…injured policemen in line of duty feel used and dumped
Blind, forgotten, rejected, helpless and hopeless
There are several policemen who have become maimed or injured in the course of their duties. These men laid down their lives to secure others. They sustained injuries and are now abandoned to their fate. JULIANA FRANCIS reports on the challenges of these broken heroes
Patrol Commander, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), John Joshua, lives at Highway Police Barracks, Ikeja, Lagos State, with his children. This is the home he had known for years, but with the way situations are turning against him, he may soon lose it.
Now, Joshua is retired, but he was a serving policeman before the world went dark. According to police regulation, a retired policeman can only be allowed to live in the barracks for three months before being bundled out. Joshua lives on the last floor of one of the detached two-storey buildings in the police quarters.
When the New Telegraph crew arrived, the door was opened by one of his children, who stared coldly at the crew. The children by now must be tired of journalists paying visits to their dad without anything coming out of it. Joshua was in the inner room and the crew was asked to sit and wait for him. A few minutes later, Joshua’s lean frame walked gingerly out of the room.
He stared vacantly into space and groped for the walls and headrest of the sofas to guide his movements. He carefully manoeuvred his way towards his favourite sofa. He was unaware that one of the New Telegraph crew members was on the couch, and if not for the quick shift of the journalist, Joshua would have sat on her. He sat down gratefully and tried to peer at no one in particular. He had already been told journalists were waiting to speak with him.
Joshua heaved a tired sigh: “I’m so sorry. I can’t see anything. I’m blind. I see only shadows.” Before December 31, 2016, Joshua was attached to Ajao Estate Police Station, Lagos State.
He was a vibrant and gallant officer. He had, on several occasions, led his men to confront daring situations, but today, he is nothing but a mere shadow of his former self. He can’t walk down the staircase without being guided by one of his children.
As Joshua began to narrate the story of how he gallantly tried to battle angry factory workers, leading to his being doused with chemical, which caused his blindness, his children sat on different arms of the sofas, listening as he told the story for, perhaps, the hundredth times.
There was despair and resignation on their faces. They have walked this path several times in the past. In the midst of all the narration and pains, is the realization that Joshua, who had always been there for his children, being their bulwark, has today become an invalid and a liability. Joshua was seething in anger; he was like a volcano that has been waiting to explode.
All the buried anger of being pushed around like a bag of unwanted rotten tomatoes by those he believed in and looked up to, came rolling out. He was further furious that those he saw as brothers and sisters, the Police Force, had forgotten and abandoned him. Joshua, a widower, said that his three children depended on him.
When he got injured in the line of duty, his children dropped out of school. Joshua lost his sights while attempting to prevent over 500 angry workers of Chi Nigeria Limited from looting the company’s warehouse.
The drama occurred on December 31, 2016. Today, he needs N2.5 million for a corrective eye surgery, but he couldn’t raise the money. “I was on duty at Ajao Estate, about 4a.m. I received a distress call from Chi Nigeria Limited, located at 14, Chi Avenue, Ajao Estate, Lagos, that some hooligans were looting goods from the warehouse.
I tried to call my Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mrs. Olubunmi Adekola, but her call came first. She asked if I had received message from Chi Company. The company had our phone numbers. “She said I should move in with my men to the scene.
As we were moving, I received a radio message. It was from the Control Room. I was ordered to go there. We were almost at the entrance, when we decided to take the back entrance. “As we moved to the back entrance, I asked our driver to flash his torch.
Behold, we saw many of the hooligans carrying assorted cartons on their heads, trying to exit from the back entrance. They were about 3,000 to 5,000. They were all struggling to come out with cartons on their heads. “We came down from our vehicle. I ordered my men to take position and cover the exit route. I went through the main entrance. The hooligans started hurling objects at us. I believed that they prepared those objects, just waiting for that moment.
“There was no doubt in my mind that they were expecting police. Unknown to me and my team, the hooligans had already prepared chemical weapons such as caustic alkali. They hurled one of them at me and it exploded on my head. The chemical solution got into my eyes and I couldn’t see anything,” Joshua recalled.
The retired officer added that when the chemical doused his face, he felt a sharp pain. He tried to turn and run, but fell down. “I heard the hooligans saying, one of the policemen had fallen, let’s collect his gun. I heard their footsteps coming towards me; I corked my gun and released shots. They all ran away from me. I struggled and got up; I staggered out of the company,” Joshua said.
After releasing shots, the footsteps, which were hurrying towards him, quickly receded. He got up, held tight to his rifle. He knew the law of the Force; no matter the situation, an officer must never lose his rifle.
