By Vincent UFUOMA
STUDENTS of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Ekiti State, who were traveling along the Ado-Ikere road on Thursday have accused operatives of the Nigeria Police in Ekiti State of harassment and extortion.
The students were returning home following the immediate closure of the institution by the management after Tuesday’s unrest, in which altercations between students and policemen led to the death of two students who were teargassed and sustained gunshot wounds.
One of the victims, Adesuyan Oluwaseyi Isaac, a student of the Department of English and Literary Studies told this reporter that he and others were delayed, tortured, and extorted by policemen in Ikere on their way from Oye to Akure. There were three male and three female passengers in the car, mostly students of FUOYE.
He said the police held him in detention for five hours, between 11 am and 4 pm, for “taking their pictures” and then demanded N100,000 as a condition for his release.
He narrated: “I was travelling from Oye to Ondo when the vehicle that conveyed us was stopped. The police ordered six of us in the vehicle to come down for a search.
I was told to bring out my phone, which I did. The policeman collected it and asked me to unlock it. I obeyed. I turned to look at other passengers that were being searched for about two minutes and the next thing I heard was a slap on my face.
“The policeman that was searching me accused me of taking pictures of them while they were searching my colleagues. Immediately, they handcuffed me and one other guy who was accused of being a Yahoo boy, forced us into their vehicle, and took us to Ikere Area Command Police Station.
“We were tortured; I was beaten severally for taking their pictures. They said it’s unlawful. I called home and explained things to them.
“They said we were to pay N100,000 each for our bail. I called my sibling who negotiated with them on the phone and we eventually paid N20,000. The other guy, accused to be a cyber-fraudster also paid N20,000 before we were allowed to leave around 4 pm.”
“This is unfair,” Isaac said twice in an exasperated tone.
Another student who was in the cab spoke to this reporter but asked not to be named. She recounted that the policemen tagged them criminals after they revealed they are students at FUOYE.
“We were stopped at a checkpoint by the police along Ado Ikere road. The police ordered us to come from the vehicle. They asked us if we are students from FUOYE, we said yes and we were immediately tagged criminals,” she said.
“The way they were acting was absurd. It even got to a point where a girl denied knowing her friend. It was awkward. Those men were ready to do anything. They were checking old pictures and harassing them. They were actually stopping every car.”
She said the policemen were armed and wielded their guns as though ready to shoot at any time.
“Later, I started hearing some slaps. I tried looking out the window to see what was going on. I wanted to record a video but the other lady advised me not to try it because it appeared they accused one of the male passengers being slapped of taking their pictures.”
She said the two male passengers were handcuffed and thrown into the patrol van despite pleas from the cab driver. Other cars passing the route were also stopped and the policemen kept checking young people’s phones and pockets, and “asking stupid questions like if they were Yahoo boys”.
When the spokesperson of the Ekiti State Police Command, ACP Caleeb Ikechukwu, was contacted for comments on the incident, he directed the reporter to send him his identification card and reports he had published to him on WhatsApp before he would be comfortable to speak.
“I am not sure you are a journalist. Several people have called to ask me almost the same questions today claiming they are journalists from somewhere,” he said.
“If you are truly a journalist, snap your ID card and the evidence of the stories you have published. Send them to me on WhatsApp before I can answer you.”