(Onitsha-Nigeria, August 26, 2010)- The attention of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has been drawn to the reaction by the Nigeria Police Force High Command through its Force Public Relations Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Emmanuel Ojukwu over the above subject matter.
The said reaction is sequel to our recent reports on corruption in the Nigeria Police Force and how it fuelled and still fuels abuses in the Force.
We had on 27th day of July 2010 released a report bordering on the militarization of the Southeast of Nigeria by the Police and the roadblock extortions they carried out or “How Nigeria Police Personnel Raked In N9.35Billion From Over 1,350 Police Check-points In 18 Months”. On Tuesday, 17th day of August 2010, we issued a statement, titled: “In Solidarity With Human Rights Watch (USA)”. The statement was released in conjunction with Human Rights Watch, which released its report, titled: “Everyone Is In On The Game (Corruption and Human Rights Abuses by the Nigeria Police Force)”.
Nigeria’s Access to Justice and the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria also participated in the international news conference, which was held at the Lagos Airport Hotel in Lagos.
We had in the said press statement, recalled our earlier press release, dated 17th day of March 2010, and titled: “How 34,000 Nigerians were killed outside the law since 1999”. Also, having used Anambra State as our case-study in the area of roadblocks and police extortions in the Southeast Nigeria, we updated the report to cover the remaining five geopolitical zones in Nigeria based on numbers of police check-points, prevalence of blue-collar factors and other socio-economic indices in the said areas, hence our estimation that the sum of N20.5Billion had been lost in the hands of the extortionist police personnel in the entire six geopolitical zones in Nigeria in the past 18 months (January 2009 to June 2010).
As expected, the Nigeria Police Force described the Intersociety and Human Rights Watch reports as “embellished innuendoes and suggestive graphics aimed at reaching a preconceived conclusion”. Since then, the Nigeria Police Force has not gone a step further to concretize its denial or to dispute in details the graphic accounts contained in the reports. As a result, we have decided to further put the records straight by releasing more facts so as to further buttress the said reports. We also received numerous calls from various parts of Nigeria over our inability to feature on the post-reports’ live television programmes on Channels and Silver Bird Television Stations in Lagos so as to throw more light on our reports. The truth is that we left for Onitsha hours after the news conference ended, which made the Researcher at Human Rights Watch, Mr. Eric Guttschuss to feature alone on the said TV Live Programs, in order to clear air on HRW’s aspect of the reports. It is on the basis of these that we unequivocally, wish to restate the following positions so earlier taken:
1. That as at June 30, 2010, and even up to 23rd day of August 2010, over 1,350 police check-points existed and still exist in the Southeast Nigeria and their operators’ stocks-in-trade are roadblock extortions and protecting the protected, and not the protectless.
2. That it may be correct to say that over N9.35Billion had been raked in from the Zone, from January 2009 to June 2010 and that in the last 54 days that is, July 1, 2010 to August 23, 2010,another N1,075Billion has been added, bringing the total to N10,425Billion that is, Anambra-N378Million, Abia-N378Million,Imo- N135Million, Enugu-N108Million and Ebonyi-N76Million.
3. That it may be correct to say that the sum of N11Billion had been raked in from other five geopolitical zones between January 2009 and June 2010 that is, South-south-N4Billion, South-west-N4Billion, North-central and Abuja- N2Billion, North-east-N500Million and North-west-N500Million, and that the sum might have recorded another ten percent increase in the last 54 days that is, July 1, 2010 to August 23, 2010 or about N1.1Billion, bringing the total to N12.1Billion in the past nineteen months and twenty-four days.
4. That it may be correct to say that the grand total of monies extorted by the Nigeria Police Personnel from members of the Nigeria’s blue-collar societies throughout Nigeria in the post 19 months and 24 days that is, 1st day of January 2009 to 23rd day of August 2010 is over N22.5Billion, from N20.35Billion realized as at 30th day of June 2010.
5. That the fiscal figure above did not include unlawful proceeds arising from: “wetin you carry”, unlawful pretrial bail fees and commercialization of criminal enquiries.
6. That the Southeast zone is the worst affected area or zone, followed by South-south, South-west, North-central and Abuja, North-west and North-east.