Joshua ensured he staggered away from the direction of the footsteps. Suddenly, a hand reached out and grabbed him. He tensed in fear and was wound tight like a coiled snake about to strike.
He relaxed when he heard the familiar voices of his men. He was bundled into a van and taken to a private hospital. Joshua recalled: “The doctor at the hospital said that the gravity of the damage done to my eyes was too high. He said they wouldn’t be able to manage it if something was not done fast.
He said my two eyes might get damaged. I started crying when I heard him. The doctor insisted I should be moved to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja (LASUTH).” Joshua was moved.
While doctors were attending to him, his DPO and the Chi Limited Company came to see him. One of those from the company introduced himself as a retired General. “The General said that he led the team to sympathise with me. He said that Chi Limited as a company was behind me. The General promised that the company would fly me overseas. He said that the company just needed to give me the initial treatment in Nigeria,” recounted Joshua.
After seven days in the hospital, Joshua was given the heartbreaking news by health workers that his two eyes were blocked.
The hospital said it couldn’t continue to attend to him. He said: “I started crying again. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. The health workers said I should call my DPO because they wanted to discharge me. When she came, she came with the same Chi Limited company people.
The company people claimed that if not for the bottleneck of the company’s arrangement, by now I would have been flown overseas. They said I shouldn’t bother that the Managing Director (MD) of the company had directed I should be moved to a private hospital at GRA, Ikeja. The hospital is called Eye Foundation, located at Isaac John Street. They said I should be receiving treatment there until travelling arrangements were completed.
At Eye Foundation, I was asked to pay for acceptance, consultation and other fees.” Joshua noted that earlier, while at the General Hospital, Chi Company had deposited N150,000 with the hospital. The money, was, however, returned after doctors said they couldn’t continue with his treatment.
It was from that money that all the requirements of Eye Foundation were paid. Joshua thought that after meeting the requirements, he would be given a bed. He was mistaken. He was told that each night, he would pay N25,000. Joshua said that he couldn’t afford such an amount of money. He decided to be coming to Eye Foundation from home.
That was how his children started bringing him from home to the hospital every day. He said: “After a week, I didn’t hear from Chi Limited. Meanwhile, the hospital was collecting N5,000 every two weeks for consultation from me. I started owing debt.” A month after the Eye Foundation treatment started, and with continual silence from the police and Chi Company growing louder, Joshua, once again, sent his children to his DPO. He needed to know what was going on.
The DPO came and explained that it had been discovered that Eye Foundation could tackle his sight challenge, thus no need to fly him overseas. She further explained that it was because of this new discovery that Chi Company didn’t bother making any travel arrangements.
Joshua was told to relax. “I asked her who would take care of the present mounting medical expenses. She said that I should be keeping details of all my expenses. She said the company couldn’t be paying money bit by bit. That was how they deceived me,” said Joshua.
The blind warrior said that between January and February, he spent N193,000. He asked his children to take details of the expenses to his DPO. She took the expenses to the company, but the company gave only N90,000. He stated: “After that, I started spending another round of money; borrowing heavily.
I sent messages to my village and people borrowed money from cooperative societies for me. I didn’t hear anything from the police or Chi Limited. By April, I asked my children to take me to the office of the then Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni. But before then, I went to Police Board.
We used to go to Board because of promotion. Usually, my men and I were supposed to march into the hall. But my men marched in before me and later returned for me. “When I entered the hall, everyone started asking me what happened. I explained that I was the policeman that was attacked at Chi Company. I told them that even in blindness, to the glory of God, I didn’t lose my rifle.
Everyone said that what Chi Company did to me was bad. Right there and then, I asked what I had done wrong that the police and the company that called me abandoned me. The Assistant-Inspector General of Police (AIG), who was chairman of the Police Board, shouted in shock. He said they were told I had been taken care of and medical expenses paid. Another person intervened that it was the DPO who told them that the company had taken care of everything.”
Joshua was vexed when he heard that the news in town was that Chi Company had taken care of him. Right there at the Board, he brought out documents of his medical bills. He told the Board that the company promised to fly him abroad, but reneged. Remembering, Joshua said: “I asked them to look at my condition. Did I do anything wrong in responding to their call?
What if I had refused to rush down to that troubled spot? They will say I had committed disciplinary offence. I went out there and staked my life; now just take a look at me. The Board pleaded with me. They didn’t interview our squad that day. They were quite sympathetic with my condition. They even praised me for managing the situation well.
