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Monday, April 22, 2024

Police React, As Anambra Residents Accuse Another Officer of Demanding ₦3.2m to Release 8 Youths Arrested at Beer Parlour

 

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Some Police officers in Anambra State, have been accused of illegally arresting eight youths at a beer in the State and demanding the sum of ₦400,000 to release each of them.

This is coming barely three days after the DPO in charge of the B Division, Awka, DPO Kennedy Oti, was removed over allegations that he and his men Illegally arrested over fifty persons who were going about their normal businesses in Awka last week and extorted ₦20,000 from each of them yo release them.

The new Police Commissioner in the State, upon hearing the allegations, told newsmen on Wednesday during his maiden press conference, that the DPO had been removed and replaced, while investigations are currently ongoing on the matter. He also declared that the Command, under his watch, would not tolerate any form of malfeasance or misconduct from the officers. While condemning any form of illegal arrest of people at beer parlours, or other places, torture, or intimidation by the police in Anambra; the Police Commissioner during that press conference, also said that the Command encouraged nightlife, as that is one of the ways to show that normalcy has returned to Anambra State.

However, barely two days after the declaration, some police officers attached to the Special Anti-Cultism Squad Unit, Enugwu-Ukwu, in Njikoka Local Government Area of the State, were accused of demanding five hundred thousand naira (₦400,000) from some residents of the State to release their relatives who were arrested at a beer parlour in Awada Onitsha.

According to a source, the detainees were arrested at about 7.pm on Thursday and where they were cooling off at the drinking joint. The source who begged not to be mentioned said the officers stormed the beer parlour the first time, searched around everywhere and also searched all the customers and everybody there, and left, telling people not to be afraid, and that nothing was happening.

The source, however, said few minutes after that, the police officers returned the second time, and arrested everybody in the beer parlour, forced them into their vehicles, and drove straight to the Anti-cult Unit, Enugwu-Ukwu. They were also said to have announced their destination (Special Anti-Cultism Squad Unit, Enugwu-Ukwu) as they were zooming off, which made the people watching from a distance to know where they were taking the people to; in addition to the name written on their vehicles. The officers were also accused of slapping and torturing a 17-year-old son of the owner of the beer parlour whom they later left as he was crying, because of his age, before zooming off with others.

When contacted for her own narration, the owner of the beer parlour, simply identified as Anastasia, told this reporter, Izunna Okafor, that she was inside when the incident started, while two of his sons, including the one who recently finished his university studies and is currently preparing for his National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), were at the beer parlour, attending to customers. She said before she could dress up and come out, the officers had already taken off, signalling her to come to Enugwu-Ukwu tomorrow morning. She said her 17-year son was also seen crying helplessly there at the beer parlour, as the police had whisked away.

She said after hearing what happened, they closed for the night after a short while, as she was not feeling too strong.

According to her, when she went to the Special Anti-Cultism Squad Unit, Enugwu-Ukwu the following morning (Friday) to know why the police arrested her son and the customers drinking at her shop the previous night; she was told that the arrest was made based on information that she deals on illicit drug (Indian hemps) in her shop.

“They said that I am selling SK in my beer parlour, and I asked them what is SK, and they said it was an illicit drug. They also brought out a polythene bag and showed me, telling me it was the SK the got from that my beer parlour yesterday. But I told them we don’t sell any form of drug there. I don’t deal with drugs, and I hate it with passion, because I am even allergic to smoke. I don’t even like people smoking cigarettes in my shop, let alone selling hard drugs.

“We only sell beer, malt, and other soft drinks, then, barbecue, and meat. So, I told them we don’t deal on drugs, and that if somebody came with the drugs and dropped it there, I don’t know. And, remember, they came for the first time and left after searching everybody, before they returned the second time and made the arrests. If we or the people drinking there are actually dealing on drugs or had some drugs there, do you think we would have remained there after the officers left the first time?

“My dear, all I know is that we don’t sell any form of drug there and we don’t even allow smoking of any type of hard drugs in my shop. And they said that it meant I lacked supervision. But I told them I had been there all the while, going in and coming out and seeing what goes on there.

