So yesterday afternoon, I found myself at the police station. Yup, you read that right and I say I found myself there because when I woke up in the morning, all I had planned to do was take a simple trip to the bank to obtain my BVN -Bank Verification Number. Apparently, the Central Bank of Nigeria gave an order that everyone with a bank account ought to get the BVN. Now I don’t know what what would have happened if i didn’t come home for the summer, but I guess my account would have been suspended. Anyway, that’s not the reason why I was at the police station. After going to the bank and seeing the unending line of people squished into a 100 sg. ft room all trying to get the BVN, so I decided to try another branch closer to my house.
I got into the cab, sat in the passenger seat and strapped on my seat belt as the car began to move. We drove for about 0.8 miles, when I sighted 2 yellow fevers standing on the median that separates the bus stop from the main road. For those who don’t know, yellow fevers in Nigeria are not diseases (depends on who you ask though.) They are a group of traffic law enforcement officers who control traffic even when there’s a traffic light. I saw them in the corner of my eye, but I kind of disregarded them as something else caught my attention. In that split second, they had spotted us from afar and marked their target. The moment the car approached them, up came the finger directing us to park at the side of the road. As a Nigerian, I was aware of what was happening, but I think I was a bit disillusioned.
There’s no way they could be doing what I thought they were……wait! Are they actually about to???
I don’t remember much of the conversation because I was too busy deciding if I wanted to take a picture of these men and put them on my blog with a caption that would do justice to their crime. All I remember however is that they asked the cab driver for his papers aka license and then they asked for the vehicle papers. The next thing I know, I was asked to move from the passenger seat to the back seat. He felt as though he had a case on his hands and sitting in the passengers seat was his way of telling the cab driver he was in trouble. Apparently, the driver had an expired license that he hadn’t been renewed. Just before you think the yellow fever was justified let me explain the problem. The license office for reasons best known to them have claimed that they don’t have enough materials to print more ID’s. SO, when you go in, they do a screen capture and then tell you to come back in a few months to check and see if your card is ready. Crazy system, but that’s truly what happens. The yellow fever being very aware of this then proceeds to say well, umm, you should have asked them to stamp your old one for you so that way we know you’ve been there.
At this point, he instructs that the car be driven into the impound lot at the police station and states that the release fee is 30, 000 Naira. To some people that’s chicken change, but to a man who is struggling to feed his family that is a heavy burden. The driver pleads with me to give him few minutes while he sorts things out. I am irritated, but have to remind myself to calm down and at least let my people at home know where I was and what was happening. After about 20 minutes, he appears and asks if i had about 2, 000 Naira. He had managed to haggle with this yellow fever and they had agreed that 2, 000 would be enough money for him to buy his daily round of Ogogoro (local alcohol) which he would consume WHILE ON DUTY!!!!!! My brain could not take it, but I knew that if i didn’t give the money, the cab guy would be there for a longer period of time. So while my brain was on fire, my hand reached into my wallet and retrieved its contents. I felt dirty and low and ashamed. I had just paid a bribe which was criminal and it was for a man to buy alcohol in the middle of the day? Had i fully completed my initiation into Lagos society?