Nigeria: The Getaway Car

Ibadan, Nigeria Peugeot

Saturday, January 14, 1967: In broad daylight, four armed men broke into the National Bank of Nigeria in Ado Ekiti and held the cashier at gunpoint. Outside, an angry mob assembled. Of the four robbers who emerged, one was beaten to death by the crowd, while the remaining three ran to their getaway vehicle—my father’s white Peugeot—a car commonly seen in Nigeria, which is why it was probably singled out by the thieves. Pursued, they led the police on a high-speed chase to a wooded area on the outskirts of town. The officers shot one of the robbers as he attempted to flee on foot, capturing him. The other two sped away in the Peugeot.

The following day an astute policeman noticed a white Peugeot 403 parked outside a bank. Investigating, he discovered the license plate number and the license sticker on the windshield did not match. He called for backup, and the officer began searching the surrounding buildings. In a structure behind the bank, the police captured the two remaining robbers and uncovered £6,000 in cash.

Arrested, the three faced charges of “armed robbery, grant theft auto, and the alleged unlawful shooting of an expatriate”—my father. They were held in the Agodi Prison, and all three declined to participate in a lineup, so my father never had the opportunity to identify the two who had shot him and stolen his car. Before the trial took place, the three men escaped. As time passed and no progress was made in the investigation, the police suggested we drop the case. When asked if we had bad feelings about Nigeria because of this incident, we always replied no! Carjackings and armed robberies can happen anywhere in the world, and they do every day.


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Nigeria: Ibadan 1966–1968

Ibadan Nigeria

After we left Trinidad, we routed back to the United States to visit family, apply for visas, and get those obligatory vaccinations I remember all too well. With our departure for Nigeria imminent, we had the pleasure of receiving all of our shots in short order. The most impressive? The yellow fever injection. I swore the nurse was coming at me with a horse needle.

Pumped with enough vaccine to conquer any virus, and armed with visas, new passports, and a fresh supply of quinine tablets to combat malaria, we eagerly packed for Africa, only to be told to “cool your heels for an indefinite period of time.” Nigeria was in the midst of its first coup.

Two weeks later, the U.S. Department of State gave us clearance to travel, and on a hot, humid day in January we arrived in Lagos, then drove to Ibadan where we would live for two years.

The job in Nigeria entailed building an entirely new water supply system for the city of Ibadan, a USAID project in cooperation with the Western Nigerian Water Corporation.

My parents rented a two-story house in a subdivision of homes like any found in the US, except for an unusual twist. The former occupant, a government official, had “fallen at odds with the former political regime.” His life threatened, he fled with his family in the dead of night, leaving behind a completely furnished home, half-packed suitcases in the middle of the living room, and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink—all in place when we toured the home as prospective renters.

While my mother enrolled us in classes at the International School on the campus of the University of Ibadan, my father began work on a temporary manufacturing plant in the town of Asejire near the Osun River.

We hadn’t lived in Ibadan long before the farmer in my father surfaced. At our home on Commercial Avenue, we didn’t have the space to raise chickens, so Dad built his coops at work, and his small-scale chicken operation became a fringe benefit for his fellow Interpace employees while he was plant manager. When Dad was interviewed by a local newspaper, the reporter asked why he would go through all the trouble. He responded, “My parents raised chickens and turkeys for market, and I have never really gotten away from it.”

Side note: In 1962, Lock Joint Pipe Company merged with Gladding, McBean to form a new company called Interpace (International Pipe and Ceramics).

Trivia:  On a fishing expedition in Ibadan, my father caught a sixty-five-pound Nile perch. He sawed it into thirds, froze two parts, and baked the third. The meal was delicious.

Throughout the year Nigeria continued to experience political unrest.  In the second coup in July 1966, General Aguiyi-Ironsi was succeeded by Yakubu Gowon as the country’s new leader, and an unsettled peace engulfed the country.


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