Driving on Nigerian roads comes with a lot of unpleasant surprises that the best of us are still not used to. You are revving up a bend and you meet a big & dangerous pothole just there, smiling at your face. Or you prepare your mind for a 20-minute trip and then you hit the road and discover there is a traffic jam that would shoot up your short trip to a 2-hour slow drive in your car.
The surprise we are talking about today is the presence of motoring related law enforcement agencies on the road flagging down random cars, either to perform an inspection or the normal Nigerian police interrogation or to go through the legal paperwork of your car just to make sure your car and yourself as a driver are road-worthy (FRSC and VIO interrogation).
The agencies in the discussion here are the; Police Force, Federal Road Safety Corps, Vehicle Inspection Officers and the State Traffic Management Authorities like LASTMA for Lagos State and TRACE for Ogun State.
Federal Road Safety (FRSC) checkpoint on the road. Source: Pulse
History of Police interrogation
Driving a car in Nigeria requires more than just buying the car; the car needs to have a complete set of customs papers verifying it was legally shipped into the country except it's a made in Nigeria car. In that case, the car needs to have a valid set of documents. Knowing how to get all documents needed to drive in Nigeria is just as important as buying the car itself.
The reason we see police and others set up checkpoints on Nigerian roads is to make sure every driver complies with the rules and regulations of motoring within the country. Some just check for paperwork/documents while also verifying car ownership to prevent theft (Police and Customs) then some do an inspection of the car to make sure it is roadworthy and free of all forms of hazards like faults or weapons(VIO/FRSC/Police). All these are the police use of interrogation.
When you go on long road trips, you will notice more checkpoints on the roads to make sure citizens' lives are not being put at risk by drivers and transport companies.
Principles of police interrogations
Once you get flagged down by the Police, the first thing they need you to do is park properly and get ready for their first question. Most times, their first question is for you to show your driver's license to make sure you are fit for driving a car on a Nigerian road. Depending on the instincts of the Police officer interrogating, you might be asked to tender the ownership documents of the car which is why it is very important to always have up-to-date car documents. Police interrogations at checkpoints on the road are normally quick if the driver is not found guilty of breaking any law.
It's because of all these interrogations by police and other enforcement agencies Nigerians developed tricks to avoid this interrogation.
Tricks Nigerians play to escape checkpoints!
There are very funny ways Nigerians have developed to avoid being flagged down by these agencies because if anyone is found guilty of flouting a regulation/law, he/she pays a fine with the possibility of the car being impounded for days. I say funny because it is actually hilarious that people would rather avoid doing the right thing by devising ways to keep the authorities on the road off their cars.
After watching this video of police interrogations, you will want to avoid police arrest on the road at all cost :
So, what are the funny ways to avoid these authorities? Check out our following police interrogation tips.
1. Use of military stickers/emblems
Nigerians are very scared of Military personnel and because most of the enforcement agencies are paramilitary, it's always safer for them to avoid interrogating military personnel or any car that is related to a military officer. This is because of how united the Nigerian military is when it comes to protecting one another.
There have been several incidents where a military officer clashed with a LASTMA official in Lagos and it led to a couple of military officers stopping by to put up a defence for their colleague and the LASTMA remains helpless in their own process of police interrogations; hence, the military always wins.
Nigerian Airforce sticker on a car to avoid road delay
People have discovered this loophole so they just attach a "Nigerian Army" emblem to the rearview mirror of their car or place a "Horse Whip" on the dashboard of the car to send out a message to the enforcement agencies at checkpoints.
Using stickers is not effective because they are usually small and when an enforcement agency wants to stop the car he/she might not see it. Below is a picture of the sticker VS emblem.
Army Sticker VS Badge on a car
The military emblems commonly used are:
I) The Nigerian Army.
II) The Nigerian Airforce.
III) The Nigerian Navy.
Sometimes, the military cap/belt which is a part of their uniform can also be displayed on the dashboard. Some even go as far as using "Nigerian Defence Academy" emblems.
