An Interview with Dotun Adio
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Q: Have you had any bad experience with the Nigerian police or SARS? If yes, what happened?
Dotun: Yes. Like many other Nigerians I have had an incident with the Nigerian Police Force.
Several years ago, I was walking from my house, down on Admiralty Way, to where I was taking G.Math lessons at the time. I saw a bunch of police officers in a Hilux— one of those their vans that has the trunk of the truck open so that several of them can sit outside. They were driving towards oncoming traffic, which means that they were driving on the wrong side of the road.
So, I pulled out my phone and I started recording them. I’m just like, ‘what type of rubbish is this?’ and I was just going to tweet about it. Anyway, one of them saw me and had the driver stop the Hilux and he jumped out of the truck and charged towards me, holding his gun. Luckily for me, his gun wasn’t cocked but nonetheless, he ran at me with an AK-47 and started shouting at me. He was like, “What were you recording? What were you recording?” and I was just like “I wasn’t recording anything. I wasn’t even recording you,” then he was like “Yes, you were. Let me see your phone.” I was just like, “No. There’s nothing on my phone here for you to see.”
He now said that if I don’t show him his phone that, “He can make me disappear and nobody will even know.” So, I’m just like “What are you talking about?”
Now, I was about 22 or 23 around this time so my outlook on life and death was very different from what it is now. I had the ‘audacity’ to challenge him and be like, “Guy, what are you saying? Make who disappear? What do you mean by that?” not really knowing that police brutality was a thing in Nigeria. So, I was arguing with him.
Anyways, luckily for me, because maybe he would have very well bundled me up and thrown me in the back of the truck with 3 or 4 other police officers who were all male, two passers-by who were driving by stopped their car and were asking what’s going on. It was a man and a woman. The man was talking to the police officers, telling them to just leave me alone and calm down. The woman was like, “Whatever is on your phone, just delete it now.” I was just like, “Why should I? It’s not illegal to record them,” she was like, “This is not about whether it is illegal or not. It’s just about whether you want to leave here with all your limbs intact and alive.” I thought she was being a bit extra but because she was so nice I agreed to delete it. That was how I left. The man and woman saw me off and waited with me to make sure the police officers went their way and were out of sight.
Q: Have you had any good experience with the Nigerian police or SARS? If yes, what happened?
Dotun: Ironically, I have had good moments with the police. There are some police near my house and every evening they are there, seemingly doing their job, and they are actually very nice and polite. They don’t shake me down. I just find it so ironic that I can have such polar experiences with the Nigerian Police. For me, it just really says that there are some good people and there are some bad people but the bad actions will always overshadow the good ones. It also makes me wonder what the good police officers are doing about their colleagues/contemporaries because I know that they are not ignorant to some of the things that SARS officials do.
Q: What do you suggest must be done to ensure the good experiences outweigh the bad experiences?
Dotun: For me, what I would really like to see is reform coming from within the Nigerian Police, where you have the good ones taking a public stand against the bad things that they know are happening or have happened.
Also, nobody is immune from being affected by police brutality. It can happen to you, it has happened to me, it can happen to anybody. It’s not about who you are or who you know because things happen in the moment. Even police officers, right, you are not with your families all the time. If you’re not with your families all the time, one of your own children can be walking on the street, going out or just living their life and they can run into a SARS official or just anybody that will stop them, question them and treat them badly. Maybe even kill them. Nobody is going to be listening to “My father is a police officer, my father is xyz or my mother is so and so.” They don’t care. Every Nigerian is affected by how well or how badly the police behave and quite frankly, the police haven’t been doing well.
The police are supposed to protect us. We, Nigerians, are not the ones supposed to be protecting ourselves. That’s actually the point of the whole Nigerian Police Force but it seems you have all forgotten why you took those jobs or the point of having them. It’s more than disappointing. It’s saddening and as you can see there has been a lot of destruction caused by your actions and some of your inactions.
See also: An Experience with SARS- Deshiy