The AIG instructed that the DPO should be called for an interview with the police commissioner.” Some minutes after leaving the Board, his DPO called him, asking what he told the Board. “I replied that what happened to me was what I told the Board,” said Joshua. “I told her that I was sent on an errand, I was attacked, injured and now abandoned by the police that sent me on an errand and the company that I went to attend to. She said that she was asked to go for an interview with the commissioner of police.”
After the interview with Owoseni, Adekola didn’t bother to tell Joshua what transpired. Joshua waited for two months to hear from Adekola and then decided to go and see Owoseni himself. He asked his children to take him to the police commissioner’s office. By then, his medical bill was over N300,000. When he got to the police commissioner’s waiting room, Owoseni’s Personal Assistant (PA) refused to allow him access to Owoseni.
Joshua said that he was nonplussed when Owoseni’s PA refused him, an ASP, to have an audience with the police commissioner. Joshua was further infuriated when he was asked by the PA to go and get his DPO before he could see the commissioner. Joshua narrated: “According to our criminal code, every matter of importance, a member of the force can go to the IG. Why wouldn’t they allow me to see the police commissioner?
The police regulation says a member can have an interview the CP provided the issue is very important.”
Determined to see the CP, Joshua asked his children to watch and monitor when people in the CP’s room would step out, so that he could force his way into the office. He was tired of taking no for an answer. Joshua also planned to make enough ruckuses for the CP to hear and come out of his office.
He also wanted to have a firsthand knowledge on the kind of information his DPO had been feeding Owoseni. He was still waiting when the CP’s door opened and his DPO stepped out. He said: “I couldn’t see anything, but I heard her voice. When she got to where I was, I greeted her; she asked me what I came to do. I told her I wanted to see the CP. She asked if it was on the same matter, I said yes. She said it was the same reason that made her to come for the CP’s interview. She said that whenever she went to Chi Company, they would be turning her around.”
The DPO asked him to follow her to the station that they would go to Chi Company that day. After waiting for some minutes, the DPO came out and told him that he had to leave because the CP was asking for her. She promised to go to the company to deliver the CP’s message. She promised to give him feedback.
On April 10, 2017, the DPO gave Joshua N200,000 out of the N355, 000 medical bills he had accumulated at that time. She told him that was what the company gave. Still seeking medical help for his eyes, Joshua continued to borrow money until it sneaked into million. On August 9, 2017, Eye Foundation told him that he needed exactly N2.495 million for his eye surgery.
He said: “The medical people told me that my eye needed to be operated immediately because the second was about to get damaged. They said if one was damaged, it will affect the other. I gave the bills to my children to take to the DPO. The company accepted the bill for two weeks and then returned it. They said that Eye Foundation must address and send the bill directly to them.
Eye Foundation wrote another bill and sent to Chi Limited. The company received and dumped it.” While Joshua was waiting to hear from Chi Limited, days slid into weeks and weeks into months. His hope died and despair enveloped his heart. A series of events happened in the Lagos State Police Command. A new commissioner of police, Imohimi Edgal, took over from Owoseni.
Joshua decided to go and see Edgal to table his challenges. He made efforts twice, but was stopped by Edgal’s orderlies. He decided to see the Admin Officer of the command. The Admin Officer took him to the PA. He was told to go and write a petition to the CP. “How can someone, who can’t see, write a petition?” asked Joshua.
“My children wrote the petition, highlighting the fact that I was asked to operate the eye before month end. It was getting to over a month. It took time before Edgal minute on the file to the Complaint Section of the Human Rights Desk.” Right in the midst of his nar ration, Joshua suddenly paused. Different scenes of his struggles must have flashed through his mind.
Out of nowhere, he suddenly burst out: “I regret my service to the Nigeria Police. I have contributed my money to policemen and women who had health issues. That is what the command was supposed to do. The CP could have instructed every policeman and woman to contribute towards the surgery.
Whenever a policeman has this kind of problem, each division contributes money. I have done it several times. Each of the personnel will contribute to raise the required amount. If after that the money was not enough, the balance will be shared according to ranks. But nobody wants to help me.” At the Human Rights Desk, Chi Company was sent for. The company sent a retired CP, working with it, to represent them.
The name of the CP is Essien. With marked bitterness, Joshua remembered: “Essien told us that the company was not liable for my treatment. I started crying. That day, I made an effort to see the CP. I told myself that if I must die, then I die that day.” Joshua went to the command to see Edgal.
