Nigerian Police and the "Settle" Culture

Time: 3.00pm
Date:5 /09/2011
Destination:  Port Harcourt International Airport 
Purpose: Catch a Flight back to Lagos. 




Now hear my story if you will. I had estimated that the time from my house to the Airport takes 20 to 30minutes tops simply because I have done it many times before, so I reckon I can get to the airport well before check in closes If I leave my house by 3pm for a 4:10pm flight. How wrong was I to make these calculations on this particular day forgetting I leave in Nigeria where anything is possible. 


Under normal circumstances nothing was wrong with my calculations because I have used this time frames before,however not with encountering the Nigerian police along the way,but with encountering the police every thing that's right can be made wrong and every thing that is wrong can be made right but in a bad way.


I got a taxi cab to take me to the airport and less then 10 minutes into the journey  we hit a police check point, the police man(with no name tag on his uniform) other wise I would have mentioned his name here, asked the driver for his vehicle papers and licence. The cab driver gave it to him without any hesitation and trust the Nigerian police with an eagle eye for errors on vehicle papers.He spotted in split second that the vehicle licence of the taxi expired 5days ago.  one wonders if they under go some kind of special training at the police college in spotting errors but only on vehicle papers  ?                                


As with the Nigerian road side police, he took the papers and walked away from the vehicle so that the driver comes out of the vehicle to speak with him out of my hearing. After waiting 5mins I asked the driver what he was saying and as true to their calling, he was demanding one thousand and five hundred naira form the driver to let him off his hook. 


I was not surprised at all, but sitting there in the front of the taxi   " I thought this police man is  wasting my time on purpose simply to extort one thousand five hundred Naira form a cab driver through me .They could see I was heading to the Airport cause I had my travelling bag on the car back seat. The driver  on his own part is claiming its an innocent mistake, as he had thought his papers will  expire at the end of September and not August, to make matters worse he cant  even pay what the police man is asking to lets him off. 


So while the cabby was a lousy person not checking precise date of expiration of his paper, (knowing very well he uses this car for commercial purposes daily - I find   his story hard to believe) .On the other hand,the police man didn't care if the driver's story was true or not, for him he was simply going to make money out of this situation either from the driver or his passenger,whom  by the way was trying hard not to show he was in a hurry so the police wont take advantage of this and ask for even more money,but I guess they can see through my pretense already. 


I would have stopped another cab to take me to the airport, but unfortunately the cab got stopped on an isolated stretch of the road leading to PH airport, where its almost impossible to get another taxi car except by a stroke of luck. After waiting twenty minutes and counting, because I didn't want to be part of the whole affair by talking to  the crooked police man even though am almost late for my flight. I then decided the cab driver should bill me directly for what ever extra cost  is added on this journey. The last thing I would want to do is plead or  even try reasoning with a Nigerian police man especially in a situation where he wants to take full advantage of that situation. For me if I can avoid confronting an obvious crooked policeman, I will take that option. I try to be patriotic as much as is possible and will be bold enough to challenge a police man under the right conditions, but i wont confront a crooked police man with an AK47 on an isolated road,its that simple.


In a few mins after I told the driver I will cover any extra cost for this trip, he obviously did what the police man wanted,as we say in Nigeria "settle" and we were off again after over 20 minutes wasted. 


As sad,annoying and irritating as the whole experience was, I just moved on trying not to let it bother me,I got to the airport just in time to see the check in counter being closed. I had missed my flight by a fraction of a second,  no thanks to a forgetful taxi driver and a crooked policeman on the highway. 


In between these two people they both cost me almost twice the usual cab fare, a no show penalty charge from the airline so I can take the next flight,and in addition to these  monetary cost , I also had to spend an extra 3hrs at the airport waiting for the next flight.  


Well what can I say,  will  the Nigerian Police ever be able to get ride of the "settle" culture 


Yes, Maybe, Never ?........... I just really hope I don't find my self in odd situations like this again


Read other real experiences and analysis of the Nigerian police  at,


http://suleimansblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/real-encounters-with-nigerian-police.html 


http://questionmarkmag.com/2010/08/nigeria-police-friend-or-foe/

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