7. That these extortions fuelled and still fuel police abuses such as unlawful arrests (including mass-raids), extra-judicial enforcement of law (such as bans placed on Okada operations in some States, non-wearing of crash-helmets, restrictions on Okada movements at dawn etc), checks on vehicular papers aiming at incriminating their owners so as to extort them, torture, rape/sexual assaults and extra-judicial killings.
8. That out of over 34,000 Nigerians believed to have been killed outside the law since 1999(past eleven years), the Nigeria Police Personnel are believed to have been responsible for over 10,000 of such deaths. Such killings mainly resulted from excessive force applied to quell various communal and ethno-religious conflicts, torture and custodial killings and that many victims of such killings (especially custodial deaths) died because they could not “buy” their lives and freedoms.
For instance, on 4th day of November 2004; between 7:15pm and 8:00pm, twenty detainees at the then SARS (special anti-robbery squad) headquarters at the Central Police Station, Awka, Anambra State, Southeast, Nigeria were brought out of their cell, lined up and shot dead. They were brought to the Station in the morning of the same day and one of the detainees was ordered by a police officer, who gave him a piece of paper and a pen, to compile their names and States of origin. The police officer forgot to recover the list from the detainee. This was how Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu, founder of the Humane Justice Nigeria ( a rights advocacy group) at Nnewi, Anambra State, Southeast, Nigeria got hold of it.
Comrade Onuchukwu was arrested and brought to the Station same day for organizing a peaceful protest against the excesses of a garbage contracting firm, working for the then Government of Anambra State. As a result, he witnessed the killing and gave names of the murdered citizens as: Nduka Okoye(Anambra State), Ephraim Okenyeka(Anambra State), Samuel Odoh(Enugu State), Ofobike Odoh (Enugu State), Chibueze Ugwuoke (Ebonyi State), Ugochukwu Okonkwo (Anambra State), Chizoba Mbaebie (Anambra State), Ifeanyi Nwanfunanya (Anambra State), Ugochukwu Anakwe( Anambra State), Ifeanyi Izueke (Enugu State), Ekene Ejike
(Anambra State), Chinedu Okoro (Enugu State), Uche Ubaka (Anambra State), Mr. Charles (Anambra State), Onyeabo Anaekwe (Anambra State), Leonard Obasi (Enugu State), Emeka Ofoke (Ebonyi State), Chibuzor Asouzu (Anambra State), Mr. Obiajuru (Anambra State) and Ugoo Nwaude (Enugu State). Their remains were reportedly conveyed in police pick-up vans and dumped at Agu-Awka Virgin Land, located kilometers away from the State capital city. Representations were made and the Zone 9 Command of the Nigeria Police Force opened investigations but till date, nothing has come out of same.
9. That out of the said 34,000 unlawful deaths since 1999, vigilante groups such as
Bakassi Boys in Anambra, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Lagos (O’odua Peoples Congress Vigilante Group) States accounted for over 10,000 killings between 1998 and 2002. For instance, out of over 5,000 deaths recorded in Anambra State, masterminded by OTA (Onitsha Traders Association) and Bakassi Boys or the Anambra Vigilante Service between September 1999 and September 2002, at least twelve politically related murders took place. The names of those murdered are as follows: Chuma Onwuazo, son of Nnayelugo Onwuazo, an Onitsha High Chief (April 2000), Comrade Bonaventure Egbuawa, a rights group advocate (July 2000), Honourable Ifeanyi Ibegbu, a member of the State House of Assembly (attempted murder/torture-August 2000), Prophet Edward Okeke, a popular/controversial preacher (November 2000), Chief Ezeodimegwu Okonkwo, a notable politician/musician (February 2001), Mr. Ikechukwu Nwagboo, an aide to Hon. Chudi Offodile, then member of the House of Representatives representing Awka North/South Federal Constituency(February 2001), Chief Rockfeller Okeke, a top official of the Anambra State Ministry of Information (April 2001), Mrs. Ngozika Oranu., a widow who was abducted, raped and murdered in the “Bakassi White House”(November 2001) over her refusal to surrender her late husband’s properties, Felix Ikebude, a supporter of Sir Emeka Offor (December 2001), Chief Sunday Uzokwe, a community leader at Ozubulu Community in Ekwusigo Council Area of Anambra State, who reportedly had some differences with a chieftain of the Bakassi Boys and native of the community (January 2002), Mr. Odigwe, a top staff of the Anambra State Environmental Sanitation Authority, who reportedly challenged the excesses of a Bakassi chieftain who was also a government appointee in-charge of revenue generation in markets( August 2001) and Barristers Barnabas and Amaka Blessing (“A.B. Girl”) Igwe, chairman of the Onitsha Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association and his wife (1st day of September 2002). The Bakassi Boys were dislodged on 22nd day of September 2002. Out of over 5,000 weapons in their hands and over 2,500 operatives of the outfit, only 48 operatives and 48 weapons were arrested and recovered respectively.
