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‘N200k for bail, N40k for mobilisation’ — petitioner narrates how SARS officers ‘extorted him’ in Lagos

‘N200k for bail, N40k for mobilisation’ — petitioner narrates how SARS officers ‘extorted him’ in Lagos
January 09
19:04 2021

Francis Osajiokweh, a 41-year-old man, says officers of the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) in Lagos, allegedly collected N255,000 from him for bail and mobilisation fee.

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Osajiokweh, who narrated his experience in the hands of the officers when he appeared before the Lagos judicial panel on Saturday, said he was arrested on August 14, 2020, over alleged theft of a car he bought.

The petitioner explained that despite showing the officers the documents for the purchase of a Toyota Yaris saloon car from one Afeez Asogba, he was beaten for allegedly stealing the vehicle.

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“I work as a driver with Flour Mills. On 12 August, I was arrested and taken to Olosan police station with respect to the car I bought from Mr. Afeez Asogba. I was later taken to the orderly room, where they asked questions relating to the car,” the petitioner said.

“One Mr Taiwo kept beating me, after which CSP Phillips Arogba asked me how I got the car. He started hitting me with a baton to the extent that I dislocated my arm. After beating me for about 30 minutes, he instructed the officers to lock me and my mechanic.

“On the 16th of August, I was transferred to SARS Ikeja. When we got to SARS Ikeja, we (referring to him and his mechanic) were taken to the officer-in-charge of the SARS office. Sincerely, he acted professionally. He asked me how I got the car. I told him the same story from the other police station. He then asked the officers to detain me pending investigation.

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“On Wednesday, August 19, my family paid N255,000 to them — N40,000 for mobilisation; N15,000 given to one Matthew James a.k.a. Altanta, who said it was for personal assistance, N200,000 for bail, making it a total of N255,000.”

When asked by Sheriff Are, his counsel, what happened after he was released, the petitioner said he was called by his brother about a publication where he and his driver were presented as “hoodlum and criminal” arrested by SARS.

“On 19th August, 2020, after my release from SARS detention, I had to seek medical attention from a local traditionalist. My brother called from the US that they saw a publication on the internet portraying me as a criminal and hoodlum,” he said.

“He directed me to check Punch newspaper of August 17. I wondered how that happened and I remembered that DCO at Olosan police station took my pictures. I asked him why he was taking my pictures and he said it was the DPO who instructed him to do that.

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“He called the DPO in my presence to confirm to me that indeed the DPO gave him such instruction.”

When asked what he wants from the panel, he asked for apology and compensation from the police.

“I want an apology letter from the police to me as regards this story. The apology letter should be from the same Punch newspaper that was published,” he said.

“Money compensation. I have gone through a lot on this. Friends had to leave me on seeing this story of me being published as an criminal. CSP Arogba must face disciplinary action, to serve as a deterrent to other police officers. I want justice.”

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During cross-examination, Joseph Eboseremen, police counsel, asked the petitioner questions on the authenticity of the car, and how the alleged payment for bail was done.

“I was there when my surety came. They told him to bring the money. When my surety came, the team in charge of my case went for an assignment,” he said.

“Around 7pm, I was taken upstairs to an office. When my surety brought a bag with money inside, because there was CCTV camera, they went to the back to go and count the money. One Mr Matthew Alanta laughed and said he was only helping me.”

The case was adjourned till February 2, 2021, to enable the police officers mentioned in the petition to appear before the panel.

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