These days, there are so many people in uniforms on our roads that it’s almost puzzling where they’re coming out from and why they’re there. I’m speaking of Abuja only (let’s not talk about Lagos…the number is downright scary!)
We’ve got the traffic wardens, the regular police, the mobile police, the road safety corps, the vehicle inspection personnel, the army, the civil defence, the local government collectors, the motorpark union staff, environmental sanitation officers and those uniformly ununiformed, the agberos (or touts).
They fill our streets, roads and highways, some doing what is right, and most of them, not. The majority of them are unnecessary and shouldn’t be on the roads. I don’t know why we have the mobile police, army, civil defence corps, on the roads, checking vehicle documents. What’s the job of the Road Safety Corps and the VIO?
And some of these officers are so illiterate, unable to read the words on the documents they so sharply and often, rudely demand for. On one occasion, a police officer stopped the car I’d boarded and asked for the car’s documents. The driver opened his glove compartment and handed said papers to him. He collected and HELD THEM UPSIDE DOWN, perused them with such gravity and then demanded for the vehicle’s licence.
“Officer, e dey your hand,” the driver replied, pointing to the sheaf of papers.
“Where?” The policeman barked, going through the still-held-upside-down documents. The driver, trying to avoid any trouble, quietly got down, reached out, turned the papers right side up, pulled out the licence and gave it to the officer. I was hardpressed not to burst out in laughter. Of course, seeing his mistake, the corporal blustered and huffed and puffed and returned the papers, with an “Oya oga, find sometin for dee boys nah!”
It is amusing to drive by a typical Abuja road and see cars parked by the side, the place swarming with the drivers of those vehicles and men in uniforms. And most often than not, the drivers are making calls and handing over the phones to the officers of the law, who in turn talk for a short while, hand over the phone and vehicle documents, wave off the offenders, and get a little token if they’ve been nice. Yes, in such cases, the Law Of I Sabi Person or I Ma Mmadu is in operation. You wanna arrest me? Oh no, I sabi somborri. Let me make a quick call. You wanna fine me? Oh no, you can’t! Don’t you know that my sister’s husband’s housegirl’s cousin’s hanf-brother’s managing director’s wife is the Comptroller General of Customs? Hold on, let me call him.
The man or woman in uniform, then leaves off doing his job, succumbs to title-calling, collects a bribe, and business goes on as usual. This would not be the case if he had a proper orientation and reason for being there.
And then there are those ones who threaten the people they’re supposed to be serving with retaining their property, grievious bodily harm or death! Why do they do that???
On a road check one day, a soldier asked us to get down from the vehicle and open up all our bags. It was obvious that the driver had refused to “settle” him. When it got to my turn, he took out the John Grisham that lay just on top of my open box and asked me to zip up the bag and stow it in the boot again. Then he ordered us to get in and told the driver to move his vehicle. Huh?
“Excuse me, but what about my book?”
“I’m keeping it. I want to read it,” he said, smirking.
I told him in a very frosty tone that that was never going to happen. After arguing back an forth, him yelling and me forcefully demanding for my property, I suddenly snatched my book from his hand, tightly clutched it to my chest and hurriedly made my way to the waiting bus, and my co-passengers who were sympathetic, but unwilling to intervene. Do you know what he shouted at me as I walked away? That he would be looking out for me on that road and if he ever saw me again, he would shoot me. Story! I just gave him a yimu.
Then there was the policeman who asked for the receipt for my laptop. Seriously, who goes to work with a laptop and carries the receipt along? A Nigerian laptop owner, it seems. When I told him I didn’t have it on me, he ordered me to hand it over; that he would hold on to it while I go home and return with the receipt. A policeman at a checkpoint? Do I look like a mugu?
And that threat brings me to another one, made last Thursday to a bank staff. A soldier (probably on the lowest rank….their high-ranking officers always behave with dignity.) wanted to make a bank draft. The teller explained that the procedure would take a while as he was doing something else for another client and asked him to wait.
To my shock, the soldier angrily replied, “Do you know I can STAB YOU? If you no attend to me now, I wee wound you!”
Thankfully, the teller merely gave him a cold, dismissive look and went back to his work.
I shudder to think of what would’ve happened if that teller was alone with that soldier in an office.
I’m still shaking my head at those uniforms attached to politicians, government officials and some self-appointed VIPs who go around town blaring sirens and batting away other road users like pesky flies on a meat display. Na God go judge una.
Which brings me to the question: what kind of academy do these people attend? What values are they taught there? To protect or to harm? To fight for or to exploit?
Is any psychiatric evaluation carried out on these men? Because believe me, some of them are just plain nuts!
And I think there should be a morality test of some kind (yeah, I know, it’s sounds idealistic and utopian), but I seriously wish there was one. Many of them are amoral to the point of witchcraft!
I also think it’s time the educational qualifications for admitting anyone into these organisations were set higher. Many of them are badly in need of an education. Any attempt to speak good grammar is viewed as an imtimidation technique because he can’t speak as well, and a policeman with a battered inferiority complex, is a danger to any road user.
As for the agberos, that’s a story for another day.
Having said that, I urge all drivers, both commercial and private, to make sure all their documents are complete. Stop dodging the law enforcement agents and putting your cars through unnecessary stress because you’re driving with an expired license.
Have a functional fire extinguisher and KNOW HOW TO USE IT! It’s for your own good.
Seatbelts are lifesavers. Use them.
Spare tires are essential; always have a good one in the trunk.
Observe all speed limits.
This one is especially for Abuja driver: Mbok, stop turning two-lane roads to six lanes, thus leaving pedestrians with no place to walk. The curbs are NOT for cars!
I’m done for today!