ISAAC BORO THE POLICEMAN

 

One thing many people remembered about Isaac AdakaBoro was his love for his people. He joined the Nigeria Police Force to prove and assure them that they had a son that would fight for them and defend their honour and integrity. This was why he was celebrated when he returned from his training, and to accentuate his upliftment in the social strata, he made his first arrest in his own village.

What happened? Isaac Boro recorded this in his own handwriting and narrated the event thus:

We left the training college for a tour and then a month’s leave to our home areas, fresh with ideas about police duties, criminal law and evidence. I was determined to impress my people as much as possible with my new calling. I would tell them they had no need to fear threatening police investigators any more, now that their son was already a police officer.

BORO ARRESTED

 

I arrived home and was hailed from village to village. The boat in which I travelled escaped molestation by the River Police and this made my people beam with happiness, even more so when I paid my fare correctly. It was on my return journey that a dramatic event happened. I had always felt that my first personal arrest should be of a trifling nature. It must be something adventurous. The launch in which I travelled was owned by the Inland Waterways Department and it plied the area once a month. They were notorious for their complete lack of civility to the villagers. One would have thought that, in the presence of an arm of the law, they would desist from their incivility. I was wrong.

On the shores of my town, Kaiama, the launch called the “Creek Mail”, either knowingly or accidentally broke a canoe when her deckhands were discharging coal. One of the inhabitants, who saw the incident, sent for the owner who arrived immediately to see the sinking canoe. The owner of the canoe demanded compensation. The “Creek Mail” personnel dismissed the demand with no apologies. This aroused a quarrel and a few minutes later I emerged from behind the crowd.

I found out what was happening and thereafter inspected the scene of the accident. I called for both parties to clear the matter but the particular deckhand who caused the damage did not even want to appear. He was more interested in dressing up to wooing in the town, the inhabitants of whom he had clearly wronged. I contacted the skipper of the boat who, instead of helping to improve matters, backed his subordinate by calling the villagers bush people and that the owner of the canoe had no right to leave his canoe there. He further flooded me with a barrage of laws from his dilapidated Marine Codes. For all I knew, there was no fixed wharf or harbour for landing in Kaiama or in any other River town. The villagers were never fore-warned as to the place of landing of these launches, and at the sight of any launch, villagers were compelled to help to clear a likely place of landing. So, it was in this case. The so-called captain had become more and more unreasonable and even when I gave the concession that he should reprimand his subordinate while I took the question of calming the villagers up myself, he dismissed me by saying that was not his business.

ISAAC BORO AND HIS ASSOCIATES ARE FREED

 

That was the last straw. I remembered I was on leave but a policeman is supposed to be on duty twenty-four hours of the day. A train of charges assembled in my head. What would it be? Malicious damage; conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace; dangerous act? Which? It did not matter; any of these would do in the interim. The situation had become so tense that the deckhand could not leave for the shore anymore. I advanced to him, presented my identity card, and charged him with malicious damage in the name of the Queen and that he was not obliged to say anything but that whatever he said would be taken down in writing and given in evidence. This ceremony was brief, precise, and so swift that, before he knew what was happening, I had already taken him by the hand, and invited him to the native court premises to obtain a provisional bail pending when he would appear at the Brass Police Station.

Majority of the crew came up with him and the captain, who felt he was an untouchable, would not allow such arrest and called the crew aboard to leave and that whatever complaints I had should be forwarded to Port Harcourt. Fine! Port-Harcourt indeed! That was what had been happening. Tyranny and oppression of the natives! That captain knew full well that it took five days to travel from the area to Port Harcourt, and nobody would, for the sake of a complaint at personal expense, do such a thing, but brood in silence. The charge and arrest of the captain was swifter than even that of his subordinate. An accessory after the fact. I warned him that if he moved an inch, then of course, in the lawful execution of my duty, I would ask some villagers to assist me. I watched with profound interest the thunderstruck mood of my culprits, or my clients, no, I beg your pardon, my friends. This would teach them that even seemingly naive citizens of Nigeria could enjoy their due share of fundamental human rights and protection. My style worked and fast too. The captain, after consulting with his deckhand, resolved that resistance would yield no useful result and agreed to their bail in their own cognisance. They left only to return half an hour later to plead that they had settled with the owner of the canoe. I obtained written statements to the effect from both parties. So, it was that the peacock feathers of those menacing crew were cut off. I asked both parties to shake hands. Peace had been reinstated. Mutual respect would be maintained on subsequent voyages. And I was satisfied.

