The Divisional Police Officer of Ehime Mbano in Imo State, Alexander Orwhoji, has allegedly requested the sum of N30,000 and a male surety to release an aged couple in police custody.
The couple, Paul and Nnenna Osuji, were invited by the police on September 18 over a land dispute. When they arrived, they were allegedly told to pay N30,000 and provide a male surety from their village to secure their bail.
"We are six girls in the family. The police knew this, and so they told us to find a male person from our village and N30,000 before releasing my parents," one of the couple's daughters, Oluchi Osuji, said.
"I gave N19,000 to the investigating police officer, Precious Okwu, and she did not give us any receipt."
Oluchi said the police invited her parents over a land dispute in their village. But being a civil case, she said her relatives accused her parents of assault instead.
"A widow from my relative's side accused my parents and my sisters of entering into their land and beating her up. She said that the beating happened on Tuesday, September 15. My mother was in an oil palm mill. My father was in the hospital. My father is old and partially blind. He went to the hospital to get drugs that day."
Oluchi said on Monday this week, the widow amended her story, taking the children out of the picture entirely.
She added that this change in the accusation did not stop the police officers who felt there was reasonable ground for a court date to be fixed.
Oluchi said the police had failed to investigate the claims by the widow as her parents had an alibi to show that they were not at the place where the alleged assault took place.
The matter was eventually brought to the court on Thursday despite protest from her parents that their preferred lawyer was attending to another court case in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
"At the court, one of the witnesses the widow brought was telling me that he would chase my family out of the village and be waving at us," Oluchi said. "The widow has not even been in the village. She just returned, and she doesn't even know anything about the lands."
When SaharaReporters called Orwhoji to react to the allegations against him, he referred the reporter to the spokesperson for the police in Imo State, Ikeokwu Orlando.
Responding to the allegations, Orlando said there were circumstances where the police were right to ask for a gender-specific surety.
"There are conditions for release on bail," he said. "For instance, you don't bring a woman when you know the woman is under a husband. The woman might not have a base. When someone says they – the accused must bring a man – the police are trying to establish the fact that the person, the accused, resides and works in that town."
Addressing the case and the alleged wrong framing by the police, Orlando repeated the alleged assault by Oluchi's parents after Orwhoji briefed him.
A civil society organization, the Rule of Law Advocacy and Accountability Centre, has written petitions to the commissioner of police in Imo State, seeking explanation on why the police were interfering in a civil dispute but had gotten any response.