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You know those nightmares you wake up from so relieved it was a dream? This was the prayer on my lips all the time I went through the ordeal I’m about to narrate to you.

I have described how I kidnapped a police officer before. Well this time it appears nemesis caught up with me and I was made to serve punishment for my “crimes” against law enforcement.

Every street and alley in my city has a gate manned by private security. Before my street joined the elite neighbourhoods, before we had a gate, the husband of a politician was kidnapped on my street. Adesuwa was my neighbour and had just won her seat on the House of Reps. The men of the underworld came for her, waited outside her gate and when they grew impatient, they decided to nab her innocent husband as he arrived from work instead.

Being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I escorted her to report the case to the police. At the station while we were waiting to be attended to, the time came for school run and Adesuwa had to leave. I was left to handle the paperwork and make a formal missing person’s report.

“Oga welcome o. You be real better person.” The gap toothed front desk police man grinned at his file as I stood humbly before him. “So you come report kidnap, abi?” I answered in the affirmative and he told me to go wait for the officer in charge of taking statements, who had gone out for lunch.

When he came back I was shown into his office to give the statement. Officer Buluks (I heard his full name later but I forget) sat comfortably behind his desk, large as life and twice as natural, with a big yellow folder in his hand marked “KIDNAPPERS” in red ink. He asked me details of the time of kidnap and number of kidnappers, and how the operation went down and the car that was used.

The questions took a funny twist and all of a sudden I gradually realised I was the subject of an impromptu interrogation. I felt uneasy and shifted in my seat while I tried to answer personal questions like how many children I had and what I did for a living. It was as if Officer Buluks was sizing me up. At a point I almost asked for a lawyer but my head was empty as to which of the many Twitter lawyers I knew to call.

The final blow was when he opened the file and I saw my page in it with the title “Suspect” written at the top. I jumped out of my chair and said “Officer what’s that?! Am I one of the suspects now? How?!”

Officer Buluks looked up at me, feigning surprise. Well, he looked genuinely surprised but I would never believe someone would take ME for a kidnapper. Me of all people, the gentleman of Ugborikoko. Buluks told me the front desk officer had passed the file on to him and he had no idea why I was listed as the main suspect. I told him I had carried my two legs to the station to file a missing person’s report, not to turn myself in as a kidnapper!

The worst part was that the front desk officer had closed his shift and the person he had handed over to had not been briefed on my “case”. So I was informed I would have to sleep overnight behind the counter until the next morning when the whole confusion could be cleared up.

I was livid. It was a Sunday and I was meant to go to the oil field the next day. Not only was I being robbed of my short valuable time with the family, I would be unable to report at the chopper for 8 am the next morning! This was a job my company had been paid for and I was the only one who could run the job.

I called my supervisor at work and told him everything. I was thankful he was Nigerian so he understood. If he were white there was no way I would have escaped a poor appraisal that year for “getting mixed up with the local law enforcement authorities”. My boss sent our police escorts and vans to the station and they did all the talking they could but the verdict was the same. The files could not be disposed of (except by “arrangement” of course) and my office was not allowed to “sort” police according to our corporate code of conduct.

I was helpless, frustrated, bitter and angry. That night the smells and sounds from the prison cells made me rethink my entire life of comfort. Here I was, ranting online about the failure of the Nigerian govt when there were people behind bars, some of them innocent, who had not been charged to court for so long. They tried to curry my favour, thinking I was a “big man” based on all the traffic my arrest had generated at the station.

Remember me when you come into your kingdom sir“. I remembered the dying thief on the cross with Jesus as he pleaded for mercy. I remembered Joseph in prison as he asked his friends to put in a good word towards his parole. Would I also forget these men in prison when I came out the next day? Would I come out the next day?

Morning found me red-eyed and sleep deprived, curled up on the small wooden bench behind the counter. The front desk officer from the previous day arrived and I was too weak to even shout at him for using my personal details to build a profile of me as a kidnapper. My office security dept showed up again and when he saw them he knew he had bought bad market. Talk of calling the commissioner of police to report anti commercial activities and harassment of peaceful, law-abiding citizens changed the tune of the front desk officer, who must have been afraid of disciplinary action.

It wasn’t that his boss and all the other officers weren’t in on this. This was their stock in trade. This was their industry. Arrest innocent big fish in society, process them in their records and insist on money for bail, including clearance for overnight parking for any cars in the compound that were not police property.

I left the station for my home at 12 noon, wondering just how long I could endure my run-ins with the Nigerian police force, sworn to serve and protect Nigerian citizens with integrity, before I lashed out in anger one day.

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Loosely based on a true story.