What I did after a Traffic Warden seized my Driver’s Licence (Pt.2)

traffic wardenI have to admit – I didn’t have a plan when I sped off and left the traffic warden eating my dust (and pocketing my driver’s licence too). I was close to my parent’s house so I drove in and parked my car there. At least the car would be safe from impounding, I thought. But that didn’t stop me from looking at my rear view mirror every five seconds for a police bike on my tail. I met only my sister at home and broke the news (okay, that sounded kinda dramatic – to break news usually sounds like one is about to announce something tragic. I digress). My lil’ sister was in shock to say the least, like she had seen a ghost that was equally shocked that I had driven off without my licence. My explanation still left my sister’s jaw on the floor. She went straight into DLR (Driver’s Licence Retrieval) mode and ran some suggestions by me.

After deliberating for a couple of minutes I even went further to call a friend whom I thought would be able to advise me on what to do, based on his own experiences. He told me to prepare to give ‘something small’. We were ready to put the plan into action. We set out in my car but parked it in a corner about 300 meters away from the traffic warden’s spot. We strolled down towards the junction where the incident happened and then I told my sister to wait behind while I approached the traffic warden who was in the midst of a policeman and some LASTMA officials (the boys in black yellow). I caught his attention and he came over to deafen me with his broken English (insert action film music here).

‘Why you run na?’ he said with a smirk in his sweaty face.

‘I don’t want to argue. I just want my licence.’

‘No problem. I have already taken it to the station. You can collect it there.’, and he turned away with his nose up in the air.

‘What?’, I couldn’t contain my annoyance.

‘But oga, you suppose bring sumtin.’

‘Bring what? Look, you don’t want to me drag this matter’. I flashed a special ID card to him at this point. ‘I’ll go to the station and collect my licence’. I started to walk away and then he called me.

‘Oga wait. Make we go one side’. We walked a few meters away from his colleagues and got to way my sister was waiting. My sister greeted him and he reciprocated. They exchanged a few ‘pleasantries’ while I frowned (but they didn’t seem to take notice). The traffic warden insisted again that I should bring something (just like my friend said earlier) and that he would get my driver’s licence back for me. With about an hour of my life already wasted I just decided to part with N1,000 (less than $3) and to my surprise he pulled out my driver’s licence! To think that he lied and never actually went to drop it at the station in the first place. And worse still he asked for a bribe which I was forced to heed in order to get my licence….aaaargh! But the ID card sure got him rattled.

My sister and I walked back to my car and drove back home to gist about the whole ordeal. After that incident no one had to tell me to make a photocopy of my licence – that’s what I’ll be offering any official that accosts me on the road. At least that way I can drive off without ever looking back:)

What I did after a Traffic Warden seized my Driver’s Licence

traffic wardenWhen I was learning to drive in my late teens, the ‘qualified’ driving instructor advised that while driving I must assume that everyone else is drunk. Why? The logic was that if they were actually drunk then they wouldn’t drive properly. This would mean that they could run into me so I would have to be extra alert and preempt unforeseen accidents or close shaves. Unfortunately these words of wisdom didn’t pay off when I (allegedly) beat a non-existent traffic light and got stopped by a drunk traffic warden.

The uniformed clown had actually beckoned the vehicle right in front of me to drive forward so I tailed it closely. Obviously I wasn’t close enough else I would have smashed the warden’s legs. I said to him, ‘But you told me to come’. However he denied it and said he told me to stop. He looked at me in shock when I started raising my voice and so he directed me to ‘park well’ (away from oncoming traffic). He came to the front passenger window and started to engage me in shit-chat (no typo) which I’ve heard all before. It started with, ‘Let me see your driver’s licence!’ Then after I handed it over and he pretended to understand what he was examining, the next thing he said was, ‘Open your door.’

‘What the hell for?’ I retorted.

‘Look here, if you don’t want me to take your car to the station then open your door now’

I turned away from him and stared intently at my two hands firmly placed on the steering wheel, like a racer waiting for the starting pistol to be fired. I weighed my options: He gets in. We drive to the station. My car gets clamped. I pay a heavy fine and bank account bleeds. Total time wasted = 45mins to 1 hour.

I decided to go for my next option – I sped off and let the traffic warden choke on my dust! No money lost. Car is safe. Total time wasted = 3 mins. But as I let the adrenaline wear off it suddenly dawned on me that my driver’s licence was still in that traffic warden’s hand! not a photocopy…MY ORIGINAL DRIVER’S LICENCE – DAMN IT!!! (To be continued)

Nigerian Police and the Art of Harrassment

Two days ago I was randomly pulled over by the cops for possibly breaking the law (believe me, it wasn’t half as dramatic as what you enjoy on American crime shows). Anyway, I was totally caught off-guard. I mean, these particular policemen weren’t at this invisible checkpoint yesterday…and the day before…and the day before that…and oh yeah I remember…THE WHOLE OF LAST MONTH! SO WHERE THE HELL DID THEY SPRING OUT FROM ALL OF A SUDDEN? ‘Ah, no big deal! Jollof must be a law-abiding citizen’ I hear you say? Well, I sorta broke the law but I can explain…

As one of the policemen beckoned me to the side, I did a quick mental scan of everything that I should have in my car: Driver’s licence – check!; Vehicle Licence – check! Motor Insurance – check!; Driver with a confident smile on his face – check! Like clockwork, the policeman asked for the first three items in the same order. However my jaw dropped when he asked for a fourth document – a Motor Road Worthiness Certificate…WTF???!!! How come all the other police checkpoints I experienced in the past did not ask for this alien document? Wasn’t my car in good driving condition all these years?

To my annoyance the policeman proceeded to open my passenger door (but to HIS annoyance the door was locked). I asked him why he wanted to get into my car and he claimed he had to take me to the police station to register for the certificate – yeah right. I knew the routine. Once you get there your car is impounded and then they force you to pay some outrageous bill or else you forfeit your car. That was option 1 and I wasn’t falling for it. I told him (with as little sarcasm as possible) that I was old enough to go register for the document myself and didn’t need a chaperone. I would’ve just driven off but he still had my Driver’s licence in his pocket. It was now time to play the Waiting game.

I turned off my engine and waited 15 minutes as the policeman resumed his harassment duties with unsuspecting motorists. One of his allies, a policewoman, walked up to me and asked what the problem was (as if she didn’t know). I told her my story and she just told me to talk to the policeman again. I didn’t have much choice if I planned on getting my Driver’s licence back. I called him to my window to reason with him, to which he unleashed an unsettling grin and gave me option 2 – a little something for his pocket, if you know what I mean. ‘Well, there goes my puppy-dog-eyes plan’, I thought. I was about to be hustled for my own Driver’s licence by a law enforcer. I wasn’t going to comply. Instead of giving him diddly-squat I gave him the cold shoulder – must have worked because a minute later HE complied.

As I drove off into the sunset I concluded that Nigerian policemen were mostly beggars in uniforms, using their status to intimidate rather than protect. I do hope that I’ll have never need to call for their help in future…because they’ll probably ask for ‘a little something for their pocket’ before they do! Shame.