“I told them, before God and man, if people are planning to set me in any way, I will close that shop for them, let them be rich; my God will continue to provide for me.”

When asked about the situation of the eight people arrested at the beer parlour yesterday, a relative of one of the people arrested said the police was demanding the sum of ₦400,000 for the release of each person, making it a total of ₦3.2million naira for the eight people they arrested there.

The source who pleaded anonymity said they were surprised when they heard that, imagining where to get that kind of money from.

The source said the officer who gave them the bill (simply identified as Ferdinand) later engaged them in a bargain, and told them to pay ₦250,000 on each person, making it a total of two million naira (₦2.m). The source further said as they were begging for the unconditional release of the people, the officer told them that he was residing in Asaba, Delta State, and would soon leave, after which the detainees would have to sleep there again in the police cell for another night.

However, when contacted by this reporter, Izunna Okafor; the new Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, who pledged an urgent action on the matter, called back later and said the officers carried out the raid in Onitsha on a tip-off from a source.

“I have spoken to the officer in charge of that station, and the account they gave was that they went to that place on tip-off, and that the first time they went there, the person who took them to that place just showed them the place, but they didn’t strike. So they took the person back, having known the place. And then, they came back the second time for the actual raid.

“The officer said that they recovered India hemp there and also made arrest of some suspects,” he said.

The police Commissioner also said the officers denied asking anyone for ₦400,000 bail money to release each of the suspects.

“I have directed that they transfer all the suspects and the exhibits they recovered to the NDLEA, and they will do that before the close of work today,” he said.

He also challenged the people who claimed they were told to pay bail money to come up with their evidences about the demand or payment of money for the bail by the officers, if they have any; even as he assured that he would urgently act on any evidences tendered and take the necessary actions immediately.

The CP later shared a video to this reporter, showing the detainees as they were being interrogated in the cell. The video also shows a nylon containing wraps of Indian hemps, which the police officers said they recovered from the beer parlour during the raid.

They also interviewed some of the detainees, including the son of the owner of the beer parlour, who (reluctantly) accepted that the indian hemps were recovered from the beer parlour, as the police said. He, however, was unable to explain how it came about, who owns it, or on which side of the beer parlour it was found.

The video also shows an eyewitness who said the police didn’t see any drug when they first came and searched the people there; adding that even if they saw anything, it was not in the shop or in the hands of anybody drinking in the beer parlour.

She said: “After searching them and every other person, they didn’t see anything, and so they went back, as in, they wanted to go back; and I don’t know what they saw outside the beer parlour, maybe it was the drug; and so, they came back to the beer parlour and arrested everybody there. But I was there with them in the shop that yesterday, the police didn’t see anything there or when they searched them.”

Meanwhile, when interviewed after the CP’s directive for the transfer of the suspects to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), another relative of one of the detainees said the police officer who was demanding them to pay ₦400,000 to bail each suspect, became angry with them after the Commissioner of Police contacted them about the matter.

The relative said the police officer vowed to punish them for making the higher authority hear about his demand for ₦400,000 bail money; and consequently said he would first transfer the detainees to a more uncomfortable cell in the station, before they would be eventually handed over to the NDLEA.

The relative said the officer angrily told them that he was no longer interested in collecting bail money from any of them anymore, irrespective of the amount involved, as all the suspects would be transfered to the NDLEA, in line with the CP’s directive.

Meanwhile, this reporter had earlier contacted the Chairman of the NDLEA in Anambra State, Mr. Daniel Onyishi, who said police and other security were expected to transfer any suspect arrested for drug-related issues to the Agency. While noting that the said suspects had not been transferred to their Agency, he also said that no security agency is expected to demand money for the bail of anybody arrested for drug-related issues, but to transfer such suspect to NDLEA.

However, when contacted hours later, the NDLEA Boss confirmed that the suspects had been transferred to the Agency.

Against the eight persons arrested, Mr. Onyishi said it was six suspects that were transferred to his agency by the police.

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