Before I begin, cues Olamide's Who you epp single, I'd be remiss to not begin this article with this song, honestly
Let me tell you a story.
It's not about that time when while I and my family and neighbours were being robbed and one of us managed to sneak out and make a call to the police who arrived, fully geared up from head to toe and displaying bravado forty minutes after the criminals had left, not minding that the nearest police station was ten minutes walking distance from my house and basically half that by car.
This story is not about the time a policeman pointed his gun at my bloody body covered by once decently threaded clothing ripped apart by robbers as he demanded me to identify myself despite onlookers explaining that I was the victim.
It is not a story of how afterwards the police, operating like a group of mercenaries for hire failed to recover the stolen valuables even after receiving generous sums of cash after taking down our statements, and subsequently after every appointed date we were to be at the police station to receive updates on the investigation and know if we had a chance of recovering what had been taken from us.
It is not the story of the police forcing bribes out of commercial 'danfo' bus drivers and inadvertently creating traffic jams on the roads, chasing down buses who evade extortion with sticks and in some instances live rounds of ammunition. It is not about the police at the foot of a bridge with their APC parked while they let thieves smash windows and rip out side mirrors from cars on the bridge in brazen manner less than three hundred meters away from the intentionally blind eye of the law. It is not the story of police officers running side by side with me to safety as motor park touts threw projectiles made of cudgels and broken bottles.
Somewhere inside Lagos where the commutes are longer and the rent cheaper, just in between major bus stops everyone seems to know or have heard of, somewhere between Ejigbo and Ikotun, the Agodo-Egbe community lies, sandwiched between places most Lagosians can recall having an extended family member living there.
The weirdest thing happened when house hunting in this area. In extolling the benefits of living in this area, like the fact that people who lived here had longer commutes than mine, work commutes that stretched all the way to Ajah in one instance, the 'real estate' agent then went on to add gladly that there was no police presence in the area.
The Nigerian police has had its image battered to a point where people consider the presence of a police outpost a most unwelcome inconvenience. The agent went on to explain how at the bus stop the NURTW(National Union of Road Transport Workers) employees/touts only collected their membership fees and not extra that went into the hands of the police. In short, I was brought to a conclusion that was as obvious as it would have been improbable if I wasn't Nigerian.
The Nigerian Police aids crime.
Pretty damning statement, and while it exists under blanket statements that need to be checked or given context, I found the agent's claims to be sensible to a large extent. A police force that is more concerned with exacting fifty and hundred naira levies from each bus driver that goes through thoroughfare which they should be providing security for are less likely to be troubled over the plight of you, an individual, riding in his air conditioned car whose mirrors just got yanked off. In fact, your new found predicament allows them to pull you over and hound you for not having side mirrors or indicator lights (yes, you'd loose that driving through notorious areas of Lagos early in the morning or late at night) until you 'settle' them in a bid to avoid going to the police station with them where your 'bill' might go even higher. So, by that logic why arrest a petty thief who has a couple side mirrors, phones or car lights in his possession when you can allow the crime happen, then get 'incentivised' to help recover stolen property or shake down innocent commuters who would gladly pay than to be inconvenienced by the law, rightfully or not? Sounds like a stretch doesn't it? Then why the non chalance? I once had my phone stolen on a pedestrian bridge that had both police and KAI officials at the foot of said pedestrian bridge. While my histrionics drew passersby and sympathizers the law remained aloof and distant.
So if police depend on criminals to make their hustle lucrative, either employing them to collect their levies in places where they are indisposed to collecting them directly or as the other arm of societal elements that fleece innocent citizens of resources under the guise of 'enabling investigations' like I was subjected to after my robbery experiences, was the Agodo-Egbe community right in their denying the police an opportunity to set up a police station within her walls? In Testament to this attempt by the govt and the subsequent victory of the community is a police station abandoned mid construction sitting atop a non-descript piece of land.
The absence of a police station does not however relieve the area of miscreants and criminals. The community seems to agree though, local vigilante groups hold sway once pitch blackness settles in, hardly noticeable unless you're looking for them, you will however not miss their tell tale rapping on gates once it's midnight. Whether they are a substitute worthy enough to replace a police that we have seen display feats of excellence with as much frequency as Haley's comet is another question entirely
I want to think this is new but considering how during the great crime wave that swept parts of Lagos (Oshodi and Sogunle specifically) in 2007 that had people create huge bonfires in the middle of the night and build gates at the entrance of every street within the neighbourhood, we seem to have given up on the police and their capacity to provide security a long time ago.