Issues concerning the extortion of innocent citizens by greedy policemen have generated an outrage in recent times with experts suggesting ways of curbing the menace by the minions of law, reports KUNLE AKINRINADE.

  •  Victims of racketeer cops relive ordeal
  •  How officers use POS machine to collect bribe

The life of a young fashion designer, Taiwo Ayomide, ended in a tragic manner barely four days after he celebrated the recent Eid-el-Kabir in his Iragbiji hometown in Osun State. According to reports, the 20-year-old was beaten to death in the most brutal manner by a power-drunk policeman, Inspector Ago Egharevbe, in a bid to forcibly collect a bribe from the deceased.

As the story goes, Ayomide and his brother, Oladimeji Wasiu, were returning from Iragbiji on a motorcycle when they were flagged down by a gun totting officer at a checkpoint near the Odo Osun section of Ibokun Road in Ijahun village, Ibokun Local Government Area, Osun State.

Egharevba, who according to Wasiu demanded N50 bribe, was shocked that the deceased had a huge sum of money on him unleashed his temper on Ayomide, hitting him with the butt of his gun.

The attack left Ayomide with a severe head injury, leading to his death at the Ladoke Akintola Teaching Hospital, Osogbo where he was rushed to for treatment.

Wasiu said: “While we were coming from our Iragbiji hometown after Sallah, we met four police officers on the way. One of them, who was drinking alcohol stopped us and demanded money. When my brother brought out money to give him, he saw a huge amount of money in his pocket. It was the sum of N50,000 meant for our mother.

“He asked him to bring the money out, my brother refused. In anger, the policeman started hitting my brother with the butt of his gun. We fell down in the process and I sustained an arm injury.

“Before I could stand up to rescue my brother, I discovered that the policeman was on the verge of running away, but he was stopped by passers-by and my other brothers who were coming behind us.

“Ayomide was admitted at the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital where he remained unconscious until his death. His mobile phone and the sum of N50,000 in his pocket were stolen.”

Many other victims of police extortion are living with the trauma of their ordeal at the hands of errant policemen. In a video posted on Twitter by a popular rapper, Ruggedman, in April 2020, a policeman named Martins was caught on camera extorting the sum of N40,000 from an unnamed motorist on Ago Palace Way, Okota, Isolo area of Lagos.

The unidentified motorist was apprehended for violating the restriction of movement order over the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, and was forced to part with the money before his car was released from custody.

In the footage, Martins, identified as the Station Officer at Ago Police Division, was seen collecting wads of N1,000 naira notes, and counting them to confirm if the money was complete. The victim, according to the Twitter post, was on his way to buy foodstuff and fuel when he was intercepted by some policemen.

The unidentified victim was quoted to have said in the Twitter post: “One of the policemen drove my car to Ago Police Station, Okota. I live at Ago too. When we got there, I met so many other people.

“We were told to meet the S/O (Station Officer) who delayed us from 9 am till 5 pm. When the people became tired and frustrated, they started going in to meet him one by one, and the least sum he collected from each of them was 50k (N50,000).”

He said the officer only agreed to accept N40,000 from him after much pleading.

“After much pleading, the officer agreed to collect N40k from me. I went to the bank, withdrew 40k and gave it to him. That was when he released my vehicle’s key to me. Unknown to him, I recorded everything.”

In the same month, a woman, Oluwatoyin Ajogbor, posted a video on social media accusing the men of Agbowa-Ikosi Police Division in Epe Local Government Area, Lagos State, of illegal arrest and extortion.

In the video, Ajogbor said she was arrested after she withdrew some cash from a POS operator. Ironically, it was the same policemen who had directed her to where she could find a POS operator that arrested her and collected the N10,000 she wanted to use in buying foodstuff.

The woman explained that she was detained at the station from 11 am until 8 pm and later released after the money she withdrew was taken from her.

“The incident occurred in Agbowa when I went out with a friend to buy food items because there was nothing left in the house to eat.

“I went round the town looking for a POS operator but couldn’t find any, and there was no bank in Agbowa where I could use an ATM.

“We met some policemen at a checkpoint. They stopped us and asked where we were going. I explained to them that I was looking for a POS operator so that I could withdraw some money to buy food items.

“They thereafter described where we could find a POS operator around the place. I thanked the policemen and went to the POS operator. He only had N10,000 left, so I collected everything even though I needed more.

“To my surprise, one of the policemen jumped into my car and asked me to drive to their station. I told them why I was out and that the government said we could go out to get food between 10 am and 2 pm.

“They took us to Agbowa Police Station and we were detained until 8 pm because the DTO (name withheld) was not around.

“When the DTO came, he told us he did not want to talk to anyone. He said we should go and see one female sergeant. It was this female sergeant that collected the N10,000 from us.

“Immediately we got to her, she told us that the DTO sent her to us and that our fine was N10,000 each.

“Funny enough, it was this same DTO, the female sergeant and others who led me to the POS guy from whom I collected cash before I was arrested.

“The police officers at the station collected all the money and made me go back home empty-handed and without any food to survive the lockdown.”

How errant officers were arrested, reprimanded

Worried by the brutal killing of Ayomide, the Osun State Police Command arrested and dismissed the errant policeman, Inspector Egharvebe.

A statement issued in Osogbo by the Command’s spokesperson, Opalola Yemisi, explained that Egharevbe was arrested after the incident.

The statement said Egharevbe had been subjected to orderly room trial and was dismissed following a recommendation to the Inspector General of Police by the state’s Commissioner of Police, Undie Adie.

The statement read: “CP Adie and the entire Osun Police Command commiserate with the family and friends of Ayomide Taiwo on the death of their loved one as we promised to ensure justice is served.

