Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
CONTINUED FROM PART TWO – http://wp.me/p3Ozd6-6E
Inspector Fadiga’s home was ordinary. He was a policeman. His was to serve and not the other way around. That was the major problem with the average policeman. A minimum wage job, with the desires and tastes of a billionaire; these were what turned most policemen into thieves. His house was the only one in the newly renovated Police Barracks at Falomo Ikoyi without Digital Satellite Television and he was content. He understood that this was his life right now and he lived within that budget. Thank God he was single too.
His parlour spoke of a man with deep thoughts and a love for his family. Talatu shivered under the blanket, a cup of tea in her hands. She inhaled the sweet smell of Twinning’s pomegranate and strawberry flavoured tea as she surveyed the pictures on the wall.
“Is this you with your mum?” Talatu asked as she peered at frame on the wall.
It was a 6” by 8” wooden frame photo of a woman with jet-black hair flowing down her back. She had her arms around a little boy trying to get him to stand still for the photograph; the little boy seemed to be trying to get away. He had a handsome face and he looked very happy.
“Yes” Inspector Koiki replied from the kitchen.
“She is beautiful.”
“Was… She was beautiful. She is dead” Inspector Fadiga walked into the parlour and sat on the sofa next to the window. His house was on the first floor and he had a clear view of the water. He could see the morning sun brushing against the gentle waves.
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” She winced as she sat on the sofa opposite the inspector and sipped her tea.
“Nothing to it, it’s been 12 years now. I am used to the pain.”
“You were cute too.” Talatu peered over her mug. No reaction from the Inspector. She knew he had heard her compliment. But he kept staring at the waters.
Inspector Fadiga was unsure of himself. This lady should be behind bars not sitting on his sofa, but he was a compassionate man and he believed in fair hearing. But this was getting very uncomfortable.
After he had saved her from No.14, he realised Talatu was in danger. It didn’t take a scientist to know that the stakes were much higher than any of them thought but he couldn’t place a finger on it. Talatu’s wounds were not very serious and apart from two broken ribs, she was fine, but she couldn’t talk the first day. In that time, he had turned Jolomi in at the station but was unable to get anything from him. He would deal with that later. First there was the issue of Talatu Ndeda and how such a beautiful girl got involved in all this mess.
He wasn’t sure what to do with her; he didn’t think she was safe in a hospital and a police cell was not the best place for an injured woman. Finally, this morning, she had talked. She told him a tale so unbelievable, he wasn’t sure if she was delusional or trying to confuse him.
Her story was quite absurd…
In the early 2000s, the banking sector in Nigeria was on the rise, all the banks were booming and everyone was happy. There were Jobs everywhere, cars and the good life. It was a fore tale of better things to come. The boom in the banking sector also spilled to many other aspects of the economy as small-scale business owners gained access to required funds to float and expand their business. It was the era of smart suits and ties. What many did not realise was that it was also the era of the ‘agbada’ or the ‘baban riga’. The demise of the Military in Nigeria’s political sphere and the advent of Nigeria’s most recent civilian dispensation ushered in a new wave of wealth, especially amongst the non-khaki wearing cadre. Most of these people believed they had waited to long to taste of the ‘national pudding’ and they were hungry. But they needed a channel for all the ill-gotten wealth; there was so much a ‘Ghana-must-go’ could hold. This was where the banks came in; most of the banks at the time depended on this largesse and only put up minimal operations to cater for the small number of customers they had at the time. The banks provided a channel for the exchange and storage of stolen government monies moving from one political seat to another and in turn were rewarded by their patrons with fat bank deposits. The public were deceived that most of these banks were actually thriving due to expert business intelligence. They were wrong.
In the years 2004 and 2005 the Central Bank of Nigeria passed a policy requiring all banks to increase their share capital to a minimum of Twenty-Five Billion Naira. This separated the boys from the men and only the banks with the biggest and the most influential patrons were able to survive this requirement. A lot of mergers ensued, and the surviving banks grew stronger, many of them with the funds of corrupt government officials. But the monies continued to move from ‘ghana-must-go’ to bank accounts and vice versa. Then came the ‘cashless policy’ and this created a major cordon for the politicians. There was limited cash they could move around without being noticed. They needed a solution.
