Sunday John, a native of Ebonyi State, works seven days a week but barely has savings from his toils. But some corrupt officers in the Ogun State Police Command rip him off of what should be his gain. Now, he is tired of the extortion and more than anything else, he wants the police officers stopped.
When FIJ met him on Sunday, February 14, the mechanic was repairing one of the numerous motorbikes in his shop; the owner would come for it very soon and someone else would wheel another bike in, asking him to quickly fix the brakes.
“That’s how I get busy. Sometimes, I fix three to four bikes in a day,” says Sunday.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), almost 83 million people live below the poverty line and a total of 23.18 million people are unemployed. Sunday, though still poor, tries hard not to be part of the unemployed figures ever again in his life. But by the time he calculates what he is being forced to give corrupt policemen monthly, he realizes he is no better than the youth begging to survive.
I sit beside him to ask him questions about how he fares with his craft, especially at this time Coronavirus has crumbled the country’s economy for many low-income earners.
He stares in amazement in a way that suggests the question hits the nail head because he has been overthinking who to share his burden with. Certainly, not the food seller beside his shop whom he often borrows money from. And not his old master who is also not immune to his travails at the hands of te Police.
Sometime in the past, Sunday approached a lawyer for help in suing the corrupt police officers but he was told to get evidence such as the picture of a policeman caught in the act. He couldn’t muster such courage.
He, however, feels more comfortable speaking with a reporter who can independently investigate. It is an answered prayer for him.
A TALE OF TWO MECHANICS
Sunday used to be an apprentice under Bartholomew Ozokwe about a decade ago. He often saw how his boss’s wife discouraged him from paying the police. Some years after his own graduation, the police found him at Satina junction, Old Ondo/Benin Road in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
“Unlike my boss, I don’t even sell spare parts, he says. “I tried it one time in the past but when customers were owing me, I stopped. So the police don’t have any reason for compelling me to settle them. All the motorbikes here have their owners and I can defend them all.”
Despite this, Sunday received rounds of slaps each time he challenged the policemen that had become his tax collectors without receipts. If the police visited at t time he didn’t have money, he ran away. Then the food seller begged them with N1,000 so they won’t seize any of the bikes.
“There was a time they packed customers’ bikes inside their van. They slapped and dragged me. They were going to take me to their station that day.
“If I had allowed them to go with those bikes, I would have paid double at their station.”
This is how Sunday unwillingly ‘settles’ policemen with N2,000 to N3,000 every month in order to continue with his honest living.
On a booming day, the mechanic accrues up to N2,000 on repairs. He pays N5,000 for rent per month, a total of N60,000 per year. Aside from miscellaneous costs such as association levies, he has a pregnant wife and a young child to look after.
Paying the police at least N2,000 monthly, that is N24,000 yearly, on the average, is in every sense extortionate for a low-income earner.
His boss Bartholomew pays even more because he sells spare parts. The sexagenarian will rather leave his extorters to God’s judgment rather than challenge their excesses.
“I am in my sixties and I’m not interested in dragging any case with these people,” he says. “I understand getting justice may not be about me alone but I will just continue to bear the burden.”
One of Bartholomew’s neighbours who feels disgusted by the police affront listed ASP Wonodi Iheanacho among the policemen who once came to collect their regular illegal dues.
VIDEO on Youtube: How Nigerian Police extort vulnerable citizens in Ijebu Ode:
IJEBU-ODE’S NOTORIOUS RECORD OF POLICE EXTORTION
On February 25, Olasehinde Omoriwo had a similar experience of police extortion at Ijebu Ode. On his way to Ondo State, the Ijebu-Ode police divisional headquarters highway patrol team forced the young man to the Automated Teller Machine to withdraw N10,000 for them on the grounds of driving with incomplete documents.
Two days after tweeting about it, Abdulmajid Ali, Ogun State Commissioner of Police, contacted Olasehinde with an assurance that the culprits would be apprehended.
Not only did this happpen, his money was also returned.
Abimbola Oyeyemi, spokesman of the police in Ogun State, told FIJ that he expects victims of police extortion to report erring officers to the Police Command.
“We have always asked people to report any case of police extortion,” he says.
“There is no unknown police. Victims should try to get any means of identification, either the car number or division the police are from in order to lodge a complaint. People should not keep quiet when their rights are infringed upon so we can deal with the culprits.”
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