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RULAAC petitions Abia ComPol over harassment, intimidation & extortion by Ndiegoro Police Div

Below is a petition written by Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) to the Commissioner of Police, Abia State Command based in Umuahia over harassment, intimidation and extortion by officers of Ndiegoro Police Station.

Read:

Dear CP Abia,

Petition by Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and its Abia State Covid-19 Enforcement Monitors on the State of Law Enforcement in Abia State.

RULAAC is a non-profit,  independent national human rights organization which focuses on promoting law enforcement accountability, transparent and responsible policing and the rule of law.

With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020 and the imposition of lockdown and other measures nationwide to check the spread of the virus which the police and other law enforcement agencies were charged to enforce, RULAAC and Open Society Justice Initiative initiated a project entitled ‘Monitoring Law Enforcement Action Within the Framework of COVID-19 Lockdown and Curfew Enforcement’

The project is specifically monitoring the implementation of the Directive issued by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in late May, 2020 to police officers to minimize arrests and detention to only major offences.

In early June, 2020, within the period of the monitoring, the IGP also launched  ‘Operational Guidelines for the Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies on Covid-19  prevention enforcement duties’ as part of measures to foster a more harmonious relationship between the Police and members of the public, deepen respect for the rights of citizens, provide a new set of policing tools for tackling emerging crimes such as domestic violence, rape, child molestation and other incidents of gender-based violence (GBV)’.

RULAAC recruited, trained and engaged 2 human rights monitors in each of six states including Abia State to monitor police compliance with the IGP’s directive and submit periodic reports which feed into RULAAC’s central database.

In August, RULAAC received reports about the escape of detainees from both male and female  cells of the Central Police Station, Umuahia.

RULAAC also noted and commended the professionalism with which the state command managed the incident, especially the command’s commendable gallantry in re-arresting some of the escapee detainees without any casualty.

We however, called for a discrete investigation to understand the reason for the escape of the detainees in order to mitigate the factor.

This call was, particularly, against the background of reported congestion and deplorable state of Police cells in Abia state despite the IGP’s directive, and the scare of spread of the virus among detainees.

We are further, seriously concerned by consistent reports we have continued to receive concerning rampant incidents of harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents of Abia state.

Ndiegoro Police Station consistently stands out and features regularly in all the monthly reports and complaints we have received since May up to September from both our Abia State Monitors and from other organisations and victims which indicate that some personnel attached to the station are notorious for oppressive, unprofessional and corrupt conducts.

For example, in August RULAAC received a complaint from an Abia State based human rights organization ‘Centre for Human Rights Advocacy and Wholesome Society (CEHRAWS)’;

We reproduce excerpts from the complaint:

We quote:

“We humbly wish to draw your attention to the plight of Mr. Jude Eke Chukwu, a law abiding and responsible citizen of Abia State resident in Aba, a voluntary member of CEHRAWS and a tricycle operator with all the required tricycle operational documents intact and up-to-date.

Mr. Jude Eke Chukwu is a married man with children who unfortunately got into transportation business due to the collapse of his textile business and the need to sustain his family. He has always ensured the regular update of his vehicular documents.

This has informed his decision to resist all corrupt practices, especially monetary extortion by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, the aforesaid team of police officers from Ndiegoro police station in Aba south L.G.A marked him out as a stubborn tricycle operator, and have continuously torment and intimidate him over his ‘stubbornness’

Sometime in November 2019, the said team stopped him at their usual road block, discharged his passengers and had his  tricycle impounded for refusing to part with the ‘normal’  fifty naira (N50) ‘donation’ which they daily extort from operators plying the Etche Road end (Ukwu Mango) to Aba Main Park.

His visit to the aforesaid police station in company of a staff of our organization to negotiate the release of his tricycle got the police ‘Station Officer’ (SO) in the person of Inspt. Ike Otuonye,  requesting for the sum of twenty thousand naira (N20,000) before he could listen to our staff or permit the release of the tricycle.

His unethical behaviour was later reported to the  DCO1 office by our staff. When summoned, the SO got infuriated. The SO claimed before the DCO1 that Mr. Jude Eke Chukwu fought his men and immediately dragged Mr. Jude out of the DCO1’s office, got him undressed and kept behind the counter.

However, out of professionalism, the DCO1 summoned the notorious patrol team who brought the tricycle to the station before our staff and inquired from them of what transpired. The DCO1 thereafter ordered for the immediate release of Mr. Jude and his tricycle. He further appealed to our staff to let sleeping dog lie.

Again, on Friday, August 14th, 2020, the same patrol team now being headed by one Inspt. Philip, stopped Mr. Jude while on duty with passengers, ordered the passengers out of the tricycle, took the tricycle key and instructed that he gets fifty thousand naira (N50,000) to them at the police station before he could have his tricycle released to him.

