Where do I begin! Been off for a whole two months! Many things have come and gone yet the defeaning silence from my end. My sincere apologies. I am set to get things rolling! Please enjoy the concluding part of the last article we put up before the long hiatus. Shalom!
By 6 pm, I was already at the Police Station with my entourage. The Orile Police Station is located at the famous but chaotic Orile Bus Stop I had described in an earlier piece “The Naija Lawyers’ Hustle”. The building housing the station was rebuilt a few years ago by the Fashola administration. It looked neat but the offices were cramped and overcrowded.
Wait for this, they even had well kept lawns. It was not the best one could desire for a police station but it was still better than the state police command I said I had been to earlier. Though I must confess that I did not move around the Police Station like I moved around the state command I had been to. I had gone straight to the DPO’s office but was told he was with a visitor. While I waited for my turn, an officer who introduced himself as the DPO’s P. A. inquired into my reasons for wanting to see the DPO. I told him what had transpired and he directed me to see the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) whom he told me would be of better help.
I went to the DCO’s office and just like I was told, he was also a lawyer so we bantered a bit on legal practice before discussing business. I put on my best charm as I told him that my client had been detained for more than 24 hours and I would sue the Nigeria Police Force (for my small mind! Who give me liver?). Mistake No. 3, never threaten a Policeman with civil suits, they don’t fear civil suits.
The DCO was amused but helpful. He reminded me that it was a weekend and they could hold my client till the next Monday before they could charge him to Court. I was alarmed, that meant my client spending two more days in the cell. The DCO however promised to order an immediate inquiry (which I could be part of) into the matter and the office in charge of the inquiry would determine if the matter was worth being charged to court or closed.
In less than 15 minutes, I had left the DCO’s office and was directed to the office of a female officer who I was told was charged with dealing with the matter. The Female officer (lets call her Mama because that was what everyone called her), had welcomed me into her office and offered me a seat. The 3 detainees were (a female and two males) standing, while the IPO and another male officer sat adjacent to Mama. I was seated on another table opposite another female officer.
“Please point out your client”, I heard Mama say. It then occurred to me that I didn’t even know my client. As I looked at the suspects for a clue, the officers burst into a roaring laughter. It was not their first time of dealing with lawyers and they played such tricks on them. My situation was not helped by the fact that I looked every inch a rookie. I called the name of my client and he looked up and I identified him as my client. We then went straight to business.
Mama questioned the detainees and heard each person’s side of the story. She concluded that the case was not worth being brought to the Police Station not to talk of being charged to court. She blamed my client for trying to use the police to settle personal scores but didn’t blame her men for trying to extort N15, 000. 00 each from each detainee. She ordered their immediate release. I felt on top of the world as I thanked Mama profusely. I thought it was over but then the problem had only begun.
The IPO led us to his office where he asked the detainees to get their sureties who will sign their bail bond. My client’s brother was available. The IPO led him and the sureties of the other detainees out of my hearing and asked them to pay N15, 000. 00 each for their bail. My client’s brother had told him he didn’t have such amount of money and before I knew it my client was led back into the cell.
I was livid. I went straight to Mama to complain about the IPO’s demand. Though I was raging, I was very diplomatic and respectful as I told her it was insulting to throw my client back into the cell without as much as informing me. Mama smiled and shocked me with her statement. “Barrister what do you mean, won’t my boys eat? You think they wasted their time, stationeries and even phone credit on this case for nothing?”
I couldn’t believe what had hit me. Time was about 8 pm and I feared my client spending another horrible night in the cell. I had to negotiate. I was a lawyer and my job entailed using the power of persuasion to help my client evade whatever punishment or liability they had incurred by their actions. I put on my best charm. Mama had actually said I was respectful, responsible and guess what? A handsome young man. She even told me she liked me and we could do business together (dirty minded fellows stop that grin, it’s not what you think).
I started my job on her (no be that kain work oh!). The young man has been in detention since Friday and could not go for his daily business and thus had no money, I had argued. “You have settled this case fairly as a good mother would do not even as an officer and I really appreciate that, but then that motherly love would be lost if you insist on the impossible which is paying the money you are asking for”, I concluded.
Mama was all smiles like a 15 year old girl on her first date with her first boyfriend. Even another female officer present was impressed with my oral advocacy skills. “Barrister just find the IPO anything you can afford and you guys can go”, she said.
I went back with the surety to the IPO’s office. The surety gave him N5, 000. 00 and the bail bond was prepared and signed. The IPO then told me;
“Barrister, please am sorry for our earlier fight. Forgive me. I am only a sergeant and can’t take any action on my own. I only follow orders given by my superiors. I can’t disobey them because they are the ones to recommend me for promotion. I only detained your client because I called my superiors after he insisted we detain his accusers and they ordered I detain him and release him after he pays N15, 000. 00. If in the course of my duties, I did wrong forgive me”.
I was disarmed by his pleas and I knew there was no way I would go ahead with the petition I planned to write earlier since the IPO would be made a scapegoat of what was a corrupt circus run by the senior officers using the junior officers.
After the execution of the bail bond, the IPO took the surety to the counter where he told the officers on duty to release my client. The counter was another cesspool of corruption, they demanded for money from the surety. That he was told was standard practice. The surety had given them N200. 00 but they had insisted on N1, 000. 00 when I got to the counter. The surety told me what was happening and to my shock the officers with their visible name tags and force numbers were collecting money from other people at the counter.
They eventually collected N500. 00 from him and released the client. We left the Police Station by some minutes after 9 pm. I had given the Police nearly 5 hours of my day and it was not a palatable experience. I saw an “organised extortion scheme” at the station. It was as bad as an officer even asking a suspect who had been released for “even transport money” as she put it. I was ashamed.
Police stations will rival some banks in their daily incomes. My suggestion is that the government should set a price for bail. It has never been free and can never be free (until Naija Police becomes Biafran Police). The price should vary for all classes of offences and the amounts collected as bail should be remitted back to the treasury. If we can’t maximise the police’s crime fighting skills (which are nearly non-existent), we can utilise their extortion scheme for revenue collection.
Finally, for the dirty minded fellows what Mama meant when she said we could do business together? A penny for your thought! Wrong guess, she meant she could refer detainees to me to help them get bail for a percentage of my fees. Many of the officers also took my phone number for the same reason too. So it is not what you think.