ISAAC BORO INSURGENCY

 

This was all the people needed to gratify themselves that they were now in the same league with people of the big city, who had many of their sons in big offices. Boro too was happy, he had decided to make a career in the police force; he hoped he could help his people with such a job. Problem was that he had anticipated he might be in his own area and work among his own people.  But no, he was posted to Lagos. Boro said:

My first station was Okesuna Police Station, where I was to understudy a senior inspector for a month before taking over. A nice start it was, and I had resumed just early enough to keep peace during the 1959 pre-independence federal elections. The elections were the most orderly conducted ones for years afterwards. Though I was not particularly interested in who won or lost, the enthusiasm of the people who identified themselves with either the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons; the Action Group; the Northern Peoples’ Congress; SALAMA, or the Northern Elements Progressive Union; the SAWABA, did not escape my notice. I would arrive at the office only to be welcomed by complaints of molestation and calculated aggression. However, the election was peaceful and a majority of the people voted without undue pressure. There were not more than thirteen cases of impersonation in the Okesuna area. We were all given the Independence Peace Medal for this.

Many did not know that Boro had been involved before in the hierarchy of the police force, some did not even know he had such training. All they had been hearing was that Boro was a student and he had attempted to create his own republic of the Niger Delta. But that was not enough, Boro was once in command of a good number of police stations, and knew the working of the force, and lines of authority.

He wrote: In January, I had taken over completely the entire running of the police station with a detachment strength of over a hundred and fifteen, which formed part of the three main stations in “A” Division of the Federal Territory. Under my control were also the three police posts of the then Government House, Victoria Island and the Lagos Town Council. Tedious though it was, I executed my duties to the best of my ability and earned the admiration of my superior officers. This was perhaps also because I handled greater duties than any of my colleagues as shown in the schedule of responsibilities.

I found the administration of the Government House duties most tedious. This small post had caused the ruin of many of my predecessors. Happily, no incident was recorded in my period. Luckily too, I did not stay very long there. In April, I was transferred to the division’s Criminal Investigation Department. I shall not bore my reader with the day to day activities, but it will be interesting to record an extraordinary event. It happened barely two weeks after I left Okesuna. Pity, it was. It was in April. The officer who took over from me felt that much wrong had been done, particularly in the field of bicycle licenses. No checking had been made since January, a duty I felt, was that of the Traffic Police. However, my successor proceeded on a road block of avenues around Lewis Street and Kings College Road. Taken by surprise, many cyclists were bundled into the station. Civilians had crowded the station where illegal police courts were set up and fines illegally imposed. Consequently, certain gentlemen of the press were attracted to the scene. Within twelve hours, a sinister headline, with the photograph of the Inspector-General, was published, blowing up the scandal.

BORO

 

Another incident which I shall record in these memoirs happened when I was the Duty Officer controlling the “999” Police Patrol cars in the Lagos territory. At about 9p.m. in one of the boisterous evenings of Lagos, there was a minor peasant revolt at Jankara market. The night inhabitants, mainly paupers and undesirables, decided to revolt against living differences between them and the car owning world. Bottles, stones and other missiles were hauled into the main street from the bleak market square. The road became impassable and the control room was contacted. After directing some cars there, I arrived at the scene, personally. I decided to take the risk and quell the disturbance. A general alarm was raised at the barracks, but before the arrival of more hands, the situation was brought under control. I found that a boy had been speared through the right cheek. Several people were arrested and we called it a good day’s job.

But the day was not yet ended. On arrival at the Control, a more disastrous incident was yet to come. A vehicle, presumably a taxi, had carried a man murdered somewhere and deposited him at a dark alley near the Federal Palace Hotel. On close examination of the body, we found that some essential organs had been removed. Later, from fingerprint reports, it was found that the victim had twelve previous convictions. This was the second of such suspected ritual murders within the four months of my resumption of duty. Nigeria was at her peak of ritual crimes, I thought.

That was Isaac Boro, the man they called the Policeman from Niger Delta.  Boro was enjoying his work, he had seen himself on the road to achieve his desire, but something happened, and this same job was threatened. He fought to retain it, but he lost it. Isaac Boro was thrown out of the Police Force, and things started to happen.

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