The CP was upstairs in his office. A few minutes, Joshua’s children told him the CP was coming downstairs. Edgal was heading towards the spot reserved exclusively for his car. Joshua instructed his children to plant him strategically in front of Edgal i’s car. He lay on the ground, right in front of the CP’s car, blocking the drive way. He didn’t know that Edgal had an important visitor on that day.
The visitor was the wife of the then Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mrs. Ibrahim Idris. He said: “I didn’t know Edgal was about to drive out with a visitor. I thought he was alone. I only laid down in front of his car so that he would take pity on me. He started shouting, ‘this is sabotage! This is sabotage!’
He said that someone wanted to betray him. Edgal gave order that I should be arrested. I was dragged like a thief. I heard some policemen said I was dead on that day. I just kept saying, ‘I’m a policeman. I have a problem. I was attacked and I had been abandoned.’
This drama happened about 9a.m. My son and I were detained till 7p.m. I was even ordered to write a statement. “I used to apply eye drop into my eyes, but I didn’t that day. We didn’t know we would be detained.”
When it was 7p.m., the provost in the command called Joshua and took him to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), in charge of operations. Joshua explained his situation to the DC. He told the DC that he came to beg for assistance. The DC told him that he had a genuine case, but shouldn’t have gone to block the CP’s drive way.
When he was finally released and asked to go, the provost advised him to take his problem to a policewoman in charge of insurance. When he got there, the woman told him that he should have come when the incident just happened; that now it was late.
Joshua said: “The woman brought out a book and read out the rules to me. She said that the incident occurred on December 31, 2016 and that I came October 2017. She said that the money in question was too small. She said that even the CP could raise the money within the command. I was asked to leave my particulars and phone number.”
While waiting for a favourable response from the police, Joshua was told that Edgal instructed that the matter be moved to the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (SCIID), Panti, Yaba.
The SCIID invited Chi Company. The company denied abandoning Joshua. Right there, the company promised to take him to another Eye Specialist to confirm the diagnosis of Eye Foundation. Joshua said that the company thought he connived with Eye Foundation to come up with the N2.495 million surgery bill. He was taken to another hospital.
The owner of the hospital was an Indian. Joshua said: “The doctor there is an Indian and the Chi Limited’s MD is also an Indian. It was not a coincidence.” After testing his eyes on a machine, the doctor told him that the first injured eye had 40 per cent chances of recovery; the second had 60 per cent.
He was told that further tests needed to be done and sent to Indian via online. Joshua was told to expect result by November 25, 2017. Joshua waited throughout November to March 2018, before he sent his children to find out what was going on. They went and came back with zilch. By April, Joshua’s friend working close to the hospital went to snoop around the hospital.
The friend allegedly found out that the hospital had received the result from Indian since January. Armed with that information, Joshua went to SCIID and detectives invited Chi Limited. Joshua noted: “Chi Limited didn’t want to pay for the surgery. Just take a look at my condition. It’s difficult for me to go out of this house. I got tired of going to the SCIID. I later heard that the company wrote the SCIID that it didn’t want to be responsible for my treatment.”
Joshua was advised to go to Citizen Rights at Alausa, where he presented his case. On June 11, 2018, Chi Limited and its lawyer came to Citizen Rights and stressed that the company was not liable for Joshua’s treatment.
“The company said it never entered into any contract with me; that if I got injured in the line of duty, the company shouldn’t be responsible,” whispered Joshua in a broken voice. Joshua further went to Femi Falana’s Chambers at Ikeja, GRA, hoping the chamber would take up his case. The chamber did, but nothing was achieved from that venture.
Joshua said: “So I sat down at home and told myself, let the will of God be done in my life.” Tragically, there are thousands, if not millions of injured and maimed policemen who have suffered the same fate as Joshua, especially in the war against insurgency.
Officers, who are supposed to be celebrated for their heroism, are often kicked into the trash cans of history. They are abandoned and forgotten; left to become burdens to their families. In other climes, such gallant officers like Joshua are celebrated and their pictures hung in the hall of fame. This celebration acts as catalyst for other policemen.
Sadly in Nigeria, the reverse is the case, like Joshua said: “It’s because of situations like mine that make many policemen refuse to obey some instructions. I remembered that day; my men said that we should not move to that company, where the hooligans were operating. If only I had listened. My men said that my stubbornness caused my problem.
Even now, they too have abandoned me.” This culture of abandoning wounded or sick officers is one of the factors that aid corruption of policemen, who would rather help themselves than to do their jobs. To them, the slogan is, “every policeman for himself, and God for us all.”