Investigative journalist ‘FISAYO SOYOMBO spent two weeks in detention — five days in a Police cell and eight as an inmate in Ikoyi Prison — to track corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, beginning from the moment of arrest by the Police to the point of release from prison. To experience the workings of the system in its raw state, Soyombo — adopting the pseudonym Ojo Olajumoke — feigned an offence for which he was arrested and detained in police custody, arraigned in court and eventually remanded in Prison. In the first of this three-part series, he uncovers how the Police pervert the course of justice in their quest for ill-gotten money.
It cost only N500 for a policeman to arrest me, and N1,000 for another to hurl me into a cell. Of course they didn’t know I was a journalist; I had assumed a pseudonym and grown my hair long enough — for 10 months — to blend with artificial dreads. My locks were tinted in gold and almost all my facial hair removed. I cut the profile of the kind of youth the Police indiscriminately railroad into their notoriously ramshackle vans for no reason, for onward transfer to their cells. One look at me and the typical policeman would have mistaken me for a compulsive hemp smoker, an incorrigible internet fraudster or a serial drug abuser.
The Police in Nigeria have a history of illegitimate arrests and extrajudicial killings. In July, Chinedu Obi, a musician better known as Zinquest, was accosted for spotting tattoos and shot in Sango, Ogun State. Only two months ago, policemen in Lagos shot two unarmed civilians — they died instantly — suspected of phone theft. In April, anti-cultism policemen killed Kolade Johnson, a civilian, at a football viewing centre in the Onipetesi, Mangoro area of Lagos. One bus driver in Ayobo, Lagos, was even shot dead by a policeman in May for refusing to part with his money. In Ifo, Ogun State, in April, a policeman shot a motorcycle rider during an argument over N100 bribe. All five incidents happened within the last six months; all six victims died in the end.