“The Commissioner of Police has identified, arrested and detained the erring policeman. The defaulter has passed through force disciplinary procedures of orderly room trial, dismissed him and he will be subsequently charged to court.

“The Osun State Police Command wishes to state that the officer, Inspector Ago Egharevbe, who brutalised a civilian in Ibokun has been tried and dismissed from the force.

“The Commissioner of Police wishes to state clearly that the command under his watch will not tolerate any act of indiscipline, brutality, unprofessional behaviour and incivility to members of the public.

In the case of Ajogbor, the errant policemen who arrested and extorted her were swiftly identified and apprehended.

According to the spokesman of the Lagos State Police Command, Bala Elkana, the officers were arrested after the footage posted by Ajogbor was carefully analysed.

Bala said: “The attention of the Lagos State Police Command is drawn to a video on social media in which a lady alleged that her vehicle was impounded by the Divisional Traffic Officer, Agbowa Division, and a female sergeant.

“She equally accused the officers of extorting money from her. After analysing the video, the officers mentioned were identified by our operatives and arrested. They are Assistant Superintendent of Police Adebayo Ojo and Sergeant Adeleke Mojisola.

“The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, has ordered an in-depth investigation into the case.”

Other cases of extortion

Like others, Murtala Salami’s ordeal at the hands of policemen last year has continued to traumatise him. Precisely in October, 2019, the clearing agent, who works in Apapa Port, Lagos, got an Infinix Hot 4 phone from a phone technician identified simply as Yusuf, several months after he gave Yusuf an Infinix Hot 6 phone to fix.

The problem with the phone he gave Yusuf to repair was intractable, hence the technician gave him a similar phone as a temporary replacement pending the time he would find a solution to his phone.

Murtala, who had by then bought a new phone, simply gave the replacement phone to his wife. A few weeks later, policemen from Alakara Division in Ojoo area of Ibadan, Oyo State, tracked the phone to his wife while Murtala had gone to work. His wife was arrested and detained at Ikotun Police Station, Lagos.

She was freed in the evening after her husband got to the station, while he was in turn held and transferred to Alakara Police Station in Ibadan. But before Murtala was moved to Ibadan, he was first taken to Yusuf’s house in the neighborhood but the technician, on sighting his customer in handcuffs, bolted without a trace.

The young clearing agent was consequently detained for six days at the police division in Ibadan. Within the six days he spent there, he claimed the policemen extorted him to the tune of N160, 000 which the minions claimed was meant for his bail and logistics. The money, according to him, was withdrawn from his Access Bank account through a POS machine the policemen brought to him in the cell.

He said: “I still cannot get over my experience at the hands of the policemen at the station. It happened that I gave my Infinix Hot 6 phone to a technician called Yusuf to fix for me. The phone’s screen had issues and I gave him about N7,500 to fix it for me.

“Several months later, Yusuf did not return my phone, leaving me with no choice but to report him to some of his acquaintances after I discovered that he was avoiding me in our neighbourhood.

“One day, I saw him at the Computer Village in Ikeja and held him by his shirt. The encounter created a scene and some bystanders brokered a truce between us. In the middle of the altercation, he told me that my phone was giving him problems and he offered to give me a similar phone, an Infinix Hot 4, for me to use until he would properly fix my phone.

“I collected the phone and gave it to my wife since I had bought a new phone. A few days later, while I was at work in Apapa, I learnt that some policemen were at my residence to arrest my wife and that she was being taken to Ikotun Police Division. I rushed down.

“My wife was freed after a sum of N5,000 was collected from her, while I was detained. I was led to Yusuf’s home in the neighbourhood of Ikotun and he fled on sighting me in handcuffs. I was subsequently moved to Alakara Police Station in Ojoo area of Ibadan, Oyo State. I was held in the cell for six days and I paid through my nose.

“The Investigating Police Officer (IPO), a female Inspector, told me that I would have to pay to regain my freedom. I told them how I got the phone in my statement and that they should arrest Yusuf but they insisted that I would have to pay for my bail.

“I told them I had no cash on me but I had some money in my Access Bank account. Knowing full well that I brought my ATM card with me to the station, they took it from me before they locked me up in the cell.

“The IPO dashed out and returned with a POS machine through which she asked me to pay the sum of N80,000. I had no option but to comply right there in the cell.

“I thought that I would be freed after that, but the policemen continued to extort me, using the POS until I coughed out additional N40,000 twice, making the total amount they collected for bail N160,000. That was how my account was emptied.

“Initially, they held me incommunicado. When she later demanded another sum of N10,000, I told her my account was empty. At this point, she gave me a phone to call anyone who could give me the money, following which I called one of my brothers on the phone.

“My father, who intercepted the call, came to the station and got annoyed when he learnt that I was forced to pay via a POS device brought by the policemen handling the case.”

How to curb menace — Security experts

A human rights activist and Executive Director of Centre for Constitutional Rights Initiative, Kolapo Lawal, said the channel for complaints must be re-engineered to perform to its optimum capacity, to boost the confidence of people in reporting erring officers.

“Police authorities should take urgent steps to rejig its public complaints department with provision of adequate logistics and funding for optimum performance. This would ensure optimum performance of the unit in addressing complaints about erring policemen and ensuring they are sanctioned if found culpable,” Lawal said.

A legal practitioner, Ambrose Okafor, noted that corrupt officers could be weeded out of the Police Force if the X-Squad set up a few years ago to curb fraudulent practices by policemen is visible in every nook and cranny of the country.

“The anti-corruption unit called X-Squad should be adequately funded and manned by disciplined men to comb the length and breadth of the country for corrupt policemen who indulge in extortion of innocent motorists, commuter and residents,” he said.

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