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[SPECIAL REPORT] Despite EndSARS protest, Police harassments persist, use POS for extortion

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THIS report examines how Police brutality, extortion and harassment have continued almost two years after the #EndSARS Protest. This report looks at red flags for youths who are the principal victims and the method/strategy of extortion. 

David Onochie Aniemeka,32, was abruptly woken up one early morning in July 2020 by Policemen that were not properly dressed. 

Before he could pick himself up, he and his brother found themselves in a Police vehicle. He said the Police claimed they were armed robbers and claimed a Laptop Computer found at his apartment belonged to someone else. 

David claimed he has been using the Laptop since 2011.  He explained that on their way to the station, the Policemen asked him to buy his freedom; otherwise, he would be shot at the station.  


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He eventually paid N310,000, a transaction he did at a Point-of-sale (POS) operator where the policemen, who he described were from the Anti-violence crime section of Abattoir, Abuja, took him.

On April 2, 2022, Jesse Ubon and his sister Treasure said they were manhandled by police officers after being stopped in a tricycle along IBB way/Abak road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.  

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Jesse and his sister were accused of being fraudsters. 

“I was falsely accused of being a yahoo boy, punched on the mouth, and threatened to be handcuffed. My sister was also maltreated and slapped on the face several times.  

“They collected my phone, and one of them tried to transfer some Bitcoin from my account without success,” Jesse said. 

Another victim, Martins, a student of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, told The ICIR that Policemen from Agugu police station in Ibadan stopped him and his friend during a boat ride and accused them of being fraudsters without any evidence.  

Like with David in Abuja, Martins said he was taken to a POS operator where he was forced to part with N40,000 while his friend parted with N50,000.  

“It was a harrowing experience,” he said.  

In another incident, Olatubosun Victor was in a car with his brother in New Karu, Nasarawa state, when they were stopped by police officers in mufti.  

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“They stopped us and asked us to come down. They were in mufti and carrying guns. They forcefully drove our car to their station and took me to the station in their Siena car. 

“They collected N40,000 from us and another N20,000 later when they came to our house”, Olatubosun said.  

“In the vehicle, they threatened us that they would kill us if we get to their station (New Karu station), so we had no choice than to follow them to a POS woman to make the transfer.” 

A POS machine

“They took me to a POS woman and withdrew N310,000 from my account,” David said.

Another victim, Olatunbosun, told The ICIR that the Policemen that arrested them illegally threatened them during their ordeal and fear of being hurt made them comply. 

Who are the targeted victims of harassment?

From our investigation,  young people are often the targets of such harassment.  The people spoken with all fall between the 18 to 35 age bracket.

image of Nigerian youths
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Taofeek Anibaba, a resident of Ilorin, Kwara state, told the ICIR that Policemen in Ilorin do not like to see youths that are well dressed or carrying Laptops or other expensive mobile phones; according to him, they immediately tag them as “Yahoo” boys (fraudsters), arrest them and extort them. 

 “Once the Policemen sights you and see that you are a youth and you are well dressed, they begin to arrest and threaten you, and in the end, you will pay money to free yourself.

“It is worst when you are using a good phone or you carry a Laptop, instantly they tag you a fraudster or a cultist,” Anibaba said. 

 Mode of payment? Cash transfers or bitcoin?  

Many of the victims confirmed that when these policemen stop them, the first thing they collect is their (victims) phones and check their credit balance and crypto account. 

Jesse, one of the victims, told us that the Policemen that stopped him and his sister on their way to buy food in Uyo made several attempts to transfer Bitcoin from his wallet without success. 

“They struggled to transfer some bitcoin from my wallet, but they could not because I have locked it.” 

Another victim in Ibadan, Oyo State, said the policemen asked him to pay them with Cryptocurrency, but he did not, and in the end, he paid through a POS. 

 Do the victims get their money back? 

David took several steps to recover his money to no avail, he even approached a magistrate court in Abuja to get back the N310,000 he paid to the Policemen, but he was unsuccessful. 

“I went to Magistrate court, but the matter ended somehow without any tangible success,” 

Another victim of Police extortion, Olatunbosun, said he could not get back the N60,000 the police officers collected from him despite involving his father in the matter. 

“I called my father and told him about it. We made several attempts to get our money back but without success. After a lot of threats, we have to let go.” 

 Allegation of fraud as a strategy 

Apart from threats and intimidation, one primary strategy deployed by the rogue policemen to extort and harass the youths is by accusing them of fraud. 

They allegedly labelled the victims, mostly youths and students, as fraudsters and used that as an excuse to extort them. 

Martins, a student, told The ICIR that the policemen that harassed him and his friend accused them of being fraudsters after seeing a Money App on their phones.

