Samuel Peter, an Abuja-based student, has detailed how some police officers suspected to be members of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) extorted N256,000 from him and one of his siblings.
Peter told FIJ that he first encountered the police officers while he was on his way to a dentist’s office on November 2.
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“Last week, I was going to see my dentist because of some oral pains I had. I ordered a Bolt, and on our way, we saw some policemen. They were doing stop and search at Dantata Bridge, Abuja,” Peter said.
“When they searched the Bolt car I had ordered and my pockets, they did not see anything. Then they asked what I do for a living. I told them I am a student. They asked for my ID Card but I told them it was not with me at the moment.”
‘BITCOIN TRADING IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE’
Despite not finding anything incriminating on the student, the police officers still decided to take him to their station located in Apo for “further questioning”.
“The officers then insisted that I follow them to their station for questioning. I asked them why but they said I should not even ‘drag any issue with them’. They collected my phone and said I must follow them. I am sure they also took this step so that I won’t be able to video them,” Peter said.
“They took me to the ‘SARS office’ after Apo roundabout here in Abuja and forced me to write a statement. They also made me write about myself, what I do and where I stay.
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“When they asked me for my occupation, I told them I am a student and I am also into bitcoin investment. At that point, they asked if I knew that bitcoin was illegal in Nigeria, and I said no. Then they browsed it on the internet and showed it to me.
“They said what I was doing is a criminal act and that I had to pay a N1 million fine. When I told them I did not have that kind of amount, one of them called me a criminal and said I should be locked up.”
WHEN POLICEMEN BECAME OLIVER TWISTS
Peter said he became very afraid when the officers threatened to detain him and immediately pleaded for a reduction in their “asking price”.
“After some minutes of bargaining, they reduced the money to N200,000. I wanted to transfer to them, but they said no. They said the transaction must be done through a POS terminal. They even wanted to check my account balance and collect all the money in my account, but I refused. So, they called a POS lady that was near the area,” Peter said.
Peter said he eventually parted with a total N204,000.
After the student made the payment, he was released by the officers.
A day after the incident, the same police officers used the contact details the student left on the statement he was forced to write in tracing him to his house.
“On Tuesday, they first came to my house in mufti. When I returned from school, my younger brother told me that some men were looking for me but he told them I was not around.” Peter said.
“Around 12 pm on Wednesday, they returned in two Hilux vehicles. When they came, they surrounded the compound, but I wasn’t around again. They entered the room next to mine, searched it and found nothing. In the end, they decided to take my brother with them to their station.
“At the station, they asked him to call anyone at home to send them money. They were demanding N500,000 at first but my elder brother told them we didn’t have such an amount. They then gave us 10 minutes to provide the money.”
Peter said the police officers said they would “lock his brother up” if they did not pay the sum they had asked for.
“They said we should bring food to the station in the evening… that they had locked him up. But long after that, my younger brother suddenly called to tell us that he was on his way home,” Peter said.
“When he got home, he said the officers didn’t take him to the station. They stopped outside the station and made him withdraw N52,000 from his account.
“After this, they drove him back to that same checkpoint at Dantata roundabout where I was first arrested and dropped him off. They then gave him N1000 as transport fare.”
FROM THE POLICE
FIJ made several phone calls to Muyiwa Adejobi, Force Public Relations Officer, for comments on the incident, but they were not answered. The text message sent to him had also not been responded to at press time.
When FIJ contacted Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department, he urged the complainant to come to his office in Abuja and enter a formal complaint.
“Let him call me so we can meet up, so we can know how to help the poor man to get justice,” Kokumo said.
Just like Kokumo, Josephine Adeh, FCT Police spokesperson, said Peter should come to her office so she could hear more information and identify the police officers.
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