Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has consistently observed, in many cases that have come to our attention, one very perverse and dangerous practice among a high number of Police officers, especially those involved in crime investigation.
Normally, when a person is arrested for an alleged offence, the expectation is that the police should either grant bail within the duration of time permitted by law, usually not more than 24 – 48 hours, or promptly charge to court- depending on the nature and gravity of the alleged offence.
But in practice, many police officers often detain persons over real or imagined allegations and use the threat of charging such persons to court as a strong arm tactic to either extort bribe for bail or visit vengeance on them for not ‘cooperating’, i.e., refusing to pay bribe for bail.
Now, being charged to court ordinarily should not be a cause to worry about, especially if the accused person is informed on time and is able to afford or have access to legal representation, and especially if the accused is charged for a real, simple offence for which court bail can easily be obtained.
But what happens in actuality is that police officers vengefully and maliciously charge ‘uncooperative’ suspects for serious trumped-up offences and which the police have no evidence to sustain, just to ensure that the accused persons are remanded in prison custody simply as punishment for ‘non cooperation’. And once this objective is achieved, the police persecutor never ever shows up in court again to follow up on the case.
There are many instances where police officers arrest persons for simple offences or over false allegations and end up charging them for serious phantom offences for refusing or being unable to pay bribe to regain their freedom.
Many police officers see every arrest and detention of persons in police custody as an opportunity to make money off their hostages rather than to investigate crime. When asked, they will often claim that investigation is ongoing . But they will simply dump suspects in detention until their relatives are able to provide the money demanded for bail. Failure to pay will result to arraignment before a ‘friendly Magistrate’, on frivolous charges which will likely result in the person being remanded or grafted bail on stringent conditions. Some Police Divisions have particular Magistrates they ‘work with’.
A recent case of a16-year-old boy who was arrested and detained for 16 days at the Imo State CID, Owerri is illustrative.
One Officer Tom had detained and labeled the innocent boy ‘armed robber’ but demanded money from his father to grant bail to the ‘armed robber’. On his 15th day in unlawful detention, RULAAC received information about the case and contacted Officer Tom who told us that ‘ it’s a case of armed robbery and it’s still under investigation’.
He had earlier collected eighty thousand Naira (N80,000) from the boy’s father through a lawyer who acted as the middle man for bribe transaction, and was still asking for additional two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N250.000).
When the boy’s father went back to officer Tom after RULAAC had spoken with him, he questioned the man why he informed RULAAC about the case and then asked him to go and get additional fifty thousand Naira (N50,000), claiming that the lawyer gave him only thirty thousand Naira (N30,000) and kept fifty thousand Naira (N50,000) to himself.
When the man told him he couldn’t get such money to give and that his son was innocent anyway, Tom now declared to him that he was going to charge the case to court.
Recall that Officer Tom, moments before then, had said the case was still under investigation. But now he decided to charge the matter to court because, the man didn’t provide the additional money he demanded to grant bail to an ‘armed robber’.
A lawyer, Uba Ezike, informed RULAAC that he received a call on Monday, 20th July 2020, from his wife that her sister, Favour Okorozor was brought to Ilemba Hausa police station, Ajangbadi, Lagos by her Boss’ husband.
According to the lawyer, Quote :
‘On getting to the station, I met her mother and sibling outside. I was told that they were taking statement and would not allow anybody inside the investigating room’.
‘I waited outside until they finished investigation. I later joined them when they took her to an office upstairs’.
‘There I was told that some wares in her boss’ shop were suspected to be missing. The boss’ husband stated that he suspected a girl (Olamide) who was also under their employment (but worked in another branch) of stealing the items. He said that he once overheard Olamide saying that she could steal from the place and nobody would suspect’.
‘At that point I asked him, if he had the girl’s contact and if he had tried to get the girl. He said no. He said he arrested Favour because she was the one working in the shop’.
‘Later we went to see the DPO, he narrated the same story to the DPO, I asked the DPO, if it were possible to track Olamide, since she was the actual suspect in the matter, he told me, we should sort that ourselves’.
‘Afterwards, they took Favour to her house, ransacked the place and left without finding a single item belonging to her boss. They returned her back to the station and detained her’.
‘I requested for her bail that day and the police I met told me to come again the following day and told us to go and look for Olamide’.
‘On Tuesday I came back to the station. I requested for her bail, the IPO told me that they were detaining her for further investigation. They kept her in custody till evening when I had to leave the station. No investigation was done that day’.
‘I returned on Wednesday 22nd July, 2020. Before then a member of my church had gone ahead of me, they told him that the complainant (her boss’ husband) has given the go ahead for Favour’s release and that he should go and bring 100,000 naira. After much pleading, they lowered the amount to 20,000. Then he left, I called him, and he told me not to pay them any money. I waited till evening, then I went to meet the police, they insisted on the money. I met the IPO and she threatened that if the money wasn’t paid that she would be arraigned in court the next day. I also met her superior, one Jumoke and she lashed out at me. Seeing that Favour was about spending a third night in cell, I had to rush out to withdraw. And I gave the money 20,000 naira to the IPO, Sergent Titlope, and she gave the money to a policeman to count and confirm before releasing Favour, after which, mother signed and she was released’.
End of Quote
Upon receiving this information and contacting the IPO whose name was given as ‘W Sgt Titi’, she denied flatly ever discussing or requesting ‘bail money’ with anybody. We asked her to forward her DPO’s number but of course we weren’t expecting her to do that. She said her DPO was in a meeting and would contact us later or we should come to the station and see the DPO. Another female officer at the station ‘ Romoke ‘ whom we later contacted asked what we wanted and we told her we wanted the money collected for bail refunded. She also said the DPO would call us later.
Moments later, W Sgt Titi called and handed her phone to the DPO. We discussed and he said he didn’t know about the case but promised to find out. Shortly after, the lawyer called us and confirmed that the money had been refunded.
However, the IPO later called the lady who had been released to report at 9am next day (today). Apparently, they now want to charge her to court. And it will likely be exaggerated charges.
Until corrupt police officers are charged and made to face the consequences of abuse of power and unlawful detention of persons for the purpose of extracting bribe, this ugly trend will continue to deepen negative perception of the police and widen trust gap.