Every bank used a core banking solution, like FLEXCUBE and FINNACLE to manage its daily transactions and control customer accounts. These solutions were built to protect and secure the bank’s transactions, as well as ensure that there were no occurrences of fraud. There were also other 3rd party applications used by banks to read data from their core banking solutions for various purposes. Usually the connection between these 3rd party applications and the core banking solutions were one-directional, meaning the 3rd party applications only had the ability to read information from the core banking solutions without being able to change anything on the core banking solutions. However, as most techies knew, if you could read, chances are you could write.
FINATUM 2.0 was the 3rd party application used by Majority Trust Bank to communicate with FLEXCUBE, its core banking solution. Its job was to oversee, audit and flag for review where necessary, all transactions on FLEXCUBE. It was also able to prepare a detailed report of these transactions whenever the need arose. What many at the IT Audit Unit of the Majority Trust Bank never realised was that FINATUM 2.0 could read and write.
Talatu had stumbled upon a backend access to FINATUM 2.0 and she was amazed at how much was being transferred in and out of the bank, off the records. It had been going on for years and no one knew about it. The regular standard audit of FLEXCUBE did not capture these hidden transactions because the transactions took place outside of its operations. No one had bothered to audit FINATUM 2.0 as the application was not supposed to write any data.
Talatu knew she had stumbled upon something that was meant to stay hidden and she was at first afraid. She did not inform anyone about her discovery but she made a verbal report about some of the account transactions she had noticed on FINATUM 2.0. Mysteriously, all the accounts she had made a report about disappeared the following week.
She was certain of two things: the monies being transferred in and out of the Majority Trust Bank were illegitimate and someone high up at the Majority Trust Bank knew about it.
“So you started stealing the money?” Inspector Fadiga asked.
Talatu looked pained.
“Yes, I did, if you want to call it stealing” she looked at Koiki straight in the face. “I will do it again”
Koiki sighed. This was getting tiring. He was trying really hard to believe she was somehow innocent
“Inspector, I know how this looks but I am not ashamed of what I have done.” she kept her eyes on the Inspector.
The Inspector could read fear, stubbornness and pride on her face all at once. He could tell she was trying to be bold. He couldn’t tell why she was admitting to a crime so quickly but he was sure she was beautiful.
“Why did you do it?”
“Does it matter? I am a thief, I’m sure you have a way of dealing with that. The only thing that saddens me is that you find it easy to question me about my crime without ever wondering where the money came from. You know something is wrong here and you are refusing to see it. It’s so convenient to focus on me. I’m an easy target I know.” Tears were welling up in her eyes. She dropped her mug on the stool beside her and covered her face with the blanket.
“Talatu” The Inspector’s voice was soft. She peered from under the blanket. “I am trying to understand everything. Help me. Why did you do it?”
She removed the blanket. The Inspector could see the tears on her cheeks. He resisted himself from going across to her.
“I did it for a cause and I will do it again. I needed to believe there was still something worth fighting for in this country.” She dropped her shoulders.
The Inspector waited. She continued.
“You don’t know how it feels to sit down at work everyday, knowing, not guessing, that the country is being ruined by the very institutions that ought to develop it?”
“You think?” The Inspector cut in. “I work with the Police, go figure. Corruption is everywhere.”
Talatu smiled from the corner of her mouth. Koiki was glad to see her lighten up.
“Well, its good to have people like you in the Police”
The Inspector nodded, acknowledging her compliment and urging her to go on.
“So there I was, a confused wreck, working hard at my job, but knowing that I could never work hard enough. It would change nothing; the country was headed for doom. The money and the power were in the wrong hands. So I confided in someone and he introduced me to a group of people.”
“The Pyramid Gang.” Fadiga said blandly and sighed.
Talatu shook her head.
