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CSO petitions IGP against DPO for Bribery, abuse of court process, intimidation of poor couple over land [Update]

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The Inspector General of Police
The Nigeria Police
Force Headquarters
Abuja

Dear sir

A Petition Against the DPO Ehime Mbano Police Station (08035622709) for Bribery and the Abuse of Court Process to Intimidate a Poor Couple Over Disputed Land and to Cover Up his acts of Corruption and Injustice

Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre(RULAAC) writes to bring to the attention of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and to request the IGP to order a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into this complaint of bribery, injustice and the use of Court processes by the Divisional Police Officer, Ehime Mbano Police Station to intimidate an old couple.

This case involving a poor couple (Mr Paul and Mrs Nnenna Osuji) at Ehime Mbano, illustrates the level of abuse of power and impunity by the DPO and his officers in the rural Mbano community and the suffering and oppression that people dwelling in the rural community are subjected to by the DPO and his police officers. It also shows how unprotected rural dwellers are from police harassment, intimidation and exploitation.

RULAAC decided to address this petition to your office because we had earlier forwarded the same complaint to the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command and the Police Public Relations Officer, Imo State Police Command on Saturday bringing this case to their attention but received no reply till date.

We are informed as follows:

1. That the victims Mr Paul and Mrs Nnenna Osuji are poor. They have no male children. Mr Osuji inherited lands in his family. His cousins, nephews and other relatives take the view that since he has no male children, he must relinquish to them the lands he has, desist from selling any of them and handing over, even the portions they currently farm for subsistence to other family members who have male children. Mr Osuji is still alive.

2. On Thursday, September 17 Mr Osuji received a message from the police inviting him to the Ehime Mbano Police Station. He got there on Friday and they told him that he is being accused of forceable entry into one of the lands he has been in possession of for God knows how long and which they have asked him to relinquish because he has no male children. He was detained over what is not a criminal offence. His wife who came with him was also detained. Their children who also came to ask for their release were asked to go and get a male resident in Ehime Mbano as surety before they can be released. The police said they should also deposit the sum of N30,000.00 for bail. All the children are female and so ‘do not qualify as sureties’. We don’t know under what law the DPO based this decision.

3. Upon receiving this information, we forwarded same to Imo CP and PPRO. Meanwhile, we tried to speak with the IPO but she refused to give out her phone number. Then we tried speaking to her through the phone of one of the daughters (Oluchi) still at the police station as at that evening. The IPO Precious Ukwu took the phone but pretended that the network was poor. She told Oluchi to go to the DPO whom she said was the only one who could take decision on the matter.

4. Later, Oluchi informed us that they had found a male who can stand surety for their parents. Upon our further effort to speak to the IPO or any other officer at the station, the IPO insisted that anyone with an issue on this case should talk to the DPO and that the instruction to collect the money came from the DPO. We didn’t have the DPO’s number as at then and the IPO refused to give it out.

5. We were later informed by one of the daughters that ‘they collected the total sum of N19 000 naria and warn me not to tell anybody but i told barrister johnson that very day as i coundn’t reach you again due to bad network.’

6. Later, we obtained the DCO’s phone number (07039382287) and tried to call him to demand a refund of the bribe extorted, but it was switched off all day.

7. It is pertinent to emphasise that the couple received the invitation to the Police station before Friday September 18, 2020. They attended on Friday and were detained on same Friday from morning until sometime after 6PM when they mustered the “reduced” extortion amount -NGN19,000.00 and a male in Ehime Mbano Ugochukwu Ekechukwu,
to stand surety.

8. They were asked to return to the Police Station on Wednesday 23 September 2020 which they complied with.

9. At this stage, based on a Complaint to the Complaints Response Unit (CRU), the DPO got wind that his activities were under investigation and he decided to resort to cover up including intimidating the couple into silence on the allegations of extortion against him.

