søndag 29. mars 2009

And then we found a dead man

I normally walk around our little peninsula a couple of times a week. Sometimes I walk to work, and some times I walk home from work. To me walking is a good way to reflect over a problem, or to put a problem away before coming home. A bit of fresh air and some movements after a long day in an office chair works well.

Last wednesday I walked home with my daughter who were visiting from London. We had walked our way along Bourdillon road, Alexander avenue and were heading towards Banana Island wehn we noticed that the man we had seen around and under the "home-made plastic tent" were laying in a rather strange position. So we walked around his plastic covering and could see from the colour of his face that he was dead.

Since my daughter had a short time left in the country and were leaving that afternoon, I took the chance that some of all the locals passing by would do something. They did not...as far as I know.

When Rigmor had left for the airport, I tried the security guards at our compound. But guess what - they were only responsible for the security from our gate and in the compound. So basically - they could not care less. So I walked to the main gate and talked with the security people over there - knowing that they are responsible for the security on the whole of Banana Island. Much the same story. From their place we could even see the place where he was still laying. "Dead is dead and no security risk to us" were their responce.

Finally I talked to a member of the Nigerian Police Force. A nice gentleman I have chatted with earlier on (motobikes, soccer, tattos and music). He seemed very uncomfortable with the situation. He understood that I thought he should do something, and he clearly wanted to - but were still rather reluctant and slow. After using a bit of persuation and begging for help he agreed to call some local authorities if he could use my phone. His had no credit left, he claimed.

Well I let him borrow my phone. And while he were talking I noticed the stream of people just passing by the corps not doing anything. To me this was amazing. Some just looked at him, and the walked on - others clearly tried to avoid seing him. It was a chilling experience.

But after talking to local people and people who have lived here for many years I have a better understanding of some of the drivers that prevent you from doing anything, and I understand the meaning of the question the policeman asked me: "Did you touch him?" No I did not, and it turns out that if I had indeed touched him, his relatives could claim I had harmed him and demanded me to pay for the funeral or pay them damage for harming the body. This also explain how a man knocked down and killed on the road just outside our office were left were he fell on the road for hours without anybody moving the body to the the side or off the street - but just covered him partly with some cardboard while they took care of his bike.

The other driver is the reputation of the police. I have now heard stories of people who have reported the findings of dead body to the wrong policemen. They ended up spending hours in the local police station answering questions not even remotely relevant for the case (at least not in our way of thinking). I heard about a German guy who was told to write down all the cities with dates for when he had visited them - the last five years! Not at all an easy task to do for the last year. And the relevance for the dead body? May be to check with Interpol if this guy has a habit of reporting dead people wherever he goes?

After this experience I have asked our local security coordinator at work to give us a briefing on how to deal with a situation like this. His response were great. We just call him - and he will fix it for us.

And friday - the body were gone. I assume someone finally picked him up and got him removed.

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