“You have it all wrong Inspector. First to think I am the head of the gang, that’s hilarious. Secondly, there is no ‘gang’ to it. We are regular people with peculiar skill sets who are tired of watching from the side-lines.”
She got up and walked to the window and started into the gentle waves.
“Did you hear about the delivery of prepaid meters to houses in Abule–Egba, early last year?”
The Inspector nodded. “Pyramid?” He asked.
Talatu smiled still staring through the window. She continued her monologue.
“What about the anonymous donations of Ten Million Naira to 30 orphanages in Nigeria? The importation one million Google Chrome books that was freely given to Nigerian University students? You want me to continue?”
Talatu turned from the window and stared at Koiki. He held her gaze.
“No” he said finally. “I get your point. You guys are like Robin Hood, robbing the rich to pay the poor.”
“It’s more than that, we give hope to the poor, to the weak, to the nation. We are healing the blind, letting the sun in. We are sick of the dark ways Nigerians march to the drumming, jumping when they tell us to jump. To hell with that, I want to see some fists pumping, I want to risk something, take back what’s mine, say something that I know people might attack me for, ‘cause I’m sick of being treated like I had before, like it’s stupid standing for what I’m standing for, like this government is really different, like it doesn’t cater for the rich and abandon the poor, like our leaders understand you in the back of their jets, when you can’t put fuel in your tank, these crooks are laughing their way to the bank and cashing their cheques, asking you to have passion and have some respect. No more!”
She was a dream. Her rage and passion had transported her out of his small parlour to another place, a place where good fought evil. He wasn’t sure if she was speaking to him or an unseen audience. He could see every line across her face light up. This was something she believed in.
“Currently,” she continued, “We are on our biggest project yet, and perhaps that’s why I’m being hunted. Most of the financing comes from my end.”
“… and what will this ‘biggest project’ be, if I may ask?”
She laughed. “You are the Inspector, go figure.” She winked at him
Koiki sighed. He was certain of two things: she was a criminal and he was in love.
There were four of them. They were dressed very causally and except for the man who was wearing a white kaftan and a native Hausa cap, they could pass for a group of friends having a nice lunch. It was only until you noticed the Nigerian Secret Service men lurking in the corners of the Voyage Restaurant of the Radisson Blu, Victoria Island that you would begin to wonder who they were.
The man wearing a cap cleared his throat before speaking
“Otunba where is the money?”
Otunba was a very powerful man, but he stuttered when he responded.
“Senator, it is secure. I have everything under control but…”
The Senator cut him short with a wave of his hand.
“Come now Otunba, you say the money is secure. Can we move it now?”
Otunba shook his head. He tried to say something but the Senator dismissed him and addressed one of the men at the table.
“Henry, you are in charge of this thing now. I’m tired of hearing these excuses.”
Henry was a small man; he was quiet and spoke very little. His was the voice of reason.
“Senator, maybe we should allow Otunba explain himself. He has always delivered on his promises, so I am fairly certain he will resolve this too”
There was silence. Senator Tanko reached for his pack of Astra Cigarettes on the table. It was a very crude Oriental Blend, originating from the former Moldavian principality in Eastern Europe. He had been introduced to it during his time in Romania whilst studying at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University. He was a strange fellow with varied ideologies to fit his diversity in religion education and politics. He was wealthy and powerful, but he still loved many of the things he had gotten used to in his younger days hustling between the streets of Kano, then Lagos and finally Abuja, trying to make ends meet. He inhaled the biting scent of his cigarette and smiled; it was a testament of how far he had come. He knew the men around the table disliked his taste in cigarettes but they could not voice out their opinions. This was power.
He nodded his head.
“Sir” Otunba began “You know I have been doing this for a long time. I have never had this issue. Someone found our loophole and has blocked our access into the systems. We have been suspecting it for a while now. We were losing a couple of millions at different points in time, but it didn’t amount to much and we just assumed it was a system issue. You know I cannot make an open report about something like this?”
He paused. The Senator nodded.