 Ibrahim Ademuyiwa, 22, an electrician, was arrested while on a motorcycle along Oremeji, Agugu, Ibadan, Oyo state.   According to his brother Oladayo Timilehin who spoke to The ICIR, his crime was that the username on his Snapchat app was different from his real name.  

He was accused of being a fraudster and detained for three hours at Agugu police station, Ibadan, Oyo state.  

According to Timilehin, Ademuyiwa parted with N7,000 before he was released.  

The Lagos experience 

In Lagos, victims of police brutality are not having it any better.

Bolaji Odukoya still clearly recounts his police brutality, which occurred on August 1, 2022, when he was told to pay N600,000 after he was harassed by some policemen on the Island. He went as far as documenting online.

It read, “My SARS kidnap experience on Monday 01/08/2022 I was really reluctant to tweet this cause thinking about it is so draining, but I know it’s Friday today and people will be out till late, and maybe it can save someone’s day. On my way from Ikoyi(Alexander) to VI at about 11:38 p.m.

“I was stopped by some guys At Bayo kuku (The right turn after the deputy governor’s residence) I could see FSWAT on their black t-shirts/ polos. They asked me to come down and show them my trunk I did , asked for my papers and license, I showed them, and next thing one of them suggested, they take me to their station to interrogate me.”

Odukoya said his refusal to go anywhere led him to be rough handled.

He said, “They started to push me I resisted; one hit the back of his gun on my lap, while the other pushed, slapped me and all. I left my phone in the car, so one of them had reached out to get it.”

He noted that the deed was done at Sura where he was told to pay the sum of N600,000 for resisting arrest. He notes that he had to negotiate the ransom before he wiggled free.

Odukoya, who is unfazed by the incident in private, told the ICIR that his aim of sharing the story was to let people know what was going on, and he didn’t want to go to lengths to identify the officers, adding that they seemed dangerous and fearless.

“All I didn’t disclose was the account name they made me send money to, which was saved as “Aibee baby lawyer” on one of the officers’ phones.”

He said he later paid N50,000 at the end of the travail.

Nifemi Oluwani confided in The ICIR that the situation is no different in Ibadan, where some police arrested some people for no reason.

He said, “I went to my hometown a couple of days ago (in September), and some police came and arrested people for no reason. They even scaled fence to enter some compound. They carried them to the testing ground police station Ibadan. They demanded money from them before they can release them.

He added, “Well, from what I heard when I got back to the area that day, they said they arrested most of them for fraud but demanded N250,000 each.”

Oluwani stressed that the trend has continued in neighbouring area for a couple of days, including Oki and Iyana church areas of Ibadan.

When contacted to comment on the matter, the public relations officer, of the Lagos State Police Command, Benjamin Hundeyin, failed to comment on developments of police brutality in the state.

The only thing he came close to doing was providing a Twitter account of himself driving late through Lagos at night. Hundeyin, who detailed the act, termed it a social experiment on Twitter where he drove around Ikeja 11:50 pm in a mufti.

 

 

He noted that he came out of the social experiment unhurt and urged residents to be respectful while driving in the state.

“Respect is reciprocal. Appreciate those who stand out there all day and night for lesser pay. Don’t be condescending. Don’t be unnecessarily aggressive. Don’t be docile too. Always be firm with your rights. And don’t resort to taking the laws in your hands,” he tweeted.

#EndSars Protest of 2020 and the demand of the youths

In October 2020, a protest to stop Police brutality, now referred to as the EndSARS protest, was championed mainly by young people against constant harassment and extortion by a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). 

The protest, which shook the foundation of cities like Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja, was positioned as leaderless but came out with demands which included compensation for the families of those who died due to police brutality, the release of arrested protesters, and an increase in the salaries and allowances of police officers.  

They also demanded that the government set up an independent body to investigate allegations of police misconduct and prosecute those indicted and psychological evaluation of officers of the disbanded SARS before redeployment into other units. 

However, On October 20, 2020, a few weeks into the protest, Amnesty International claimed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos in an attempt to disperse the protesters. 

Government intervention

Following this, the government quickly announced that it had disbanded the SARS unit, and in its place, a new tactical team, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) would be set up.

Members of the disbanded SARS unit of the Nigerian police

The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) and some states also constituted judicial panels of inquiry into allegations of police abuses. 

In September 2022, the Abuja judicial panel on police brutality submitted its reports on petitions on human rights violations by security operatives to the NHRC.

The 11-member panel of the FCT, which was inaugurated by the NHRC, was led by Suleiman Galadima, a former supreme court justice.

In December 2021, the panel awarded N146 million as compensation to 27 victims of police brutality.

On September 14, the panel awarded the sum of N289 million to 74 victims of police brutality.

