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General News of Sunday, 15 January 2023


Group petitions IGP over 'atrocities' by Imo police unit

Usman Alkali Usman Alkali

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali, over “atrocities” allegedly carried out by the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the police in Imo State, south-east Nigeria.

The Executive Director of RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma, disclosed this in a statement on Friday.

Mr Nwanguma said the petition followed the illegal arrest and prolonged detention of two young men despite the police acknowledging that their arrest was carried out in error.

How it happenedMr Nwanguma said the young men were arrested in December and taken to the police unit without being told of their offences.

He said their statements were not obtained until the following day.

The young men – a law graduate and an electrician – the RULAAC boss said, only drove to an ATM stand in Owerri, the state capital, to withdraw money before being surrounded by two armed police officers who were part of a convoy.

“The officers searched them and their vehicles thoroughly and found nothing incriminating and then ordered them into one of their vehicles and drove them to Tiger Base (where the unit is located),” he said.

He said the police operatives after going through their statements and interrogations asked them to write that they belong to a cult group.

The law graduate, RULAAC said, told the police that he graduated from Imo State University and awaiting law school programme and that the other person they also arrested is an electrician whom he drove to the ATM stand to pay him for repairing some electrical fault in his house.

They told the officers that they were not members of any cult group.

“The officer insisted and used different objects to brutalise them, including using machetes to flog them at their back, inflicting injuries on them, in order to intimidate and compel them to admit to a crime they did not commit,” Mr Nwanguma alleged.

He also alleged that the police seized their phones and did not allow them to contact anybody.

Delayed releaseThe law graduate, according to RULAAC, said he sighted his former school mate at the police facility and narrated his story to the former school mate, who helped him to inform his elder brother about the development.

The RULAAC boss said the elder brother contacted him, prompting the group to phone the police unit to enquire about the incident.

The Officer-in-Charge of the unit, identified as Ola, according to RULAAC, after hours of cross checks, admitted that the two young men were arrested in error, and explained that the operatives who carried out the arrest only suspected their movements.

Despite promising to release them, Mr Ola failed to do so, according to RULAAC.

Mr Nwanguma said after asking the families of the young men to “come and see him” to facilitate their release, they could not be allowed access into the police facility.

Following the development, the RULAAC boss phoned Mr Ola again and he repeated the promise to release them.

He said the young men were only released the following day after being forced to pay an undisclosed sum of money.

He said the young men were initially asked to pay N500, 000 to secure their release, but that they later paid less before being released.

Mr Nwanguma said the young men were warned by the police officers never to let anybody know that they paid money to secure their release or they would re-arrest them and charge them for kidnapping.

‘Many rotting in police cell’He said when RULAAC officials spoke with the young men after their release, they said that many people they met in the police cell were being held without any of their families knowing their whereabouts.

“Some had spent weeks and months with gunshot injuries festering and smelling and in bad state of health. They live in starvation. They are never charged to court,” RULAAC said.

Mr Nwanguma said the unit was repeating the issues that sparked the EndSARS protests across the country in 2020.

He claimed that the Commissioner of Police in Imo State, Ahmed Barde, does not respond to complaints about the excesses of the officers in the unit.

“RULAAC calls on the IGP to intervene to sanitise Imo State Police Command,” he said.