Tuesday, March 28

Mrs Joy Obasi Egbe, One Of The First Female Police Officers In Nigeria Narrates Her  Experience As A Policewoman

“I enlisted in 1955 as one of Nigeria’s first squad of 20 policewomen, with No 0018

In 1955, I joined the Nigeria Police Force. I was a few months shy of 22. I was one of the first squad of twenty Nigerian women in the Force. My number was 0018, and my name was Joy Kanu. 

After six months of training in the Police College, we had a memorable passing out parade on 26 April 1956, with the colonial Inspector General of Police, R. J. P. McLaughlan, reviewing the parade. 

When Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria from 28 January to 15 February 1956, I was the one who taught our group a traditional dance performed for her. I led the steps and the songs I had learnt in my primary schools at Government School Awka and Government School Owerri, and we had drummers learn them. The Commandant of the College arranged for us – dancers and drummers – to be taken to King George V Stadium (now Mobolaji Johnson Arena), Onikan on Lagos Island where the Queen was given a reception and warm welcome. Other dancers were there. During our turn, we danced creditably well to the applause of the large audience. We were elated that we saw the Queen and performed for her. We were sure that we would always be remembered and counted among those who had in our little way contributed to the activities of the nation.

After passing out of the Police College, nine of us, including my friend, Margaret, and I, were posted to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters. We were not happy about the posting. We were told that to succeed on the beat, one had to be spiritually strong and surround oneself with charms or juju. We cried because we did not have or know such things. We did not know anyone to lead us to any native doctor who could prepare us for such a task. In any case, we were taken to Falomo Police Barracks. In front of the Women Police Block in the main barracks was written in bold letters “OUT OF BOUNDS TO ALL MEN”. We, the nine policewomen, were assigned to our rooms. Margaret and I shared a room. We went to work in mufti and trekked to Moloney Street where the CID was. We were distributed to various departments. Some were sent to Special Duty, others to the Handwriting section while we were sent to Crime Investigation. We were now groomed and sent out with men to guide us. 

Shortly after, we were each given loans to buy ourselves bicycles. 

I got for myself a Hodge bicycle. The movement to work and back was easy and fast. 

We had a nice and kind female Assistant Superintendent (ASP), a Briton named Miss Turnbull. She was so nice to me, and I liked her so much. 

I was one of the first four policewomen who received their first promotion. The rest were: Emmana Ika, Bassey Effa and Stella Opiyo. From then, I was posted to Ikoyi Police Station, and I had begun to wear the police uniform. We were given a chevron each. This denoted that four of us were outstanding among other policewomen. Miss Turnbull now reposted me from Ikoyi Police Station to control traffic on the streets of Lagos. Although I was given a designated area, I often controlled traffic between Moloney Bridge and Force Headquarters. There was always a large crowd, including journalists, watching me controlling traffic. My photograph controlling traffic was frequent in the Daily Times newspaper, Evening Times and even in Drum magazine. It was a novelty for policewomen to control traffic. Apart from Moloney Street, I controlled traffic at Tinubu Square. 

After some time, I was posted to the Juvenile Welfare Centre along Campbell Street, near St. Peter’s Cathedral. It was near Campos Square. We took care of juveniles who were brought there for such offences as hawking and stealing. The policewomen’s abode was transferred from Falomo to Obalende. There too it was “OUT OF BOUNDS TO ALL MEN.” St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, was our neighbour. The boys stubbornly played their ball into our yard. We nicknamed them ‘crooked legs’ because instead of playing their ball into the goal post, because of the nature of their legs, they played it into our premises. In any case, we always played it back to them. 

We enjoyed our stay at Obalende. At Falomo, we had no facilities for recreation, and it was quite a distance from the market, workplace, and other areas of interest. 

At Obalende, some of us enrolled at the Obalende Arcade. There we learnt how to dance quickstep, foxtrot, waltz, rhumba, tango, and even highlife. We also had other dancing schools, namely Police Dancing School and Onikan Dancing School. Those were places we spent some of our evenings after work. It was always very exciting and rewarding.

 I was in the Force for three years during which I had two promotions. 

I had to resign, late 1958,  to get married to Enyi Egbe, who had just returned from England where he studied at Hull University. I became Mrs Joy Obasi Egbe”. 

Source: www.mytori.ng 

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