According to them, the sum being requested from him is the sum total of the daily fifty naira (N50) ‘settlement’ which was left unpaid from last year till date. Mr. Jude has been constantly denied access to the said station in order to meet with either the DCO1 or the DPO to negotiate for the release of his tricycle.

On the same day his tricycle was seized (14-08-2020) he visited but was denied access when the officers learnt that the amount he had on him was not up to the requested amount. The same inhuman behaviour was also meted out on him on the second day, Saturday, August 15th, 2020.

In the morning hours of Monday, August 17th, 2020, Mr. Jude met Inspt. Philip at their usual Etche Road check point. Mr. Jude’s plea to Inspt. Philip for the release of his tricycle met with serious threat to his life. Unethically, Inspt. Philip pointed his gun at Mr. Jude with a warning not to provoke him by coming for that tricycle without the requested N50,000.00. Threatening further, Inspt. Philip said, ‘If you try anything funny, I will send you to your ancestors and nothing will happen.”   [End of quote]

Upon receiving this complaint, RULAAC drew the attention of the Abia State Police Public Relations Officer PPRO, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna to it, particularly registering our concern that ‘there are many such complaints against Ndiegoro Police Station. The Command needs to do something to bring the notorious station under control’.

We are happy to note that the PPRO promptly intervened and reported back that  “The matter has been resolved, tricycle released and Mr. Jude compensated for the days the tricycle was impounded.” This was confirmed by the human rights group that brought the complaint to our attention.

Again, this month, we have received, yet another troubling report containing specific cases of abuse and corruption by specific officers. We are concerned again by the concluding remark in the report that ‘Ndiegoro is the most notorious station in Abia.’

We reproduce in the schedule hereunder the report and urge you to order a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the cases both in Ndiegoro and other police stations mentioned, but in general, to undertake an overhaul and sanitization of Ndiegoro Police Station to ensure that they don’t continue to perpetuate negative public perception of the Abia State Command and the Nigeria Police in general.

RULAAC and its Abia State Monitors are available and happy to meet with you to further discuss these cases. Please, accept the assurance of our highest esteem.

Sincerely,

Okechukwu Nwanguma
Executive Director
RULAAC
08064974531

Onyinyechi Nwosu
Executive Director,
Vivacious Development Initiative (VIDI)
08098007554

Chidi Nwachukwu Esq. 08033979627

~~~

Schedule

Abia State monitor’s case report for September, 2020

CASE 1:
POLICE INTIMIDATION, ARREST AND EXTORTION .
Victim: Mr. Ndukwe Michael
Date of Incident: Monday, September 7th, 2020.
Location of Incident: Aba
Perpetrators: A police patrol team from Ndiegoro Police Station.
Nature of Incident: Intimidation arrest and extortion

Description of Incident:

On the above stated date, Mr. Ndukwe Michael, a tricycle operator and some of his colleagues were arrested by a police patrol team (headed by one Inspt. Philip)  from Ndiegoro Police Station for carrying passengers who had no face mask on.

The passengers were discharged and the tricycles impounded at one of their popular check point off Etche Road by Unity for several hours. Each was released according to when its operator was able to provide the charged sum. According to Mr. Michael who made the information available to us,  more than 15 tricycle operators paid between N3,000 – N5,000 to have their tricycles released on the said day.

~~~

CASE 2:
Arrest and extortion
Victim: One Mr. Ebuka
Date of Incident: Monday, September 28th, 2020.
Location of Incident: Aba
Perpetrators: A police team from Azuka-Drive Police Station.
Nature of Incident: Arrest and Extortion.

Description of Incident:

On the date stated above, at about 9.15 am  Mr. Ebuka who was caught in a gridlock was accused of wrong packing by a lady Inspector who is generally known as Madam Tessy. The incident happened after a female passenger who was too much in a hurry to remain in the traffic congestion alighted from Ebuka’s tricycle at  Opobo junction in Ogbor-Hill, Aba.

He was arrested by madam Tessy with her team of police officers and some thugs. His passengers were discharged and tricycle impounded. He was later made to cough out the sum of five thousand naira (N5,000) for his and his tricycle’s  release later that day.

~~~

CASE 3:

Mass arrest by proxy
Victim: One Mr. Paul Nwankwo & Others.
Date of Incident: Monday, September 28th, 2020.
Location of Incident: Aba
Perpetrators: A police team from Ndiegoro Police Station.
Nature of Incident: Arrested, Detained and Request for N20,000 bail money.
Description of Incident:

In the morning hours of the stated date, a team of police officers in the said station stormed Awkuzu, Emonye, Akoli and Evina axes of Aba and arrested a good number of persons heading to their respective work/business places. This was occasioned by the gruesome murder of a young returnee from Malaysia who was said to have been shot in a barber’s shop around that area on Sunday, September 27th, 2020.

According to the complainant whose brother was among the persons,  the station officer in the said station requested for, and collected the sum of N20,000 for the bail his brother when they visited the station for the release of their relatives.

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