The beneficiaries included a man who lost his limb after being unjustly shot by a police officer and the family of a young man who was arrested by SARS operatives and died in detention six years ago.

Earlier in his remarks, Secretary of the panel Hilary Ogbonna said over 200 petitions were received from 29 states, including the FCT, 54 were withdrawn, 33 were struck out, 56 judgment debts, 57 referred to NHRC and 95 were fully decided.

He also revealed that 72 police officers were indicted for various human rights violations, 28 were recommended for prosecution, 25 for dismissal, 15 for different disciplinary actions, and four for rank reduction.

Also, in May 2021, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating abuses by members of the disbanded State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) panel constituted by the State government awarded ₦13.5m to victims of Police brutality.

Members of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating abuses by members of the disbanded State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)

The sum was awarded to three victims of Police excesses in the state.

A 34-year-old trader Ndukwe Ekekwe received the sum of ₦7.5m for the ordeal he suffered from men of the disbanded SARS.

Ekekwe, who owns shops at Alaba International Market where he sold accessories and other general items, had told the panel how he was arrested on February 16, 2018, for crimes he did not commit.

According to his testimony before the panel, he was tortured, brutalised, and thrown down the two-story building of the shopping complex which housed his shops.

FG approves a 20 per cent upward review of salary for the Police. 

Following the demand of the #EndSars protest of 2020, in December 2021, The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a 20 per cent upward review of salary for the police force with effect from January 2022.

The Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of a virtual council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Dingyadi explained that the increased police personnel’s take-home pay by 20 per cent of their present earnings was one of the ways to improve the relationship between the force and the Nigerian populace.

The council also approved the review of the police duty tour allowance and shift allowance to six per cent, as well as the release of N1.2 billion for the payment of uninsured benefits.

Besides, he said that FEC approved the sum of N1.2 billion for the payment of outstanding allowances.

Although some police officers who chose to remain anonymous said implementation of the salary increase did not start until September 2022.

 The cops are not satisfied with the percentage in the pay rise.

The officers expressed worries over the late implementation and a cut in their new allowances promised by the Government and said it did not measure up to what was promised.

The Police speak out

In a chat with The ICIR, the Police Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the Police do not condone any act of police brutality, extortion or unprofessionalism.

Police PRO, Olumuyiwa Adejobi
Police PRO, Olumuyiwa Adejobi

 “We condemn police brutality, extortion and unprofessionalism in all ramifications. That’s why the leadership of the force has been up to the task of checkmating the excesses and disciplinary matters pertaining to policemen. We sanction appropriate and commend where necessary.  

On the status of the new police unit SWAT, Adejobi said their mode of operation is not the same as the disbanded SARS.  

“SWAT still operates across the country, but its mode of operation is not the same as the disbanded SARS.   

“The IGP is reviewing their Standard Operating procedure to be in tune with the present policing standards and security realities on the ground,” he added. 

He said the Police are putting resources together to have a more refined and professional police force.  

 Human Right Lawyer’s verdict 

Also speaking on the matter, a constitutional lawyer, Festus Ogun, said the Police are yet to learn anything from the #EndSars protest of 2020.  

“I feel the Police are yet to pick any lesson from the historical uprising witnessed in 2020.   

“And this is, unfortunately, happening because the government failed to implement the simple demands of the youths, which was a thorough and radical reform of the policing system,” he said.  

Youths representative vents anger 

Rinu Oduala, an activist and one of the youths at the forefront of the EndSars protest in 2020, said it is regrettable that despite the youth’s protest of 2020, nothing has been done to address the country’s escalating prevalence of police brutality.  

Rinu Oduala, Youth activist
Rinu Oduala, Youth activist

“It is deeply troubling that nothing has been done to address the country’s escalating prevalence of police brutality, despite the Nigerian government’s repeated pledges to address the underlying problems after the repression of the movement against police brutality led young Nigerians to come to the streets in 2020.  

“Many young people are extorted, harassed, brutalised, indiscriminately profiled, arrested, and imprisoned while the current administration watches because the Police are being used as a tool to subjugate the populace.  

She said the judiciary, once thought to be the average man’s greatest hope, is now the biggest terror and the Police, which should be our friend, are now the enemy.   

Oduala added that there is a limit to how much oppression and brutality the average man can tolerate; therefore, if the government continues to ignore the demands of the youths, the EndSARS protests will be a prequel to the massive uprisings that will take place in the coming days. 

This report was updated to reflect the Lagos angle. 

Author profile

A reporter with the ICIR
A Journalist with a niche for quality and a promoter of good governance

Author profile

Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to jolaoluwa@icirnigeria.org. Follow on Twitter @theminentmuyiwa and on Instagram @Hollumuyiwah.

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