How I was brutalised by officers of the Nigerian Police at Onitsha Area Command — Rights activist Justus Ijeoma

Posted by Justus Ijeoma | 9 June 2017 | 3,882 times

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•Comrade Justus Ijeoma.

Mr. Nnaemeka Onyemobi, a welder, had brought a complaint to our office to the effect that a woman issued him with a dishonoured cheque. He said he had given an interest-free loan to the said woman who promised to pay him back in two weeks but that after several attempts to get the woman pay him, the woman issued a post-dated cheque to him in November 2016, and dated February 2017. When the time came for the cheque to be cleared, the bank dishonoured it. Since that February Nnaemeka has been making efforts to get the money from her to no avail.

After listening to him, we wrote a petition on his behalf to the Area Commander complaining about the case of Issuance of Dishonoured Cheque, which is a clear criminal offence, as it is not within our mandate to handle criminal cases. The matter was assigned to the team of one CPL Chinedu, as the IPO, to investigate. However, instead of investigating the issue of dishonoured cheque the IPO took it upon himself to go into debt recovery, which is purely out of the offence we reported. The complainant also found out from the way the suspect was being pampered that she has a policeman at the Area Command whom she befriends, who even took her on bail. More so, the IPO told the complainant, Nnaemeka, that he, IPO, would take 10 percent of the money when recovered.

The matter was reported on the 28th of April, 2017 but since then nothing has been done on the matter. On Friday, 2nd of June 2017, I went with the complainant to the station to find out what was going on in the matter but the IPO brought out fifty thousand naira (N50,000.00) to give to the complainant as the money brought by the suspect but the complainant rejected the money. I then called the leader of the Team, ASP Ngozi, who was not on seat when we got there, and registered our dissatisfaction over the way the matter was being handled. The ASP asked us to come on Monday, 5th June, to see her. When we saw the ASP on Monday she directed the IPO to go and call the suspect and schedule an appointment with her for interview. When the IPO came back he told the ASP that the suspect said she would come by 10am the following day being Tuesday, 6th June. The ASP then asked us to return the following day as the IPO had said.

When we got to the station on Tuesday at about 10am, we saw the ASP leaving the station. She told us that the Area Commander sent her on an errand to 3-3 area of Onitsha, that we should wait for her to return or see the IPO. When we waited and she did not come back we decided to see the IPO. Upon seeing the IPO, he told us that the suspect had not come. I told him that the time was past 11am and the suspect had not come while the appointment was scheduled for 10am. Another police woman working with the IPO interjected, telling us that the time given us was “African time”. The IPO told her that she should not waste her time talking to us that if we were not satisfied with what he was doing, we should leave his office. I told them that it is shocking that they are the ones making excuses for the suspect, that it confirms that there is something going on behind the scene in the matter. As this argument went on, one officer, ASP Onyilo, came in and started shouting at me, “Mr man, what is wrong with you? What is your problem?” I told him that if he wanted to intervene in the matter that he should not start on a note of harassment. He started using all manner of abusive words on me. He then ordered me to leave the station. I told him that I was not in the station for nothing and that he should not order me out having not committed any offence. He called on officers numbering about eight, who joined him and they started beating me; they dragged me out of the gate, my trousers were torn.

When they were beating me outside the gate, one officer came and told them to take me inside – that some people might video the scenario. They dragged me inside again, and continued the beating. One of them dragged me by my tie and I was almost choking to death. As he was holding me by the tie, another held my hands to my back as they made to strip me. They even tore off one of the hands of my suit as they forcibly removed the suit from my body. I was bleeding from my left ear. They collected everything on me; my money, my diary, my phones, car key, everything. My wristwatch and one of phones were broken. One of the officers said that it has been long they have been targeting me. One of the senior officers whom I can identify asked them to dump me in the cell and to take me to court the following morning.

As they were pushing me to the cell, someone came and told them that the Area Commander said they should bring me to his office. We they dragged me to his office I was almost collapsing, I could not stand as my eyes were turning from the choking with my tie. The 2ic to the AC, a woman Officer who was in the AC’s office, and saw my state asked me to sit down of the floor, but the AC said that she should allow me to finish the “drama”. It was clear that the officers who did that to me had the backing of the Area Commander. I managed to tell them that I should be taken to the hospital; that I was dying. It was then the AC asked them to take me to the hospital. They wanted to take me to Police Clinic but I was afraid that they might kill me there, and so I requested to be taken to Onitsha General Hospital. After they delayed for about 30 minutes and I was lying down at the reception of the AC and his 2ic came out and asked that I be taken to the General Hospital. When they took me to the hospital, I was not treated as there was no money to pay for hospital card as they were with all my money. Treatment only commenced when Barr. Akachukwu, one of our lawyers, arrived at the hospital and made the necessary payments.

Meanwhile, while I was waiting to be taken to the hospital, the AC’s orderly, Sgt Chris, brought my phones to me and I was able to contact Okechukwu Nwangwuma of NOPRIN and Onyinye of Amnesty International. In fact, they were the people that contacted Barr. Akachukwu.

When I finished at the hospital the officers took me back to the station and the 2ic told us that the AC was not on seat, that I should go and continue my treatment and return to see the AC tomorrow.

•Comrade Justus Ijeoma is the Executive Director of International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation (iH-REF).


Source: News Express

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