Lagos Police Enmeshed In Illegal Arrests, Extortion, By James Smith

0
217

Despite growing clamour for reforms to make it a people-friendly institution, the Nigerian Police has continued to operate in a manner that suggests it is not ready to turn a new leaf. Reform of the police was one of the demands of #EndSARS protests that virtually brought the country on its knees in October, 2020.

In spite of this, the Lagos Police has once again come under heavy criticism over its recent operation that led to unlawful arrests and extortion of innocent citizens around Gowon Estate of Egbeda/Idimu axis of Lagos State. On Sunday, February 7, 2021, a contingent of armed policemen in three Hilux pick-up vans stormed the area around 10pm and raided some places, arresting anybody they could lay their hands on, which included restaurant operators, service boys, shawarma sellers, roasted meat vendors popularly called mai suya, passers-by, etc.

The operation was led by the DPO, Gowon Estate Egbeda, Mr. Kabiru Suleiman in conjunction with the commander of Area ‘M’ Police Division, Idimu, Mr. Abiola Haruna Akano. Some of the arrests were made at the spots where some para-military personnel living in the estate were relaxing but attempt by the para-military personnel to intervene did not yield any result, thereby leading to the arrests of many people.

 

Among those arrested were one Mr. Wale Alade, an Elderly Retiree and his Friend Mr. Alex who strolled outside of their house to take a drink at the spot. Others were Kolawole Jousha, a Sales Boy selling at the spot, Ezekial who sells roasted fish around the place and a Hausa suya seller at the spot. On leaving the spot, they picked up one Mrs. Veronica Kalu and her brother right in front of her estate gate, road 121, Gowon Estate and bundled them into the vehicle. Mrs. Kalu was only escorting her brother who came to visit her to the gate of the estate before they were picked up.

On leaving Gowon Estate, the Police team reportedly accosted some commuters who were waiting to board vehicles to their destinations at Egbeda bus stop and bundled them into their vehicle. Among those arrested at the bus stop was one Markson Peter Godson who operates roasted fish spots around Gowon Estate and Karimu Laka, all within Egbeda Area. So many other people were later arrested from different spots, bringing the total number of people arrested to 25, who were detained overnight at Area ‘M’ Police Division Idimu.

Investigation reveal that among the 25 people arrested that night, six people were able to pay for their freedom to the tune of about N60, 000 each while the rest 19 were sent to State CID Panti, Yaba, the following day.

Right from the night of the arrest, many relations of those arrested including Mr. Pius Ehimare, the owner of one of the restaurants whose ward was arrested along with others, visited the Gowon Estate police station, just about 500 meters from the scene of the arrests with the hope of securing their release, only to be told that the arrested people had been taken to Area ‘M’ Division at Idimu, and that the operation was ordered by the area commander himself. On getting to Idimu later that night, they were told that the area commander had closed for the day.

They repeated the visit on the morning of Monday, February 8, but nothing much was achieved until 19 out of the 25 initial arrests were taken to Panti, Yaba, preparatory to being charged to court, according to the report.

The drama took a bizarre twist when those arrested arrived at Panti only to be confronted by the Police Officers who asked them to form themselves into groups of three members each, with each group expected to raise N100, 000 to secure their release on bail. While some of the arrests agreed to pay the money, others did not accept the offer or did not have the money to buy their freedom. At the end, some of the detainees were able to pay but ended up paying between N50,000 – N60, 000 to secure their release, leaving behind about seven others who could not afford the money and subsequently categorized among the people to be charged to court on frivolous allegation of being arrested at dark spots around 3am. Not being able to make any headway on their efforts to secure the release of their people, the relations of the detainees all went home, placing their hope on the possibility of the detainees being released on proper bail if indeed the matter was going to be taken to court.

Frustrated by the action of the Police, a media practitioner who was present at the scene of the arrests on February 7, was reported to reach out to the commissioner of police, Lagos command, CP Hakeem Odumusu through a WhatsApp message with detailed report of the events of the night and the monetary demands of the police, with a request to the commissioner to wade in and save innocent citizens from the hands of the corrupt police officers. He expressed his disappointment over the action of the police who were bent on punishing innocent people who were arrested in their business premises two hours before the commencement of the 12 am COVID-19 curfew who were to be charged to court for being found “at dark spots at 3 am”.

On getting to Court on Monday, February 15, where the detainees were to be arraigned at Yaba Magistrate Court with the arrival of the detainees at the court, there was another twist when the police officer, Mr. Richard Atagah who brought the detainees to court suddenly announced to the relations of the detainees that he was taking the detainees back to Panti because there was an order from above to free the detainees. On getting to Panti, the detainees were released without any condition attached to their freedom. Many people have interpreted the order from above to released the detainees unconditionally to have come from the commissioner of police himself following the message earlier sent to him by the media practitioner who was following up the case.

The arbitrary action of the police on poor and innocent Nigerians who were struggling to eke out a living has raised some fundamental issues. At a time when detention of suspects in police cells is being discouraged to stem the spread of COVID-19, police authorities at Panti found it expedient to detain many people in cells over a period of time, without concerns about their safety. While there are cries of the police being overstretched by security challenges around the country, the police appear to see nothing wrong in adding unnecessary tasks to their list – going round to make arbitrary arrests of innocent and law-abiding citizens on trumped up charges and asking them to pay exorbitant amounts as bail to secure their freedom.

Some of the detainees spoken to have expressed anger over their maltreatment by the police for no reasons. In a Facebook post, one of the detainees, Markson Peters Godson narrated his ordeal in the hands of the police.

He said, that he was bundled at Egbeda Bus stop while waiting to board a bus home after closing from office, and that his attempt to find out the reason for his arrest earned him serious beating from the police men. He said that his friends spent about N55, 000 to secure his release from Panti. He said that he saw hell at Panti Detention center and almost wished himself dead due to horrible condition of the place.

Another victim of the unlawful police operation, Kola Joshua has expressed appreciation to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police who ordered their unconditional release as soon as the matter was brought to his notice. He said that for no just cause, he was arrested right from his business premises and detained for about eight days and concluded by saying that he has left everything to God Almighty.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here