Thursday, 21 February 2019

Guilty Until Proven Innocent (final part)

Click Here for Part 1

“Please, don’t take me back to that cell… those men in there will hurt me,” Sale tried to plead with the corporal to no avail. He was roughly pushed back into the cell.

Desperately, “At least let me make a call. If you will not hear me out, let me call my people, my boss, or even a lawyer. It’s my right now. Give me my phone, let me make a call!”

But he was ignored and left there in the cells with the other inmates.

He looked fearfully at the other men, especially the kingpin, but he was not pounced upon and beaten half to death like he expected. In fact, no one paid him any attention this time, as there had been another arrival during his absence. This new inmate was a stocky teenager who had apparently refused to fan Baba when he was asked to and was now being dealt the beating of his life, much to the entertainment of every man in the cell.

Glad for the diversion, but still far from pleased, Sale retired to a far corner of the cell and laid his head on his forearms in dejection.

How wrong he had been earlier when he had thought his day could get no worse. How was he going to get himself out of this mess? He was not allowed to call anyone and there seemed to be nothing he could say to prove his innocence. Was this how he would end up imprisoned for a crime he knew nothing about? He knew how crazy things could get with the Nigerian law enforcement system: once the police convince themselves a person is guilty, they do not bother much with evidence, but go ahead to have him arraigned to court, which most times results in the accused being sentenced with no hard proof that he had committed the crime he was accused of. He had heard stories of how they could make a man sign a confession to any crime after a few hours of “interrogation” in this place.

Oh my God, I can’t stand torture. I can’t!

He began hyperventilating as his stomach started turnioniown with fear, and he became overwhelmed with the urge to throw up. Tears trickled down his face and he prayed for a miracle to get him out of the mess he had found himself.

He was still in the same position half an hour later when the officer returned and muttered, “Oga wants to see you again”. And he was half-hauled through the semi-dark passage into the office of the D.P.O.

The D.P.O. was not alone; with him was a short, elderly man in agbada. “So this is him. Ah, good job, officers. I trust you were able to recover all the money he stole.” Sale knew he had to be the owner of the store he had been accused of stealing from.

Clearing his throat uncomfortably, the D.P.O. responded, “Unfortunately we did not find the money he stole on his person. But don’t worry, once we are through with him, he’ll sing like a bird and tell us where he has hidden the loot.”

That statement was issued with an ominous glance in Sale’s direction which had him breaking out in cold sweat. There was no doubt in his mind what the D.P.O. meant. The fear of torture broke him out of his zombie-like state and had him protesting in a near-squeal, “But I did not steal any money. I wasn’t at your store today and certainly did not rob you. I swear, I am innocent.”

“Shut up!” bellowed the D.P.O.

“He has the effrontery to lie?” The store owner was mortified. “Well, I did foresee that.  These criminals, they never admit to their crimes even when they are caught red-handed. It’s a good thing that we have security cameras at the store. I have the recording of everything that went on there today including the robbery. That would shut his lies up once and for all.”

With that, the man dipped his hand into his briefcase and pulled out a CD. He also brought out his laptop computer. “Officers, permit me to show this criminal the raw evidence.”

“Yes, yes, go ahead.”

In a minute, the CCTV recording was playing for all to see. The store owner skipped many scenes till he arrived at the time of the robbery and smiled triumphantly as the image of a man harassing a female cashier filled the screen. “Now, is that not you?” he enquired of Sale.

“No, it isn’t!” Sale declared, almost jumping up in joy at the proof of his innocence. “That man is obviously not me. Not only are his clothes different from mine, he is as light as an albino, whereas I am the darkest man in this room!”

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