while the driver was trying to find a safe space on the road to park, one of the officers charged towards the car angrily, threw a bottled water (which was partially opened) at the driver through the window and the water splashed on everyone in the car.

While the driver was trying to explain himself, the officer lunged forward in an attempt to slap him, yelling at him for not stopping immediately, without even giving him a chance to explain himself. At this point, the driver was defenseless so I decided to step in and address the officers, asking them “what is the crime?” as I didn’t understand what was going on.

In my attempt to defend the driver, the officers got infuriated then shifted the aggression towards me, while justifying their actions and trying to impose their power, ordered us out of the vehicle. We stepped out of the car, at that point the aggression had turned to threat as they threatened to deal with me for speaking up for the driver who is a fellow Nigerian like them.

As the argument got heated up, the officers pounced on me, subdued me and placed handcuffs in my hands, dragging me into their office. At the office, one of the officers approached me gave me several slaps on my face (in the process my eyeglasses broke), asking why I was shouting, whether I think I am in my country. They pushed me into their office and threatened to lock me up if I don’t keep quiet. I refused to keep quiet and asked to contact my lawyer since they want to detain me in their custody, but they rebuffed my request.

While I was in their custody, they refused to let my driver and the other passenger into their office. The officers who initially dragged me in later disappeared after a long while of humiliation and detention, another officer who was also in the office pleaded that I be released so as to kill the matter once and for all. I refused and continued to request to speak to my lawyer. I was later un-cuffed and asked to leave.

I finally decided to leave the office after being physically assaulted, verbally abused and illegally detained for no reason and not being able to trace the officers that inflicted all these pains on me got me even more devastated (though I can remember their faces clearly). Additionally, I missed my business meeting for the next day, my glasses were destroyed, got red-swollen eyes and had to schedule an eye check-up.

Finn’s bruised face after the assault.

I received treatment the next day at the hospital and my body is still recovering from the pains. Even though few days have passed, I have decided not to be silent about my experience and see it as an opportunity to draw the public attention to the uncivilised and violent enforcement of laws in the state by uniformed officers. Why is there so much misuse of power by uniformed officers? Why do uniformed officers continually harass and assault innocent individuals? Why do relevant authorities allow this kind brutality to prevail? I know no country is without its own flaws but something needs to be done urgently to correct these issues. I implore the relevant authorities to call their subjects to order.

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