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Visiting 'Alabingo Republic', Nigeria's 37th State

By Sixtus Ezennaya
Monday, March 08, 2010


If you are asked how many states that make up Nigeria, what will be your answer? Many Nigerians will say 36 However, this is not untrue.

But have you been opportuned to visit, being a guest or an inmate to any Police cell, detention camp, Awaiting Trial Men (ATM) or prison yard in Nigeria? If you have, is your experience similar to the one you are about to read? But if you have not, this encounter will give you an insight of what it looks like.

Unlike the journey or visit to an ordinary state which is always voluntary, the visit to the Alabingo republic or the 37th state is usually not out of volition.. The forced or coerced visit always begins with either Police arrest and / or subsequent Court order.

In the case of police cell, as soon as the accused is brought to the Station sometimes in handcuff, he is intimidatingly compelled by the police to pull off all his clothings.

Nevertheless, records of these belongings are kept. Police employ all manners of pranks and intimidation aimed at subduing and suppressing a victim. As a superior officer comes in, the junior officer will narrate to him what prompted the arrest, how stubborn the accused was in the process. In fact, he is a suspect. But there are policemen who perform this duty satisfactorily and with high sense of commitment and decency even to the admiration of the detainee. Some policemen do extort the true information from the suspect with diplomacy while many use force and intimidation.

In the cell, the accused would meet all manners of people who are arrested for different types of crime. As he is welcomed into the jam-packed cell, he would receive all manner of rough handling until he redeems himself with money. He would be searched thoroughly so that no kobo is left with him. And to circumvent the ugly beatings, the accused would be told to insert some money in his anus which he doles out at the appropriate time. One dare not to bring out bigger denomination of the currency with the hope of getting some balance.

After the welcome ritual, the Governor, No. 1, GOC, or the Boss man as the case may be, would mandate the newest entrant to be cross-examined. This is one of the ways Police obtain true information about a suspect as. Many armed robbers have exposed themselves in the cell-interaction thinking they are exposing their bravado.

The aide-camp to the henchman would ask some questions to the suspect. One, how many states are there in Nigeria? Any answer except their own 'comect' one would attract big blows that would send the victim scampering on the ground. And the correct answer is always thirty six plus one which is equal to thirty seven. Police cell, ATM, Detention centre or Prison yard is always regarded as a State.. Thirty six states exist in the 'outside' world while only one is in the 'inside' in the prison parlance.

Second question would be something like this; what brought you into this place? Any answer to prove that you are innocent will attract a resounding slap or blow as one will be seen as a coward. But then if you manufacture lies of how tough you have been, you would be accorded respect. A near-giant size luxury bus driver was brought into the cell. No sooner had he arrived than he started beating the Governor. He beat him to the extent of over throwing his government.

While the fight raged on, the inmates shouted that a cannibal has been brought into the cell. When everything was calm, the aide camp took clothes in the cell to fan the giant who now sat on the only clean spot in the cell dishing out orders. This is Alabingo Republic for real. Though beatings, torture etc greet new entrants to the cell, there is still much honour and respect when one is a human right activist, revolutionary writer, journalist, attorney, etc. They would flinch and distance their inhuman and barbaric treatment from the one rather implore the person to bring their plight to the outside world as they know that soonest the person would leave the inside world.

A man of 65 years was brought into the cell for raping a 13 year old girl. In the morning when the DPO came for normal morning parade (ward round), the PO intoned, Oga see that man that disvirgined that yellow class one student. So, you are the one who does not know your age, asked the DPO. How old are you? The man pokerfaced and said, Oga 65. I will like to see him in my office, the DPO directed. No sooner had the DPO left than the Boss man summoning him and after scolding, commanded him to dis-virgin a small half inch diameter hole on the wall in the cell. The man obeyed humiliatingly and struggled with the assignment. Occasionally, he would receive two bare hand slaps on his back. Guess what happened. It was the wall that rather disvirgined the man 15 genital and in the process he fainted. This generated uproar and anxiety though none was ruffled as it is a norm.

In the cell, noise means nothing as inmates and the Police authorities are used to that. Hooting, singing, fighting, crying, discussing, talking, etc are not out of bound. The Police Officer in charge of the cell pays no heed. The odour emitting from the cell will eclipse the fart of one who has not visited the toilet for a day. Whether cell, ATM or prison, if an inmate has a visitor, food material, gift to an inmate is usually distributed to every body.

Over time cordial relationship of the inmates make this possible. There is a slogan here, with good arrangement, Satan can see God. To watch television and other extra curricula activities, your tithe to the PO or warder can do the impossibility. For example, film watching accrues N20 per person to the warder. Even warders and Police officers are aware of the smoking of marijuana, cigarette etc by the inmates. But then, who sells these things to the inmates? Perhaps, this might account for the high incidence of mentally deranged inmates.

When a detainee is to be bailed, the person bailing the detainee is asked to sign a bail bond. The bail fee depends on the crime committed besides the personality of the bailing-agent irrespective of the bold inscription in the Station BAIL IS FREE.? The person bailing the accused is compelled to sign that no money was paid for bail. Despite the obvious fact that Alabingo Republic is not a good place to visit or stay, it is a sine-qua-non to every society. Who thinks that the Police will want a crime-free society? Harlots and prostitutes will go hungry in a place where there are no nincompoops, drunkards and loafers.

Finally, always try to visit places like prison, hospitals, cemetery etc for life-meditation besides giving comfort to the afflicted. Bishop V. V. Ezeonyia of Catholic Diocese of Aba once said, Christianity is comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted.? Leo Buscalgia in his articulation said, Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around!

Mr. Ezennaya writes for the World Igbo Times London.