“Well, we have narrowed it down to one person; a Lady. We made a report to the police and then snatched her away from the police, that way our tracks were covered. We lost her again to the Police and the Police have my man, Jolomi. I wanted to know how you want us to proceed.”
The Senator watched the serene waters as he sucked in the final brunt of his cigarette. What a shame, he thought, such an enjoyable stick. He had reduced his smoking to one a day. This was all he could have if he wanted to live long enough to enjoy his anticipated eight years at the Rock.
“Where is this Lady now?”
“She is being debriefed by the Police. We hear she is the custody of one Inspector Fadiga.”
The Senator’s eyes narrowed. “Fadiga?”
“Yes” Mustapha responded. “The same one Sir”
He had been quiet all this while, he was a smart man. He had been allied with the Senator since the early days and as the Senator rose, he occupied his previous position. He was currently the House of Representatives Member, for Bida/Gbako/Katcha Federal Constituency, Niger State.
The Senator smiled. The Inspector was still with the force. He chuckled to himself as he remembered how he had embarrassed the Inspector; broken his pride and had him transferred from Abuja. He must have been demoted. He used to be an Assistant Superintendent of the Police. Interesting.
“So Fadiga is in charge of the investigation from the Police’s end?”
“Interesting. I want the girl and I want your man. Get them. I leave town tonight.”
Koiki Fadiga had no choice. This was always going to happen. She was always going to face the consequences of her actions. There was nothing he could do.
She stared at him from behind the bars. She was smiling. Why does she do that? Just stand there and smiling at him, he thought. He remembered the ‘West Life’ lyrics…. How I’m I supposed to leave her when she’s looking that? Abegi, look at this criminal trying to con me. Not going to happen.
He finished completing the Complaint Form, attached her Statement to it and handed the papers along with Talatu’s bag he had been keeping since the arrest, to Stella.
“Please process this, alongside the file for the mean dude in Solitary confinement. I want them charged ASAP.”
“You are already late Sir” Stella spat. “DPO has already asked about the chap and I told him you were still investigating. He should have been charged in 48 hours you know?”
Koiki waved off her complaints, watching Talatu.
“She is a hot one eh?” Stella leaned over the counter and whispered in Koiki’s ears. “I think she likes you.” She winked as she quickly gathered up the papers and went to get them processed.
Koiki sighed. He walked up to Talatu. She walked forward towards him the bars of her cell separating them.
“I hope you are comfortable?” he asked.
“Yeah, I kinda expected something like this at some point.”
“It is what it is, yes?” Fadiga tried to console her.
“Yes” her soft response.
“Can I get a pen?”
Fadiga raised his brows.
“I’m not supposed to give you anything once you are inside”
“Please, I just want to write down a phone number. I need you to call the person, so someone knows I’m here. It’s been four days since you arrested me.”
“I’m not sure I want you to contact anyone outside. You are safer not contacting anyone.”
“Please Koiki… I need to call him.”
They were on first name friendship now. Fadiga couldn’t refuse her, not after she pleaded. He felt his heart tear in different places, realising she was going to call her boyfriend.
He handed her his Blackberry WZ11. It was the latest offering from the now restructured Canadian company. A simple smart device with automated voice controls. He could track from anywhere in the world. It was a gift from his friend at Interpol after their joint investigations in Abuja. He winced remembering the incident and his eventual transfer to LEAD.
Talatu moved to the end of the cell. There was only one other person in the cell. A drunk prostitute arrested for a bar brawl the night before. Her masters would eventually come for her before nightfall. They needed her innings.
Whilst Talatu was talking on the phone, the Inspector Fadiga walked away to front desk. He wanted to giver her some privacy and also talk with Stella.
Talatu waved at him. He walked back towards her.
“Thanks Koiki” she said as she handed the phone back to him. Her hand brushed his slightly; deliberate. She smiled at him. Koiki Frowned.
“He is not my boyfriend, just in case you want to investigate it”
Koiki couldn’t hide his relief. Talatu laughed gently, enjoying his unease. He gently withdrew his hands and turned to go.
