By Chioma Obinagwam
Two officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) were spotted on Tuesday harassing and attempting to forcefully arrest four male Nigerian youths going about their normal businesses.
The youths (names witheld), apparently in their twenties, were trying to climb the stairs of the overhead bridge at Begger, Ojodu, in Ikeja Local Government Area (LGA)of Lagos State, when the policemen stopped them and began to interrogate them in an uncourteous manner.
Confiance News further spotted them searching the bags of the boys and going through their phones.
Suddenly, one of the policemen after going through the phones of one of the boys asked all of them to follow them (the Policemen) to the station because they were under arrest.
The boys tried to resist the arrest demanding reasons why they should be arrested for trying to climb a bridge.
One of the boys who spoke in pidgin said,”Why you want arrest me wetin I do. We no do anything nah?”
English translation,” Why do you want to arrest me? What did I do? I didn’t do anything.”
Some Nigerians climbing and descending the bridge
Fortunately, two of the boys who stated that they are siblings phoned their father who supposedly was either a policeman or a member of the military or paramilitary asked that the phone be handed to one of the officers to enable communication with them.
Confiance News reporter overheard the policeman with the phone saying, “Esprit de Corps”.
This led to the release of only two of the boys.
However, luck ran out on the officers when the two boys who were released refused to go insisting that their friends be released too.
A scuffle ensued between the boys and officers when the remaining two were ordered into a tricycle (keke-napep). While trying to do that, the siblings forced themselves into the tricycle, insisting that their friends must be freed.
This struggle attracted the attention of passers-by and onlookers, which almost incited violence but for the timely intervention of a military man who drove into the scene.
The military man was having a hard time mediating on the matter as tensions were still high at the time and more people were also gathering.
Although Confiance News made concerted attempts to interview the boys, the police officers or the military men, it proved abortive as they all suddenly drove off in the military man’s car.
Further investigations by Confiance News showed that the officers from the NPF usually position themselves adjacent to the foot of the overhead bridge linking Begger and the Lagos-Ibadan express road to hunt their prey.
Confiance News also gathered that there were occasions where out of fear of being detained for no tangible reason, their victims (usually male youths) resort to bribing the officers just to be freed.
Sometimes the boys are forced to a nearby Automated Teller Machine (ATM) booth to withdraw money from their own accounts to settle the officers in order to avoid being detained.
Confiance News audio interview with the eyewitness:
An eyewitness whose stall is not far from the scene of the crime but pleaded anonymity lamented in pidgin,” Na so Dem dey do. You know say those guys no do anything. Na so dem dey do. From Grammer School na so dem they come everyday come obtain people collect money from them. I go dey vex here. One guy dey come back from school carry laptop, dem collect money from am. Him come dey cry. Him say him one go do WAEC. We don tire for dem. Make God come do make dem come arrest dem. Dem dey do illegal work.”
“E don tey sef. E dey vex me. I no get power to do anything. Thank God you dey around sef. Dem don dey here since morning. Dem don catch many people collect money leave dem. If dem catch you, dem go open your bag. If dem see phone wey dey expensive, dem go collect am. Dem no go give you back. One boy wey dem catch yesterday. The boy say him be student. Him dey come from UNILORIN dem no leave am o! Dem collect N10,000 from the boy. Dem follow am go ATM. The boy get ATM card. This same people. Dem from Ojodu- Grammar School Police Station.”
English translation: “That is how they do. You know that those guys are Innocent. They come from Grammer School everyday to extort and collect money from people. I will be angry. One boy was returning from school with his laptop, they collected money from him and he was crying. He said he was going to sit for his WAEC. I’m tired. Let them get arrested by the grace of God. They’re involved in illegal work.”
“This has been happening for long. It vexes me and I don’t have the power to do anything. They have been here since morning and collected money from people before releasing them. If they catch you, they’ll open your bag. If they see an expensive phone they’ll collect it. They won’t return it. They caught a boy yesterday, the boy said he is a student and was coming from UNILORIN (University of Ilorin). They collected N10,000 from him. They followed him to the ATM. He had an ATM card. This same people. They’re from Ojodu-Grammer school Police Station.”
Reacting to the issue, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Bala Elkanah said,” The Command is strongly against the violations of Rights of the Citizens by Police Officers who are paid with tax payers money to respect and protect those Rights. The action of the Police Officers in question is unacceptable as it fall short of professional ethics and Standards. We will identify them and subject them to internal disciplinary proceedings. Citizens whose Rights are violated by Police Officers in Lagos should report to the Police Public Relations Officer Lagos State through this number +2349090003792.”
lt is also on record that barely one month ago, Kolade Johnson, a Nigerian was shot dead by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) unit of the police.
Kolade was alleged to have been shot by a member of a police team, while he was watching a Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in Lagos.
More recently, there have been widespread protest and criticism by Nigerians over alleged molestation and sexual assault of dozens of women who were arrested during raids on nightclubs by a Joint Task Force of the Abuja Command of the NPF and were detained at Utako Police Station, Abuja.
These events bring the issue of human right abuse to the spotlight and casts a doubt on the primary duties of the NPF to the citizenry; whether they are, indeed, protecting the lives and property of Nigerians or doing the reverse.