N40,000 was taken from the students –Michael Ekene Okonkwo (20) and his friend, Udo Chukwu Maduforo– before they were allowed to go.
The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has written to the Commissioner of Police, Airport Command in Ikeja, Lagos State, seeking the punishment of officers who allegedly extorted students of their money and made them miss their flight.
The open letter signed by the group's Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwanguma on Sunday narrated how two students of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ikwo (FUNAI), Ebonyi State left their homes in Lagos and were heading to the local airport in Ikeja, Lagos to board a flight back to school, only for them to be extorted on their way by the police.
According to RULAAC, N40,000 was taken from the students –Michael Ekene Okonkwo (20) and his friend, Udo Chukwu Maduforo– before they were allowed to go. But they were too late to catch their flight.
On the behalf of the victims' families, the accountability advocacy group, therefore, demanded the sum of N186,000 from the police as a refund for the N40,000 taken from the students and the cost incurred for missing their flight – N146,400.
The group also asked the police commissioner to ensure the officers involved in the "criminal act which contravenes Police professional standards and which brings the image of the police to further disrepute be subjected to appropriate disciplinary measures in accordance with the police rules and regulations".
The group narrated that "On Saturday, August 14, 2021, Michael Ekene Okonkwo (20) and his friend Udo Chukwu Maduforo, both students of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ikwo (FUNAI), Ebonyi State left their homes in Lagos and were heading to the Lagos local airport, Ikeja to board a flight back to school.
"The vehicle conveying them was stopped by a team of police officers in front of Golden Tulip Hotel on Airport Road at about 11 am.
"The police officers searched the boys and despite not finding anything incriminating with them, and despite their explanation that they are students heading to the airport to catch a flight back to their school in Ebonyi State, and their plea to not let them miss their flights, the police officers refused to let them go.
"A journalist-friend called to draw my attention to this incident and I asked that he gives my number to any of the boys to call me so I may find out what was happening. Michael Ekene's mother called me minutes later and confirmed that her son and his fellow student going to the airport were held hostage along airport road by some police officers on a stop-and-search operation. She said she was heading to the spot and I asked her to call me as soon as she arrived there for me to hear from the police officers the offence the boys may have committed to warrant their being held hostage.
"Before Mrs Okonkwo could get to the spot where her son and his colleague were held, her son called her again to tell her that the officers had allowed them to go after extorting the sum of N40,000 from the two of them, money meant for their upkeep in school. By the time the boys arrived at the airport, their flight had left. They missed their Air Peace flight scheduled for 11:40 am. They had to return home and travelled this morning at extra cost.
"In their own words 'they harassed us and collected money from us. They delayed us, and one of them pushed me on my face ... They searched our bags and didn't find anything (incriminating) in them but still yet didn't listen to me after I showed my student ID to them'.
"This is shocking for two reasons. That police officers trained and paid to serve and protect citizens could descend to holding students- young people who could be their children- to ransom and ignored their explanations that they are students going back to school and their plea to let them go - since they were not found with anything incriminating- so that they would not miss their flights. They robbed them of their money and made them miss their flight.
"That in spite the current raging issue of police corruption and abuse of power which has again put Nigeria in the spotlight of international opprobrium, these officers could not be deterred or persuaded to minimise their greed for money acquired through extortion.
"We are appalled, to say the least."
In its demands, the group said, the Commissioner of Police, Airport Command, Ikeja should identify "these despicable corrupt officers" and ensure they "refund the total amount of money they extorted from these hapless students as well as refund the total cost of their tickets.
"The total cost is: N33,000 X 2= 66000
They paid an extra N80,400 to reschedule because it was business class
Total N146 400 + 40k N186,400."
"That the CP takes any further actions he deems necessary to remedy the violation of the rights of the students, reassure the victims and the general public that the command does not condone or tolerate corruption and abuse of police powers. These are necessary to redeem the image of the NPF," it added.