Wednesday, 6 February 2008


The sleepy journalist sighed as he recalled that incident; and that was by far the least of his encounters with criminal acts. He was not a crime reporter but one way or the other he had found himself working that beat. With his incisive and thorough write-ups he had exposed not a few dirty cops’ evils. With his writings he had sent one particular underhanded police officer to gaol; incidentally, he was not aware of this. His consistent, factual and detailed chronicle of the infamous City Ten killings that shook the Federal City was invaluable in exposing the murderous cops behind the tragedy. At that time the police maintained that the ten persons shot dead were armed robbery suspects. Ozi dug deep into the suspected murder case, asking along the line that even if these six persons were robbery suspects were they not to be presumed innocent until they were found guilty. He dug deeper and the revelations sent the Police Command tumbling down. The murdered armed robbery suspects were innocent bricklayers, after all.

Whilst he bemoaned the deplorable state of policemen, he was even more appalled by their corrupt and murderous tendencies. Their penchant to kill for 20 Naira, to torture an innocent suspect to confess to a crime he did not commit, to lend rampaging armed robbers their uniforms and munitions, and above all, to kill on personal provocations. Little wonder a policeman was no more fondly called Ascari – he now bore the sobriquet: The Trigger. Every policeman was trigger-happy. They were walking time-bombs, about to explode at a gentle push.

Even as he fixed himself in his chair tonight he had a murder story to unravel. Yesterday evening he was present while police authorities paraded one armed robbery suspect. The parade was conducted by one dirty-looking cop, with a funny face that made him appear as if he was laughing all the time; he was the chief of police. The police chief said the suspect was caught at a robbery scene which he did not care to elaborate on. He then announced to journalists that the suspect would be taken to the hospital. Before any of the press men could ask why an obviously unhurt person should be taken to the hospital, the accused man was hurled into a police van with the inscription: To Serve and To Protect.

He saw something fishy in all this. Later that evening, he stopped by at the City Hospital to check on the suspect and see if he could look beyond what he was seeing. “Mr. Ozi Francis, the man you wanted to see was brought in dead tonight,” the chief medical director disclosed to him on their way to the pathologist’s office. “It can’t be true. I saw him early this evening. He was OK. He didn’t have a bruise on his skin. It can’t be true!” he exclaimed in disbelief.

“Please, come in,” the grave-looking pathologist said.
“Well done, doctor. Here’s Mr. Ozi Francis, a journalist from The Conscience newspaper. He’s conducting an investigation into the killing of a robbery suspect. He’s a friend of this facility. He had been of help when we were in difficult times,” the medical director said as he introduced him to the pathologist. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll let the two of you be.”
He looked at the pathologist as a man who conferred with death. The man looked so spooky and unfriendly; he was gaunt, eyes sunken in their sockets. He had firm bony fingers with a countenance that betrayed brittleness. The journalist was wondering where to start, as his thought-flow was momentarily held hostage by the spookiness of the man. As he began to open his mouth to say something, “please, sit down” the doctor said, gesturing at a chair. He sat facing the doctor.

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