Like a thief in the night, they came in three vehicles and hit the culvert at the beginning of Raffia Street. Dust, sand and pebbles flew in all directions as people froze in shock, petrified at this after dinner-time invasion. Two black Pick-Up trucks were closely tailed by the mobile prison known far and wide as ‘Black Maria’. The vehicles barely came to a halt before anti-riot policemen equipped with guns, batons, torchlight and tear gas hustled down and fanned in all directions.
The football match between Chelsea and Zenit St. Petersburg was about to kick-off in Russia as scheduled. Football fans were casually making their way to the only Viewing Center in the neighbourhood located on Raffia Street. There was a large turn-out occasioned by the usual NEPA induced black-out. The policemen were also on their way to the Viewing Center but not to watch the match.
There was major confusion as people were seized and forcefully dumped into the foul smelling ‘Black Maria’. A blast of Tear-Gas increased the pandemonium as people ran into the darkness to escape the noxious fumes. Most succeeded in running into the waiting arms of the AK-47 totting policemen who assisted them into the gaping jaws of the menacing ‘Black Maria’. Gunshots were fired severally into the air to discourage those who tried to resist capture. The make-shift benches at the ‘Viewing Center’ were broken as all the customers fled.
“Officers, what is the problem, did someone commit a crime?” Reuben the owner of the business asked politely. The answer was a vicious blow from a police baton, Reuben grunted in pain as another blow to his knees sent him crashing to the ground. “Where is Skipper?” the policemen demanded as they kicked and clubbed him like an off the ring mayhem from an episode of The World Wrestling Entertainment. Except there were no cheering crowds, and Reuben’s bruises and dislocated shoulder was real.
He agreed to lead them to Skipper’s house, not because of the excruciating pain in his shoulder, but because of the murderous glint he saw in Sergeant Aliyu’s eyes. He could endure pain, but he was not willing to die for his best friend. The broken benches will be fixed again, the smashed decoder and ripped cables will be replaced, the business will be restored and the customers will return but he desired to be alive to witness that revival.
So he allowed himself to be shoved and prodded towards the mango tree, where more policemen waited with guns, batons and torchlight.
Lucky was not a ferocious guard dog, it just looked dangerous because of its size and loud bark. It loved chasing kids up and down the street but was never known to bite anyone in its two years of existence. Lucky initially thought the police was its friend as it was barking excitedly under the mango tree. The policemen could not tell where it came from, they had been through that compound already, everyone had fled. “Somebody shoot that dog!” Sergeant Aliyu bellowed as he came into view. But when one of the policemen shot in the air to scare the dog away Lucky pounced on him. They could not shoot at the dog now for fear of hitting their comrade. Lucky had bitten the man several times before a nasty blow to the ribs sent it whimpering into the night.
Tom also known as Skipper was a local football hero. In his youthful days he had captained the local football team to many victories in State wide competitions. Nowadays he coached a youth team in the small town. Still a bachelor at 38, he lived alone.
“That is Skipper’s house” Reuben pointed with trepidation, an AK-47 poked him in the back “Next time you will mind your own business, let’s go!” The policemen chorused. Sergeant Aliyu and his team marched Reuben to Skipper’s door and broke in. The living room and bedroom was turned upside down but there was no sign of Skipper.
As Reuben was being led to the ‘Black Maria’, a careless beam from a policeman’s torchlight picked out an unfortunate Skipper perched at the top of the mango tree, his seventeenth ‘hail Mary’ ended at that instant. “Come down my friend!” Two pokes with a bamboo pole sent Tom also known as Skipper crashing down to earth. Boots stomped on him, batons cracked at him, gun butts struck him as he was battered and dragged into the waiting jaws of the dreaded ‘Black Maria’.
The Divisional Police Station had a carnival atmosphere that night as the policemen congratulated each other for a successful raid. The detention cells were packed to capacity as the victims smelled the rust of the iron bars and the stench of the urine, some of them for the first time. They were all charged with assault and battery, disturbing the peace, conspiracy and stealing.
‘Statements’ were obtained, ‘undertakings’ were signed, friends and relatives paid cash the next day to secure the release of the captives. Case closed.
Arit John was fortunate not to have been arrested. She was not a resident of Raffia Street, neither was she a Chelsea fan. Information about the raid only reached her the next morning at the market place as she was buying foodstuff. She immediately hurried home in fear and was not seen outside for several days. It did not matter to the Police, they had exacted their revenge. However, it mattered a lot to Arit John. She was never to be seen hawking smoked fish again. Tired of looking over her shoulder whenever she was outdoors, she began studying feverishly for a ticket out of town to pursue her dreams.