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23.05.2024 Featured Abuja Police Arrest Student in Barbershop, Detain Him for 16 Hours Just to Extort Money

Published 23rd May, 2024

By Timileyin Akinmoyeje

In the afternoon of May 18, officers from the SARS Police Station, Area 1, in Abuja stormed Jessop Resorts in the Jabu area to carry out arrests. The arrests, however, didn’t end at the resort. Several other people, mostly young men, were picked off the streets of Jabu and from commercial buildings near the hotel, including a barbershop.

Kelvin Hassan (not real name), an Abuja-based artisan and student, was unlucky to be getting a haircut during the raid. Like every other person in the salon, he was taken away in a police van and detained at the police station. 

Immediately after he was arrested, Hassan was stripped of his mobile phone. The innocent Hassan would eventually spend 16 hours in detention with no idea why he was arrested and how to contact his relatives.

By Saturday, Hassan’s relatives had started to panic. He had not returned home and they had been unable to reach him for about 12 hours. They had also got wind of the police raid in Jabu, and this had compounded their worry.

READ ALSO: Ilorin Like Prison: Young People’s Experiences at the Hands of Rogue Police Officers in Kwara

After several futile attempts at reaching Hassan, his family began searching for him across police stations in the Jabu district. 

“I am in a panic at this point,” an agitated sibling of Hassan told FIJ on Saturday, when his whereabouts were still unknown. “If he was arrested, it would be shocking. I am worried at this point. We have started visiting many police stations. We have moved from one station to the other. My sibling has a physical condition that requires him to undergo surgery.

“He is not feeling fine. I hope they don’t torture him. My brother usually cuts his hair opposite the hotel they raided, and we were told that they arrested everyone at that place. Please let us know how we can reach Abuja police command.” 

The search by Hassan’s family would eventually yield results when they decided to try SARS Police Station. However, negotiating his release was not as smooth as they imagined.

The police officers told them Hassan was arrested on suspicion that he sold marijuana. Most poignantly, they demanded a sum of N50,000 from Hassan’s family if they truly wanted his release.

“While we were negotiating with them, they tried all sorts of mind games to get us to pay for the release of my sibling. They were essentially playing good cop, bad cop with us. One of them met us and was quoting the scriptures. Some of them tried appealing to pity, and they told us to consider my sibling and his condition,” said Hassan’s brother.

READ ALSO: Police Locked Me Up With Confessed Murderers, FIJ’s Daniel Ojukwu Reveals

“Initially, mind you, we asked why they arrested him, and they said he was suspected of being a weed seller. We asked them to provide evidence; at least we’d know the legal steps to take. They were not able to.”

Eventually, Hassan’s relatives reached a compromise with the police. The most important thing to them at the time was Hassan’s freedom from detention. The police officers had agreed to a flat rate of N25,000.

However, they would not accept electronic transfers or any form of digital payment. They wanted cash. According to Hassan’s sibling, the police led them to a colony of PoS operators just behind the station to get the cash.

Hassan was eventually able to get his freedom after his family paid the police officers. At that time, he was visibly exhausted. He would later give an account of how he was arrested and his experience in the police cell with several other young men between Friday and Saturday morning.

HASSAN’S ARREST AND DETENTION

Hassan went through a rollercoaster of incidents between the time of his arrest and release. Two things, however, stood out in his narration. First, his arrest and detention differ distinctly from the due process stated in the Nigerian Criminal Procedure Act.

He was detained by the police without a warrant, a clue of his offence and a means of communicating with his family or securing bail.

“They seized my phone immediately when I tried making calls. There were a lot of people in that cell when we got there. They didn’t give us food or water. They also stripped us of all our clothes and means of communication,” Hassan told FIJ

Secondly, Hassan learned in detention that mass raids, detention and bribes are a weekly routine for officers at the police station.

“In the cell, some of the people I met there told me that’s how they do every weekend. They told me they raid and bring new people every Friday,” he said.

“So, when relatives come, they collect money from them and let the arrested person leave. The police people can go and confirm. They didn’t beat us or torture us in any way.”

READ ALSO: Policeman Adamu Idris Extorts N50,000 From Gospel Singer in Abuja

FIJ first contacted Josephine Adeh, police spokesperson for the FCT, on Saturday to inform her about a possible arrest. At the time, no one was sure of Hassan’s whereabouts.

FIJ contacted Adeh again on Tuesday with the details of Hassan’s arrest and detention. Adeh directed FIJ to the Complaints Response Unit (CRU) of the Nigeria Police Force. When FIJ contacted the CRU, they demanded to see the relatives of the arrested people and promised to look into the situation.

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Published 23rd May, 2024

By Timileyin Akinmoyeje

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