In News by Oluwaseun Samuel on the 05th, September, 2020

How Nigerian Police Officers Extort Younger Nigerians Beneath False Pretext

How Nigerian Police Officers Extort Young Nigerians Under False Pretext

Police extortion

The story of how Ramoni Abbas, alias Hushpuppi, the alleged Dubai-based multi-million greenback web fraudster made his cash, is now not information. However though he’s now cooling his toes in custody someplace in Los Angeles, California, USA, as he awaits his day in courtroom, some males and officers of Nigeria Police Drive now see his ghost strolling about in every single place they go for patrol or mount a checkpoint.

It’s because police patrols and checkpoints lately have grow to be dreaded spots within the nation as younger ones, no matter their occupation, are compelled to both half with some cash in a bid to purchase their freedom or, are taken to the police station and locked up over spurious suspicion and unsubstantiated allegations. Saturday Solar gathered that new vehicles, iPhones, costly wears and the presence of Bitcoins in a single’s pockets or possession are among the many gadgets that entice the prying eyes and wrath of the officers and males in police uniform to accuse one in all being an web fraudster. In their very own considering, solely a fraudster might be in possession of all or any of those. The state of affairs is that unhealthy.

College scholar arrested and extorted N65,800

Olamilekan Adebayo, a scholar in one of many universities in Nigeria earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic despatched everybody residence, shared his ugly expertise with this correspondent. The younger man who acquired a brief job as an enumerator for public property in Ibadan, in a bid to drive away boredom whereas ready for universities to renew research, mentioned he was popping out from a close-by eatery the place had gone to purchase snacks, in firm of a buddy, once they had been accosted by policemen. They promptly arrested and took them to Moniya Police Station, Ibadan and charged them with web fraud.

“They did so as a result of we had on us iPhones,” he mentioned. “Within the course of interrogation they searched my telephone, learn all my WhatsApp chats and noticed a crypto-currency pockets app with cash and greenback and concluded that they had been proper about their suspicion.” He tried to clarify to them however “all they had been involved with is what I used to be doing with greenback. It was that greenback icon on my telephone that they held on to as main proof towards me. We later bailed ourselves with N40, 800 every. We needed to do that as a result of they threatened handy us over to EFCC (Financial and Monetary Crimes Fee).

The boys who insisted that he should exit and withdraw the agreed quantity from a close-by ATM level seized his telephone. He solely acquired it again after doing so.  However as if that was not sufficient a calamity, on July 16, 2020, he once more fell into their lure when he went to a financial institution to request for a brand new ATM card.  “I informed them that I used to be simply launched from that identical station and that I paid greater than N40,000 earlier than I may acquire my freedom. However as an alternative of listening to me, they slapped me, collected my ID card and my telephones and requested me to put in writing an announcement. After forcing me to put in writing a false assertion, they requested me to pay N50, 000 to bail myself. However I refused as a result of I didn’t have it.”

However once they resorted to intimidation by yelling and cursing, he had no alternative than to borrow N25, 000 from a buddy to bail himself. He said that he was questioned a number of instances on why he had in his possession, two telephones and the place he acquired the cash to buy the iPhone.

“They accused me of being a Yahoo man, perhaps as a result of I wore jean jacket, black jean, and Nike slide,” he mentioned. “I’m a authorities employee. I even confirmed them my ID card however they didn’t budge. I missed work for two days due to my arrest and that could be a minus. I’d have referred to as somebody from the workplace to assist me however my telephones and ID had been with them. They seized them after my arrest.”

One other sufferer appeals to police conscience

Ikechukwu Anyanwu, one other sufferer of police harassment, however from Ogun State mentioned he was coming from his tailor’s workshop when he was accosted by two cops. They requested to verify his telephone and pockets after accusing him of being concerned in web fraud. “They searched all the main points on my telephone considering that I’m a Yahoo man. However sadly they discovered nothing incriminating.” Police harassment on this rating, he famous, is changing into too embarrassing such that “now, younger males are afraid to maneuver freely with their telephones and different issues.” He suggested that doesn’t appear to be the right method to verify if one is concerned in web fraud or not. “Even when they think somebody, correct investigations ought to be carried out however not via pointless stop-and-check they do on the street,” he appealed.