10. That out of 34,000 unlawful deaths recorded in Nigeria since 1999, over 13,500 resulted from communal and ethno-religious conflicts such as Kaduna Riots of 2000/2001, Jos Crises of 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2010, Ezza-Ezillo Communal Clashes of 2008 and 2010, Aguleri-Umuleri Communal Clashes of 1999/2000(second conflict), Tiv Riot of 2001, to mention but a few.
Further Information On Police Extortions:
On 24th day of March 2010, between 6:30pm and 7:00 pm, some policemen led by one ASP E. Anele of Iyiowa Odekpe Police Post in Ogbaru Council Area of Anambra State raided Okija Street in the area and arrested over 40 persons. They were taken into detention and asked to pay illegal bail fees ranging from N2,000 to N5,000. Those who paid were allowed to go home and others who could not stayed till the next day. By the time this Organization intervened via Comrade Justus Ijeoma, only fourteen victims could be identified. We filed a complaint at the Onitsha Area Command and after interviewing the victims, ACP John Nwaele ordered the Divisional Police Officer for Atani Police Station, who also supervises the Iyiowa Police Post, to refund the monies unlawfully taken from the fourteen victims and on Wednesday, 31st day of March 2010, the Divisional Crime Officer for Atani Police Station refunded the money totaling N58,760.00.
The names of the victims and the amount extorted from each of them are as follows: 1. Mr. David Chikwelu N4,000, 2. Miss Anurika Nsofor- N5,000, 3. Mr. Onochie Chukwuemeka –N5,000, 4. Mr. Emeka Orji N5,000, 5. Mr. Chukwura Onuorah- N2,000, 6. Mr. Ejinkonye Osadebe –N2,000, 7. Mr. Ugochukwu Ihemeje- N3,000, 8. Mr. Nonso Ihemeje-N3,000, 9. Mr. Alex Anene- N3,000, 10. Mr. Nicholas Obinwa- N5,000, 11. Mr. Chimezie Eziogu- N3,000, 12. Mr. Sunday Njideofor- N3,000, 13. Mr. Ifeanyi Osuanya-N3,000 and Mr. Uche Michael- N3,000. The sum of N9,790.00 was collected from- Ejinkonye Osadebe, Chimezie Eziogu and Alex Anene when they were searched.
Mr. Sunday Ukpabia, a private motorcyclist, was arrested on 6th day of August 2010 by a police patrol team attached to Okpoko Police Station, near Onitsha, Anambra State and accused of bearing fake “Autoreg” motorcycle papers. He requested for a bail so as to enable him produce the insurance officer that issued him with the papers. When the insurance officer, Mr. Okechukwu Dim reported to the Police Station, he was handcuffed, beaten and clamped into detention. Out of fear and his falling health, he paid N30,000 to his captives. On 11th day of August 2010, a complaint was lodged and on 19th day of August 2010, the money was refunded to Mr. Okey Dim by the A.O. of the Station, on the instruction of the DPO, SP Abubakar Adam.
Mr. Egodigbo Enwezor and Mr. Melvin Chuka Okafor were arrested on 6th day of March 2010 by the operatives of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, Awkuzu Headquarters in Anambra State, on false accusation of kidnapping and were detained for six days. They were released after they had been tortured and paid the sum of N50,000 as bail fees. A complaint was lodged before the Officer-in-charge of SARS, CSP Felix Kigighan and on 24th day of March 2010, the money was refunded.
