Memoirs of a Bolt guy: The SARS way

By Victor Kwame Sampong

My client was speaking aloud to himself as he got into my car, even though he did not realise that he was in my ride already.

The truth is that I was enjoying it before he realised himself.

“Nigeria is a very funny place to be in,” said Jacob.

“Bros, you see for this life ehn, I no go ever let my pikin or grandchildren become police. Those people (police) too wicked and heartless,” he continued.

“Wetin even carry me comot again this night sef? I for just dey house dey chill with my babe o’.

That’s how the book of lamentations was opened from chapter to chapter for a few more minutes. When he realized that he had gotten into my car without telling me where we were headed or why, he began to apologize. My client was lost in his world. One horrible experience with the police had left him talking to himself like he was mentally unstable.

He asked that we locate the nearest Point Of Sales (POS) spot for a quick withdrawal of Fifty Thousand Naira (N50,000). It was almost midnight. I was at Elikpokwodu dropping off a client when his order came in. I was hesitant at first, but I clicked to accept anyway. He told me he was at the SARS Office. I was a bit sceptical, so he gave the phone to one of the officers who confirmed.

As usual, I got there, picked a vantage point, and told him to walk out onto the road. After a quick observation, I drove to where he was standing and he jumped in.

Our first stop was at Fojeh Bar, along the Airport Road, but we couldn’t see any POS attendant. I then suggested that we head to any of the Restopark Filling Stations, but we would need to use an ATM card for the withdrawal. He didn’t have any on him, so I brought out mine and reeled out my GTB account details. He made a transfer of N50,000 which was confirmed by his OPAY app. But we waited for confirmation from my own end, yet got none.

It was at the point of waiting that I decided to ask him wetin him dey find for inside SARS Office at that ungodly hour.

Jacob and his friends are youth corps members from Illorin, Kwara State, posted to Port Harcourt for their mandatory one-year national service. That evening, his friends came to pull him out of the house for a quick birthday party somewhere.

While on the journey, they encountered some policemen conducting stop and search along the East-West Road heading to Choba. He and Adams alighted from the keke bus they were both in, leaving a third person inside. They wanted to play a quick one on the cops, by walking past the checkpoint.

But Jacob said and insisted that one of the passengers, a man, alerted the policemen when the vehicle got to the checkpoint. That’s how they were caught and dragged to the van, searched thoroughly and wraps of ‘Loud’ were found hidden in their private parts. What happened to both of them right there?… Your guess is as good as mine.

They were bundled into the van while scouting for more ‘customers’ continued for a few more hours.

In no time, they found themselves in the hallowed and dreaded chambers of SARS. He said they were delayed till that time, phones taken from them, and kept under inhumane conditions (usually, to instil fear in them so as to carry out their bidding in the end).

After much bargaining and negotiations, N50,000 was the agreed sum to effect their release.

We checked again, the money hadn’t been reflected. Na so we stand for Habitat Exclusive Lounge, Rumuodomanya, for about an hour plus, yet, money no gree show. Because of this transaction, I was now stuck with Jacob. I suggested we go back to inform the policemen about our predicament, make them no think sey him don run leave him friend. After much persuasion, he agreed we return back empty handed.

True to our fears, the cops had taken his friend to an even worse place, chained him upside down, and manhandled him because his friend had allegedly abandoned him.

As soon as we showed up, na so dem rush this guy o. Asked him to strip down. Afraid follow catch me sef. I had to quickly introduce myself and explain the situation to them. All that fell on deaf ears, as they were about to drag him naked back into the cell. I pleaded with them to hold on a bit let’s try something else.

I had N30,000 in one of my online accounts. I quickly sent the money to his Polaris account, where he had only N5,000 left. He frantically made calls to friends for an extra N15,000.

N10,500 came through in a matter of minutes. We pleaded with the policemen to let us be on our way to cash out the money, and we’ll get the rest before we get back. They were divided amongst themselves, as some thought Jacob would really run for good this time. The other sets of officers issued more threats on what they’d do to his colleague if he didn’t return on time.

Na so we rush go Restopark for Rumuodara by 2 a.m., made a transfer to their Moniepoint Account, got N46,000 in total. We waited for extra funds to come through, but none of his guy’s did. We drove back to the station, hoping to convince them to accept the reduced sum. But that seemed to infuriate them some more. Before them go start to beat am again, I quickly reach into my pockets and complete the money.

We spent another 20 minutes getting their personal effects as the other guy was returned to us. That one looked almost gone already. We got into the car and I drove them home to Nkpolu-Rumuigbo. The hellish treatment Adams got from the officers will make up another episode.

They both wondered why they were treated that way. According to them, the policemen intercepted a taxi will with bags of marijuana inside the boot and the back seat, but the driver paid N100,000 and the man was made to continue his journey without hindrance. They were found with just a few wraps of it and were hounded and treated like criminals.

Well, I hope they learnt their lessons, albeit, the hard way!

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