Shadows of Fear: Unraveling the nighttime predicament in Lagos by Emiola Osifeso

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The Nigerian police operations in Lagos, particularly at night, raise significant concerns. Instead of fostering a sense of safety, the mere presence of the police on the roads has plunged Lagosians into a state of fear. During my brief visit to Lagos, I encountered a reality where the police seemed more interested in extortion than ensuring the well-being of the citizens.

What struck me most was their strategic positioning at unexpected and poorly lit corners. At night, they emerge from the shadows, appearing with flashlights to signal cars to stop. I personally experienced a troubling incident along Orchid Road, adjacent to Lekki Conservation Center, where a group of about 13 men in black (police uniform) attempted to stop cars ahead of me. Fortunately, two of the vehicles had police in their convoy, and I managed to escape by quickly turning on my hazard lights. It felt like a narrow escape, considering the isolated location and the potential risk of being a victim.

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Another distressing aspect is the activities of officers in small white buses, known as “korope,” who carry AK47s and conduct unwarranted profiling. These officers, without uniforms, create a tense atmosphere, leaving individuals bewildered about their intentions. The tactics used, such as attempting to enter your car or demanding you step out, are unsettling, especially when you realize these individuals are also police officers.

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The enforcement of guilt, often for trivial offenses, comes at a cost ranging from 100-150k naira. This not only adds financial strain but also prompts citizens to question the fundamental purpose of the police – are they meant for our safety?

Discussing this with Lagos residents revealed a disturbing coping mechanism: a financial calculus involving personal earnings, expenses, and even establishing friendships with these officers, which is far from being voluntary.

The youth, particularly those driving nice cars, appear to be targeted disproportionately, further emphasizing the arbitrary nature of these encounters. The normalization of such experiences reflects a systemic issue where citizens reluctantly accept abuse as the norm, given the lack of intervention from leaders.

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As we grapple with this unsettling reality, the question arises – will Nigerians collectively raise their voices against these abuses? It is my hope that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police takes urgent action to ensure that the police truly serve the safety of the people, not becoming perpetrators of extortion, brutality, and intimidation. It’s time for a change, a collective stand against the normalization of such behavior, and a demand for genuine safety and protection for all Lagosians.

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