A young man, Mr. Chimaobi Okere, 28, who hails from Umuagbai, Ndoki, but residing at Ogbogolo both in Rivers State, was subjected to immense torture by policemen attached to the Iwofe Police Station in a desperation to extort the sum of about N50,000 from him as ransom.
Every night, during his unlawful detention without trial, he was brought out from the detention cell and subjected to cruel, degrading and dehumanizing treatments, including flogging with sharp matchet on his bare body. The young man, a GSM phone repairer at Ogbogoro, a suburb of Port Harcourt in Obio/Akpor LGA of Rivers State who did not have upto N10,000 in his bank account, was told that he would remain in the custody of the police until he coughs out the sum of N50,000 with which to purchase his freedom. The policemen confiscated his laptop with the receipt of purchase and threatened to sell the laptop.
It only took the intervention of a human rights group led by Robinson Samuel, to rescue him from the hands of the police. By the time he regained his freedom, a big wound had already been inflicted on his back. He also complained of excruciating pains all over his body as a result of the beatings he received while in detention.
The human rights activist, Samuel told National Point that when he first contacted the police officer who arrested Chimaobi and requested to know the offence he committed for which he was arrested, the police officer did not disclose anything. A demand for the release of the young man since there was no justifiable reason for his arrest and continued detention, infuriated the policeman who bragged that the activist was wasting his time, as not even the DPO or police commissioner would release the man as he claimed he was expected to make returns to those superior officers from the money he would get from the detainee.
“With his outburst, we did not bother contacting the commissioner of Police, CP, for his intervention; instead, we contacted the IGP monitoring unit at Abuja which swung into action after hearing our complaints. That was how the young man was released and his laptop returned to him”, Samuel told this publication.
He noted that the unlawful arrest, continued detention without trial, torture and other degrading treatments amount to gross human rights violations.
The young man’s journey to police detention and torture started at about 3 pm on Monday, June 6, 2022 when Chimaobi Okere went to a POS stand at Iwofe to withdraw the sum of N30,000 which, according to him, was transferred to his bank account by his brother. He said his brother had earlier called him on phone to inform him of the transfer. His attempt to withdraw failed as a result of insufficient fund, suggesting that the said amount had not entered into his account. He eventually withdrew the sum of N3,000, which was readily available in his account and after paying a charge of N100 only, e left with the balance of N2,900.
“Few minutes after leaving the POS stand, a man approached me and asked if I was the person trying to withdraw money from the POS stand and I said, yes. He introduced himself as the owner of the POS business. He started abusing me, saying that I am a criminal for attempting to withdraw the sum of N30,000 when I knew that I did not have upto that amount in my account. While I was still trying to explain to him what transpired, he called a police officer on phone, who I later found out is his brother”, Chimaobi narrated.
On arrival at the area, the policeman, and the POS owner pounced on Chimaobi and beat him mercilessly like a common criminal before dragging him to the Iwofe Police Station where he was detained for four days without any trial, and without any reason for the detention being disclosed.
At the police station, his laptop was confiscated before he was thrown into detention and told to pay the sum of N50,000 for his bail. His pleas and cries for justice did not only fall on deaf ears, but attracted more beatings.
When he regained his freedom, Chimaobi expressed his gratitude to the human rights organization and the activist, Samuel Robinson, whose intervention led to his freedom. On his part, Samuel lamented that what the young man was subjected to was unjust and a gross violation of his fundamental human rights guaranteed in different human rights instruments, including chapter 4 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
He said the POS owner and his brother, who is a policeman wanted to intimidate Chimaobi and extort money from him, an act he described as “criminal”.
Efforts to reach the police PRO, proved abortive as he did not answer calls.