A motorist in Owerri, Imo State, Ebuka Robert and his uncle, Victor Aguwah, have recounted their ordeal at the hands of a team of policemen at a checkpoint in the Enyiogugu area of the state.
They alleged that the policemen, one of whom was identified as Ifeanyi, accosted them last Tuesday in a vehicle and threatened to frame them for fraud and killings perpetrated by “unknown gunmen.”
The victims said the cops demanded N500,000 bribe from them but eventually collected N60,000 via a Point of Sale after much pleading.
Aguwah, a Lagos-based telecommunications official, told City Round that Robert and a cousin, Junior, went to pick him up at the Sam Mbakwe Airport around 12noon on Tuesday.
He said they were on their way home when the policemen in an armoured vehicle marked NPF4605D flagged down the car driven by Robert and ordered them to disembark for the vehicle to be searched.
The 39-year-old man said when the policemen did not find anything incriminating in the car, they started to cook up lies against them.
He said, “They searched my bag thoroughly but only found clothes and drugs that I use for my health issues. They took Ebuka (Robert) to a corner. I moved close and asked Ebuka what happened. He said they asked him to bring N500,000. They said we were all fraudsters.
“I told them to check my phone even though it wasn’t the right thing to do. I told them to take me to their custody if they found anything incriminating in my phone. One of the policemen, who was smoking and drinking, confronted me and ordered me to enter their vehicle. Before I could ask what my offence was he slapped me and hit my spine with the tip of his gun.
“He cocked his gun and threatened to shoot. Junior was also ordered into the vehicle. One of them drove Ebuka’s car while another one sat with him (Ebuka) at the back. They collected our phones and started saying we were the ones killing police in Onitsha (Anambra State) and that we have come to Imo to continue the killings.”
Aguwah said he became terrified at that point and resorted to prayers and begging when the cops threatened to take them to the station. He explained that the policemen eventually drove them to Dan Anyịam Stadium and asked them to pay N300,000.
He said, “I told them I didn’t have such money and that I took a flight from Lagos to Imo because of insecurity on the road in recent times. They asked for my ATM card but it wasn’t with me. One of them changed his uniform to mufti and led Ebuka to a PoS terminal.
“They forced him to transfer N60,000 from his bank account. At that point, they became friendly. He gave his name as Ifeanyi. Ebuka used that opportunity to ask for his phone number and he gave it to him. As their vehicle was leaving, I quickly took its registration number which is NPF4605D.”
The telecoms expert, who said they were eventually released around 5pm, lamented he was still nursing pains in his spine.
Robert, a Microbiology graduate, described the extortion as a daylight robbery, saying that he was shocked the police could attempt to frame them.
He said, “They stopped me on our way from the airport and I told them I just passed their checkpoint. They insisted on searching the vehicle. Two of them were searching my vehicle in a suspicious manner. I feared they might plant something incriminating there so I was vigilant.
“I showed them the vehicle documents. They ordered us into my car and their vehicle and started beating us. Our phones were already with them and I was tense. They asked us to pay N500,000. We begged them to collect N10,000 but they refused. I told them I didn’t have much money. They eventually agreed on N60,000. I asked for an account number to transfer the money to but they didn’t give me. One of them led me to a nearby PoS terminal where I used my ATM card to withdraw N60,000. They returned our phones and freed us. It was just a daylight robbery.”
The Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Okechukwu Nwanguma, who is following up the case, said the organisation had reported the incident to the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussain.
He said, “The PPRO, Imo State Police Command, CSP Michael Abatam, has called to inform that the Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussain, received the complaint with sadness.’’
Abatam told our correspondent that the policemen had been identified and detained, assuring the public that the outcome of the investigation would be made known.