10. Ostensibly on advise, those who accused the couple of forcible entry into the land in dispute added a new claim- that the couple beat up a widow in the family who has a male child that they did not have. The alleged assault was said to have happened on 15 September 2020. However, in reality, the couple insist there was no such altercation or opportunity for such altercation. The couple operate palm oil milling machine in the Ehime Mbano community and there are numerous customers whom they attended to from morning till night of the date of alleged assault. Those customers are in a position to testify that the couple did not leave the mill. So, they could not have been at the scene of alleged assault and at the Mill at the same time.

11. The accusers were advised to adjust the allegation against the couple so as to introduce a crime to justify Police intervention and role. However, the introduction is demonstrably false.

12. The person being used as the primary complainant by those oppressing the poor couple (who is allegedly the victim of assault) was asked to produce her witnesses to the assault (which never happened). She did not produce the witnesses.

13. The DPO decided to charge the couple and all their daughters to court this morning for jointly participating in the purported assault despite not having interviewed the supposed witnesses. Upon being asked how he could conclude an investigation and charge the suspects without the testimony of proposed witness, he said that the witnesses would come directly to court.

14. Ostensibly, the plan is simply to get a remand order today and blame continued detention on remand order of court until judicial bail is granted. They were given an arraignment notice for today. Chances are that they would be giving stringent bail conditions and they may spend days in prison until they are able to fulfil the bail conditions.

15. We believe firmly that the DPO is acting a script in an attempt to intimidate and get even with the couple for revealing that they extorted money from them.

16. We are aware that the DPO, not unexpectedly, has denied the allegation of demanding and receiving bribe to release the couple and that the case reported against the couple at the station was assault on a widow, not land dispute.

17. We are aware that when some corrupt police officers collect bribe, they don’t give receipt and they don’t leave any evidence and they always deny when confronted. It’s only in few cases where they carelessly leave traces and they get caught that they are forced to own up. Otherwise, the tendency is always to deny and the victim/complaint is made to look stupid.

18. We are of the view that the DPO is compromised. The widow is being used just to elicit sympathy for others who are the main land disputants and to divert attention from the corrupt and unjust activities of the DPO.

19. The widow alleged that Mr & Mrs Paul Osuji with all their children assaulted her, but she could not identify any of the children at the police station, which should have left the inference that she never encountered any of those children.

20. The police has correctly dropped the charges against those children and are facing Mr and Mrs Paul Osuji. However, if the widow could lie that they came to the farm with their children to beat her up and it turned to the belief of the police that the children could never have participated in any assault (thus inspiring the dropping of charge against the children), the police should have started disbelieving the entire story from there. Crime is proved beyond reasonable doubt and not on balance of probability.

21. On the day the widow nominated to be the imaginary incident day, the couple were demonstrably at a different location and never went to the alleged incident scene. The police has not investigated this alibi. The DPO should have called and interviewed nominated witnesses from both sides. DPO had not done so before charging them to court. The DPO is playing a script of using court processes to harrass the poor couple.

22. Ugochukwu Ekechukwu, who is incidentally the male who stood surety for the couple witnessed the payment of N19000.00 cash from Oluchi to Precious Ukwu. His testimony should be sufficient proof that Precious Ukwu collected the money. Circumstantially, what was the motivation in releasing the couple after 6PM if Ugochukwu Ekechukwu had been available to take them on bail since 3PM, but the Police refused to let him do so? It must have been because the money was paid by that time and nothing else.

PRAYERS
RULAAC requests to the IGP to order an impartial investigation to get to the root of this case and to ensure that the truth is unraveled and justice upheld.

Yours sincerely,

Okechukwu Nwanguma
Executive Director

Update

ElombahNews has just been informed that Mr Paul and Mrs Nnenna Osuji were arraigned on Friday and were granted bail by the court.

The conditions for the bail are as follows:

1. One surety residing within the jurisdiction of the court

2. Affidavit of means

3. Two passport photographs

4. N100,000 in like sum

The case was adjourned to October 22, 2020 for hearing of the matter

See the charge below:

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