In July 2009, Mr. Kenneth Iheanacho, a native of Awomama in Orlu Council Area of Imo State, Southeast Nigeria, was arrested alongside his bus driver and conductor and accused of “armed robbery” and “driving a stolen bus”. They ply Lagos-Owerri route. On getting to Imo State, they were flagged down by a police patrol team attached to the Imo State Police Command, simply because they carried some passengers’ belongings. The patrol team insisted on taking the sum of N20,000 from them. Their refusal landed them into detention at the Owerri Police Command Headquarters, from where they were handed over to the Special Anti Robbery Squad, who transferred them to the SARS Headquarters at Zone 9 Command in Umuahia, Abia State, Southeast Nigeria. There, they were mercilessly tortured and held incommunicado for two weeks before we got wind of the development. Those who went to effect their release, including a legal practitioner, were threatened and asked to pay N1million and they agreed to pay N300,000. We were also threatened when we introduced ourselves. At the end, through the intervention of the Command’s second-in-command, they were released.
Instances are too numerous to mention. In those cases mentioned above, threats to eliminate our Comrades either in the Police Stations or at check-points were a routine. Sometimes such threats come from senior officers. The accounts above clearly show what members of the Nigeria’s blue-collar societies pass through on daily basis in the hands of their supposedly protectors (police) and that out of every five citizens that have encounters with the Nigeria Police Personnel, five are extorted.
The latest report concerning roadblocks and extortions associated with same is that the criminal exercise has reached a crescendo. It is so bad and horrible that those plying Aba-Ikot-ekpene Road with adjoining routes to Uyo in Akwa Ibom State and Calabar in Cross River State, South-South, Nigeria have embarked on strike over incessant police harassment and extortion. The strike was embarked upon on Monday 23rd day of August 2010 after several representations made to the Aba Area Commander and other relevant police authorities were unheeded. The transport companies using the said routes are NDDC, Akwa Ibom Transport Company, etc. The Chairman of the Inter-State Drivers’ Association, Etom Bassey Inyang, claimed that he generated N14,000 from his passengers last Saturday (21-08-2010) and spent about N9,140 on police check-points in a seven-kilometer journey. Another city transporter in Aba told Intersociety that he generates N1,400.00 per trip in his 14-seater bus and spends N800.00 on police extortion. Chief Inyang said he pays N100.00 per check-point and pays between N200.00 and N300.00 per check-point if he carries loads in the boot of his commercial vehicle.
Just yesterday (25-08-2010), between 6:00pm and 10:00pm, the right side of the Onitsha-Asaba Dual Carriage Way was blocked. The terrible traffic jams stretched from Onitsha Upper-Iweka to Old Toll Gate Asaba in Delta State, South-south Nigeria. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (Military Police) and some Mobile policemen at check-point, mounted at the Onitsha end of the Road had flagged down a “911” Lorry driver carrying used metal objects and demanded N1000.00 bribe and he offered them N200.00, which they bluntly rejected. The driver’s attempts to move his lorry saw two of his lorry’s tyres bursted and riddled with bullets. In protest, the driver blocked the road and the said police personnel ran away. The two tyres, according to him, cost N85,000 each. The Anambra CP, the Onitsha Area Commander and the Fegge DPO were notified by some entrapped passengers.
Finally, pictures, they say, do not lie. As a result, we have attached the following (five) pictures showing where and how Mobile Police Personnel were caught engaging in the crimes of extortion, obstruction, etc. Picture one is showing a Mobile Policeman collecting N20.00 from a commercial bus driver in Anambra State. Picture two is showing a Mobile Policeman collecting N20.00 from a bus driver on Enugu end of the Enugu- Port Harcourt Road. Picture three is showing a Mobile Policeman pocketing a N20.00 note he collected from a bus driver on an Owerri road. Picture four is showing another Mobile Policeman stretching his hands to collect bribe on an Aba road. While picture five is showing the long queues and traffic jams caused by the toll collecting points.
Some bad elements within the Nigeria Police Force, according to a dependable source in Government have reportedly threatened that should roadblock extortions be abolished in the Southeast Nigeria, property-crimes such as armed robbery and bank/bullion van robbery, and violent crimes such as kidnapping and mass-killing would envelope the Zone. This has vindicated our earlier position that crimes ravaging the Southeast and other parts of Nigeria in recent times might have the blessings of the rank and files and the command hierarchy of the Force. Therefore, any resurgence of such horrendous crimes at such magnitude in the Zone will make the Nigeria Police Force answer for them. For full details of our earlier reports so highlighted, please visit our website at www.intersociety-ng.org, under “Events” and “Press Releases”.
From: International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law(Nigeria)
For Immediate Release
Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi Comrade Justus Ijeoma
Board of Trustees Publicity Desk
Phone: +234(0)8033601078 Phone: +234(0)8037114869