The Nigeria Police Force, Ebonyi State Command, has been accused of torturing some students who just returned from Cyprus and Norway Universities and coerced them to confess to a crime they never committed.
the students namely; Nnaji Samuel Chidiebere, Obiedelu Chigozle, Ezeah Izuchukwu and their in-laws Omagba Solomon, were said to have arrived in the country from Cyprus and Norway respectively about late November 2022 with the aim of celebrating Christmas and New Year with their families and loved ones.
Also, the students alleged that police extorted the sum of N5.5million from them by forcing them to withdraw the money from their bank accounts after framing them that they hacked into the Facebook account and phone number of the Vice Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme University, Abakaliki, Ebonyi.
The students were arrested on Saturday, December 3, at the GRA Trans Ekulu, Enugu State, in a commando style when a team of armed policemen stormed the area and started shooting sporadically into the air causing panic and confusion in the area.
a team of policemen from Ebonyi State went to Enugu to carry out the illegal operation without making entry of arrival at any nearest police station.
The operation which lasted for hours took place at about 1am when the police blocked the roads in the GRA in the guise of coming for a case of high profile kidnapping.
Three persons; Samuel, Chigozie and Ezeah were arrested at the end of the operation while one of their in-laws, Omagba Solomon who demanded for the arrest warrant and identity of the police officers was beaten to a pulp before being whisked away.
But the police on Sunday the following day resorted to subterfuge and changed the narratives that it was no longer a kidnapping case but a fraud case.
It was said that the students hacked into the Vice Chancellor’s account to steal to the tune of N35million and extorted money from many people under the pretext of giving them admissions, contracts and jobs.
A source who spoke to journalists said the students had been away from the country for almost two years but arrived two weeks ago. He accused the police of a hidden agenda and being economical with the truth.
He insisted that the police must provide proof linking them to the crime. But the police had turned down the request and could not provide one.
the students were tortured and forced to confess to the crime when the officer In-Charge of Anti- Kidnapping section, Chukwu Bruno allegedly threatened to kill them. One of them, Samuel, was said to be in harrowing pain following his hand which was twisted by the police.
After their confession under duress the students were said to have taken to the bank where they were compelled to withdraw the sum of N5.5million from their bank accounts.
They were also forced to agree to the sale of their two cars to a buyer after forcibly removing the trackers from the vehicles.
The students were detained at the anti-kidnapping section in Abakaliki for 9 days and were denied access to family members and lawyers.
The source said the ugly trend has become a norm in the state where police deliberately target those who just arrived from abroad and frame them up with the view of extorting them.
A source who spoke said, “On Monday December 5th 2022 the students were taken to the bank and were forced to withdraw N5.5million and they are still keeping them in detention.
“Only Solomon was released after he paid the sum of N50,000 but they refused to release the remaining three until they recovered the N35million.
“They have withdrawn several million of naira from their accounts and now they are moving to compelling them to agree to the sale of their cars to a buyer.
“They even went to the extent of disconnecting the trackers of the vehicles to enable them to move it. They came down to Abakaliki with Nnaji Samuel to pick the vehicles so that they could sell it.”
Meanwhile the lawyer to the students, Chuma Oguejiofor, in a petition to the Inspector General of Police dated 6th December 2022 demanded for the transfer of the case to the force headquarters, Abuja, or AIG Zone 9 Umuahia for unbiased investigation.
The lawyer insisted that there was no law or practice direction which stipulated that only the Ebonyi State Police command could handle the investigation of the case.
The petition read in part “That the manner investigation is being conducted by the Ebonyi State Police Command leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Yesterday, the 5th day December 2022 the police officers working under or at the behest of one Chukwu Bruno had coerced our clients into withdrawing the sum of N5.5million from their banks accounts which the police officers took away.
“Furthermore, the complainant is connected politically and well-heeled too, he is the incumbent Vice Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme University, Ebonyi State and reliable information available to our clients disclosed. The man is leaving no stone unturned to get at them come what may and he does not make any bones about that.”
It was learnt that the AIG signed for the case to be transferred to Zone 9 Command and also sent police from the zone but the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State, refused and rushed to file the case at the magistrate Court ebonyi where he allegedly threatened the staff of the court and insisted that the case must be heard even at the close of work.
The students were eventually admitted to bail on 13th December 2022 by the court when the matter came up for hearing.
But shortly after their release, SaharaReporters gathered that the police again violently invaded their homes on Saturday, February 4, 2023 where they allegedly destroyed and stole televisions, refrigerators, furniture and other properties.
The invasion was said to be triggered by the enforcement of fundamental rights suit filed by the students against the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State, and the Inspector-General of Police for unlawful arrest and detention for over nine days.
The Commissioner of Police was said to have been miffed at the suit when he was served with the hearing notice scheduled for February 8, 2023 at the Federal High Court, Enugu.
The police were also accused of stealing the sum of £2000 from the house and beating up their wives and children in an attempt to force them to reveal the location of their fathers.
Another source said, “After withdrawing N1.7million from the account of Chidi Ebere and Over N2.5million from Obiedelu they still kept them in Ebonyi State Command.”
“They came into Chidi Ebere and Peter’s apartment through the roof on Saturday at 2:00am. They stole £2,000 meant for their upkeep”
Meanwhile the Spokesperson of Ebonyi State Police Command , DSP Odah Loveth, did not answer calls when contacted for reaction on the matter.