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24.02.2024 Featured New Abuja CP Orders Arrest of 128 Innocent Residents Due to Their Poverty

Published 24th Feb, 2024

By Opeyemi Lawal

On Sunday, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), formerly known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), under the Abuja State Police Command, arrested 128 residents of Kunchigoro Area 1 of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The victims’ legal representative who spoke anonymously with FIJ that they were detained at the Guzape Abattoir Station in the FCT.

She further stated that the arrest was an order from Benneth Igweh, FCT’s new commissioner of police.

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“Around 5 pm on Sunday evening, SARS officials raided the Kunchigoro Area and picked people from their homes,” she told FIJ.

“They picked some people from their baptismal classes in church, some from their beds and asked them to dress up, some people from the bathroom and a large number of people from a football field where two local clubs were playing.

“Even those who were trying to run when they saw what happened were chased, picked up by the SARS officers and thrown into the Black Maria.”

She said that the harassment didn’t stop there, as the residents were physically assaulted and forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. She added that the SARS officers also extorted money from the relatives of the detainees.

“After arresting them, they detained them and beat some of them blue-black. The officers also asked them to confess to crimes like robbery and others, but they held their ground.

“These same officers asked them to pay N1,500 to the SARS photographer who would take their pictures.

“They also demanded money from relatives who tried to enter the premises. They charged them N500 to enter through the main gate between N1000 and N3000 to see their relatives, and another fee to give them food.

“Meanwhile, they kept these people without food throughout their detention. These people were made to sit in the sun and on the bare ground for offences they knew nothing about.”

The lawyer said that after much questioning, the police claimed the residents were arrested based on an intelligence tip; however, it was later found out that they were arrested based on an order from the commissioner of police.

“We later found out that it was the CP who ordered the raid in the settlement.

“A police officer said poor people are not supposed to be in Abuja, so it can be assumed that the raid on such places is because they are poor.”

She said that the residents were arraigned on Thursday but their lawyers were denied entry into the court.

“On Thursday, when they were moved to court, they did not arrive until 3 pm. The judge did not also show up until 5:30 pm,” she told FIJ.

“They locked the gate and prevented us, the lawyers, from attending the trial. It was when they came out that they told us that they were arrested for constituting a nuisance in the state and that they could be bailed with N5,000 or face a jail term of two months in Suleja Correctional Centre.

“Those who could afford it paid almost immediately and the remaining residents were released the following day also on bail.”

READ ALSO: Customs Distributes Rice to Nigerians at Giveaway Price After FIJ’s Investigation

When FIJ first called Josephine Adeh, the public relations officer of the Abuja Police Command, on Thursday, she asked that our reporter visit the community to find out the cause of the arrest.

“You can go there and find out the cause of the arrest, and then you can ask me questions since the report came to you and not us,” Adeh said.

When our reporter said she would give her time to find out, her response was, “I will find out and get back to you.”

When FIJ called back on Friday morning, she spoke rudely and denied having knowledge of the location and time of the arrest.

Reacting to Adeh’s comments, the lawyer said, “They are telling lies and were behind the arrest.”

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Published 24th Feb, 2024

By Opeyemi Lawal

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