He walked on. When he got to the counter, he turned round to look at her again. He waved and walked out of the station into the afternoon sun. He needed to clear his head.
The twelfth night of August 2016 was a cold one.
LEAD’s office was located at Onikan area of Lagos State. It was a large compound containing six buildings. The main administration building was a twin six-storey building siting in the centre of the compound facing the gate. The cellblock was to the left of the administration building. It was a mini police station with a regular crime reporting and investigation unit. There was the armoury behind the administration building and then the sports centre. The Police Hall was as tall as the administration building and it was next to the wall, adjacent to the Onikan Stadium. It faced the cellblock.
The men who came for Talatu and Jolomi were pros. There were six of them. Their gear and apparels spoke of their special military training. They approached LEAD’s building premises from two angles. Two of them used grappling hooks to scale the fence and then climbed unto the Police Hall, opposite the Cell Block. They were snipers. The other four approached the gate in a black coloured Toyota Hilux van. They all carried silenced semi-automatics. As they approached the gate to Lead’s office, two security officers approached the van causally; they didn’t see their deaths coming.
One of the four quickly got out and raised the car barrier and they drove in silently into the compound. The one who raised the barrier stayed at the gate.
Stella was ready to go home. She liked Inspector Fadiga; he was a fair man and hardworking too. She was willing to stay longer at work to complete his tasks. It was 7.15pm and it was getting late. She was just a ‘Corper’. The M84 Stun grenade that rolled into the front office announced its presence with an eerie silence. Stella had no response, she did not block her ears, she did not dive for cover, she did not move. She felt for the first time in her life the effects of an intensely loud “bang” of 170 decibels and a blinding flash of more than one million candela. She instantly experienced blindness, deafness, and inner ear disturbance. As she collapsed she saw the other two Policewomen in the front office fall to the ground.
She watched in horror and pain as two men in camouflage fatigues dashed into the front office. One of them paused when he saw her, hesitated and then shot her in the heart. The other shot the two policewomen.
Talatu heard several explosions from around her cell, before she saw the grenade that rolled across the floor in front of her cell. The lights blinded Talatu before her ears began to ring. She felt the walls collapse around her as she became disorientated and confused. She stumbled to the edge of the cell blocking her ears and trying to control her balance. She heard muffled sharp sounds coming from around her. She was alone in the cell; some thug like men had come to bail the prostitute. She heard someone smash the gate to her cell and she turned around to see a masked man in camouflage fatigues bearing down on her. He grabbed her; she tried to scream but she was too disoriented. He dragged her out ignoring her feeble fight. She saw Jolomi from the corner of her eye, coming from a corner down the hallway with another man in a mask. She began to panic, she managed to scream, and she was becoming hysterical. The man dragging threw her to the ground and leaned over her. He put one finger on his lips asking her to be silent, and then he knocked her out with a blow to her head.
When Inspector Fadiga arrived at LEAD’s premises, the chaos was over. The police scanner had just broadcasted the attack on LEAD. There were 12 casualties; 4 officers were confirmed dead and 3 personnel were in intensive care, whilst 5 had suffered injuries. A small fire had started in a part of the Administrative building, after one of the flash grenades had landed on a stack of papers and ignited. The fire had been quenched but there was still a lot of smoke.
The Divisional Police Officer was giving orders around when he turned and saw Fadiga.
“Koiki!” he screamed and charged towards the Inspector. “What the hell is going on here? It’s your case that has brought this calamity. They should have been charged by now! Koiki! Koiki!!”
Inspector Fadiga couldn’t understand the DPO’s rage. He was doing his job. He ignored the DPO and ran towards the Cell Block. He bumped into two paramedics carrying a stretcher. Stella!
He examined her. She was alive. One of the paramedics explained that she was lucky the bullet missed her heart by inches and went clean through. She looked at Koiki trying to pronounce something. Koiki thought he heard Talatu. He dashed into the cellblock and his heart tore, he walked slowly towards her cell, alarmed as he saw the broken gate. It was empty.
***************** TO BE CONTINUED IN THE FINAL PART ******************