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Osaigbovo’s smartness saves him and his smart-phone

If in Adebayo and Anyanwu’s case, police accused them of being web fraudsters, it was not so in Alfred Osaigbovo’s, who they almost framed with the tag of a cultist. He was solely saved from the consequence by his smartness. On the eighth of July, 2020, he travelled to Ekpoma from Benin Metropolis for a website survey. However on his approach again, he ran right into a roadblock someplace after Ehor city. “We had been requested to get down from the automobile and keep behind our belongings. They searched the luggage. After that, they requested to see our telephones. If it’s locked, they’d merely request that the proprietor unlocks it. They go on to apps corresponding to WhatsApp, E mail apps and search some key phrases like PayPal, greenback and another issues. If nothing is discovered, they attempt to purchase airtime with your telephone. They tried all that on me however discovered nothing.  However once they tried downloading an image of a cranium onto my telephone in an effort to change my WhatsApp title, I observed that and strongly objected. That’s how they gave me again the telephone. If I had allowed that, they might have used it to label me as a cultist.”

A Nigerian returnee components with N70,000

However ask Steven Chinedu, a younger Nigerian entrepreneur, and he would let you know that the development of tagging somebody a cultist or web fraudster and thereafter extorting some cash from him, had been on lengthy earlier than the Hushpuppi story got here to the fore. Although police harassment is alleged to have heightened within the wake of it, the reality is that they have been in pursuit of web fraudsters popularly generally known as “Yahoo Yahoo Boys” ever earlier than the world got here to know in regards to the alleged king of all of them referred to as Hushpuppi.

In Chinedu’s case, he had a bitter style of the expertise when he boarded, at Younger Legacy Park, Ilorin a bus heading to Lagos. However someplace on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway their bus was stopped for checking by policemen manning a checkpoint. All of the younger males had been requested to return down and convey out their telephones.

“I by no means knew that was the order of the day as a result of I simply got here into the nation on the time,” he mentioned. “I additionally by no means knew that trying good has grow to be a criminal offense. I used to be with an iPhone, a gold wristwatch, and a Nike airmax 270 shoe and with my AirPod as effectively. After the primary policeman checked and located nothing incriminating on my telephone, he requested me to go however one of many policemen insisted that I wouldn’t till he had completed his personal checking. That was how, after seeing the pictures I took with my associates earlier than I returned to the nation, he accused me of being a Yahoo Boy. I imagine that he did so due to the costly telephone and telephone equipment in my possession.

“The opposite passengers began begging him on my behalf however he and different colleagues who had been later attracted by the case refused. They threatened to report me to EFCC. They mentioned that I’d go to jail. I was scared and began pleading with them to launch me. I used to be taken to Moniya Police Station in Ibadan. Whereas there, they referred to as a cameraman to take footage of me and one other different man whereas we held our telephones. It was then I knew they wouldn’t allow us to go simply. I used to be requested to pay N500, 000.  I supplied them first N30, 000 and later N50, 000, after a lot pleading. They refused and mentioned that their boss has seen us. For that, they mentioned that I’d pay N100, 000. I informed them I didn’t have such sum of money on me. We stored going backwards and forwards within the haggling till they agreed to gather N70, 000. I used to be directed to a POS vendor the place the money was withdrawn with my ATM card earlier than they might let me go. It was a really horrible expertise.”

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Police raid for college students and youth corps members

Joshua Oriade, a scholar in one of many Federal universities, additionally shared with Saturday Solar his expertise, which he mentioned occurred earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. His story: “In the course of the semester, some policemen in Hilux open Four-Wheel Drive van drove into our hostel which is positioned outdoors the campus, at about 6:30pm. Instantly they arrived, they threatened us with gun and requested us to enter the automobile. We had been eight in quantity. They took us to the station and locked us up on the false allegation of being web fraudsters and people who smoke. They requested us to pay N20, 000 every for bail. Majority of us didn’t have the cash. Though those that had, paid and acquired their freedom, in my very own case, I spent sooner or later within the cell earlier than I may get issues sorted out.”

One other sufferer, Tony Gabriel, a youth corps member, additionally shared the story of how he was arrested and accused of web fraud, final Easter, whereas charging his telephone in a pools-betting workplace. Gabriel who’s serving in Delta State was in Anambra State to see a buddy when the incident occurred. In keeping with him, whereas he was there, some Particular Anti-Theft Squad (SARS) males, mentioned to return from Awkuzu, arrived to conduct a raid. And, and that was how he and 15 others had been taken into custody.