A millitary belt on display to avoid Police delay
NDA Emblem to resist Police/FRSC/VIO delay
If the driver is impersonating military personnel and he/she gets caught, it is very punishable by law especially when such people go-ahead to break traffic laws on the road. What traffic laws am I talking about? One way, beating traffic light, and others. All the Nigerian traffic laws with their fines are always taken seriously by the authorities, so when you are impersonating alongside breaking laws, you should know the outcome would be very bad for you.
2. Use of paramilitary stickers/emblems
This is a very funny one because you can easily get caught. The common paramilitary agencies in Nigeria are the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), and Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC). People now use their emblems and hang it around their rear mirrors to avoid the enforcement agencies from flagging them down because a Police officer won't normally interrogate his colleague.
Have you noticed that whenever a Police officer detains a car driver in Nigeria, the first thing the driver does is to call Police personnel just to mediate the matter at hand?
I have friends who impersonate with these emblems and plan to lie to the enforcement agencies that the car belongs to paramilitary personnel belonging to whatever agency emblem they have on their car at that point.
You must have seen a lot of stickers and emblems with "COMBATANT" signifying Mobile Police Force personnel on/in cars of people.
3. Use of emergency warning lights
This is a new trend of passive resistance in the Nigerian world of motoring. I have pointed it out in a previous article that the use of these red & blue lights on private cars is illegal because of what they symbolize. People install these LED lights on the grilles of their private cars to make enforcement agencies think they are a Government VIP of some sort, most times accompanied by a fully tinted window.
Use of police lights to avoid delay
Some outliers add a Police siren to their modifications and switch it on when they sport the enforcement agencies or most times, they use it to get through traffic quickly because every other road user goes out of the way for them to drive through because they don't know if it's their President/Governor trying to get somewhere.
The Siren system for cars
4. Use of NYSC headdress
This sounds very funny, right? my friend has completed his National Youth Service Corp program 2 years ago but still has the Khaki cap on his dashboard just to signify to enforcement agencies that he is "Government" property.
NYSC cap in a car to avoid the authorities
From my experience, while I was a Corper I got interrogated at a Police checkpoint at night one day on my way to a party and the moment I showed the Policeman my NYSC ID card, he allowed me to go without further questioning.
>>> Just a quick aside, here are 5 top tips to buy a car safely during the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria
5. Use of private military/paramilitary escort services
Don't tell anybody I told you this, okay? People go to Police stations to acquire private escort services for their cars, not because someone is trying to kill them but because they want to freely move in their cars without any police stopping them for questioning.
It's a trend that in Nigeria, Police officers always flag down exotic cars for questioning and thorough inspection, especially when driven by young-looking unknown individuals in society. When you are escorted by a man in uniform, you are just waved on through.
6. Use of special number plates
I was shocked to find out that regular Nigerians that know the right people, can get special number plates on their cars. I am not talking about custom plates now, I mean special plates like the very popular "SPY-POLICE" plates.
A Spy Police special number plates (Source: prnigeria.com)
These plates automatically signal to enforcement agencies that you are a special individual and shouldn't be stopped on the road to show your car's papers.
The process of acquiring these numbers can be known if you visit the nearest police station to you but I think you have to be an actual Spy Police to have the number plates by registering at the Nigerian Police Academy then attending the training session.
It's funny how some people attend this training just for the main purpose of getting the special number plates and attaining immunity on the road and police delay on the road. You can sensibly avoid police delays in Nigeria without having to do all this stress.
>>> Read further by check out the laws of police interrogation in this pdf file: THE PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE ON POLICE INTERROGATION OF SUSPECTS IN NIGERIA: A CRITIQUE
I didn't share all this information with you just for you to go and apply one of them to your motoring life to prevent Nigerian Police interrogation or that of other agencies. It's very unsafe to do all of these both religiously and according to the law. Most of these don't work at night though except you are a real military/paramilitary personnel.
It is mandatory that all cars comply with the highway code rules and regulations.
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