“Despite the fact that there was lockdown due to Coronavirus, we had been made to take a seat on each other ‘s lap behind their van,” he recalled. “After I appeared again and noticed able-bodied males crying like a child I knew that I used to be in soup. However I used to be stunned once we acquired to Awkuzu junction and the officers there informed the driving force to take us to Ukpo Police Station and the opposite guys began thanking God. I didn’t perceive why. However I later learnt that the officers at Awkuzu beat perceived cussed ones with cutlass.”

Gabriel, on attending to police station, recognized himself by tendering his NYSC ID card. However he was stunned that the officers and males in cost weren’t moved by that till the proprietor of the pool-betting workplace got here and bailed all of them out. That however, he was detained for failing to pay for another spurious expenses. “As we had been leaving the station, the police girl on the counter stopped us and mentioned we should pay for counter cash and lodging. However we informed her that we didn’t have the cash to take action. She didn’t permit us to go till one in all my cousins arrested together with me sorted out the problem.”

Sufferer’s recommendation on methods to escape trigger-happy cops

In Braveness Omodiagbe’s case, though he was not accused of being an web fraudster or a cultist, the policemen on obligation at a checkpoint someplace in Abuja, threatened to “waste him” if he didn’t “Roger” them in the course of the lockdown. To save lots of his life, the younger man who was out to purchase eggs gave him the N5, 000 that he had on him. He suggested younger individuals to not argue with the police as a result of like they threatened they’ll kill out of anger or pointless present of ego. “In the course of the course of argument, some individuals had misplaced their lives,” he mentioned. “So if there is no such thing as a incriminating stuff discovered on you, your finest wager is to let go or comply with them to their station. When you get there, you may put a name throughout to somebody who may also help you.”

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Police view

However contacted on the problem, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, supplied a barely totally different counsel from the Omodiagbe’s. Admitting the reality of the matter as “a part of the problem that we discovered on floor right here, of younger individuals being harassed due to how they appear, how they costume,” he famous that the state command has “made it clear that it’s not a felony offence for anyone to decide on a explicit way of life or to decorate in a selected sample. It’s not a felony offence for somebody to put on dreadlocks, to have tattoos on the physique or to purchase iPhones; it’s your cash, it’s your life. We’ve additionally made it clear that it’s unsuitable for any younger man to be harassed on the avenue.”

He added that his workplace had offered a platform for anyone with such extortion grievance to take action: “In case you comply with me on Twitter, you’d uncover that there are fairly a very good quantity of people that tag me in fairly quite a few these issues and we reply instantly. First, we created an avenue for younger individuals to have the ability to search redress, and never to undergo in silence. Once they cross via such issues, they need to be capable of search redress. We’ve a Commissioner of Police who doesn’t tolerate such nonsense. I’m talking this manner as a result of my workplace is immediately concerned. There’s a unit in my workplace that is named Public Criticism Bureau. It’s answerable for receiving such complaints, investigating them and making certain that justice is served. Lately, we recovered N500, 000 extorted from someone. The Commissioner of Police even personally handed over the cash to the particular person. In direction of the top of final yr, we had been additionally capable of get better about N130, 000 that was extorted from an internet site designer.”

In keeping with him, over 20 policemen and officers had been dismissed throughout the previous one yr for the offence whereas 50 others have had their ranks lowered. “They got numerous levels of punishment. That could be a sturdy sign now we have despatched that impunity is not going to be tolerated and it serves as a deterrent to others.”

He added that a very powerful factor is that the affected younger individuals have avenues via which to achieve the suitable quarters to search redress. “They’ll go on Twitter to tag me. They’ll additionally name me. My numbers are on the web. They’ll name me immediately and I’ll get the unit to research. We’ve put a variety of measures in place, which is why it has lowered. We’ve the figures. It has come down drastically in comparison with the way it was earlier than we got here on board. There are many younger males on the market who contact us and so they can attest to the truth that we really take actions on complaints they despatched to us.

“We don’t tolerate it. My CP won’t ever tolerate it and I can’t. Only recently, a younger lady was harassed. The video went viral. She was harassed in Ibadan, not even in Lagos. However we traced the identities of the officers and found that they had been from Lagos and we acquired them arrested. These are the issues we do as a result of we imagine that the younger males on the market have to be protected. I’m additionally considering of the children I’m elevating in Nigeria. I need them to maneuver freely on the road with out being harassed. This can be a struggle that each one of us are keen about and we’re placing in our greatest to guarantee that no one is harassed out there. Cops should perform their duties in keeping with the legal guidelines that empower us to hold out such duties.”

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Supply: Solar Information

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