Police Harassment: Rep Member Saves Constituents From, Extortion, Arrest, And Torture

…Imo CP Warns Officers Against Checking Laptops, Handsets, Others

By Tony Adibe

What probably would have been a long period of indiscriminate arrest and detention, torture, extortion, and confiscation of some iphones, laptops, handsets, palmtops belonging to some youths in Imo State by a team of Police Task Force from the Imo State Police Command, was reportedly averted.

The incident, which was said to have happened during the weekend on the ever-busy Owerri-Umuahia Road at the popular Eke Ahiara Junction in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria attracted a huge crowd.

NewsBits learnt that but for the sudden intervention of the lawmaker, representing Ezinihitte Mbaise/Ahiazu Mbaise Federal Constituency (PDP), Rt. Hon. Emeka Martins Chinedu, the team of Police Task Force, who reportedly claimed to be on a Stop-and-Search duty at the Eke Ahiara Junction in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area, would have made scores of young men to suffer illegal arrest, torture, and wanton extortion.

Our correspondent gathered that trouble started for the youths, when the armed security operatives, who said they were members of a Task Force on Stop-and-Search duty, suddenly began to arrest some young men on the allegation that their handsets, palmtops, laptops, and other gadgets “constituted security risks” due to their contents.

A video clip, which was made available to NewsBits showed a man identified as a community leader, one Hon Fide lwunze who was narrating to the natives at Ihitteaforukwu in Ahiazu Mbaise LGA how the incident happened at Eke Ahiara Junction.

“The armed policemen had already ordered the youths – a good number of them – to continue lying down. That was after seizing their handsets, palmtops laptops, iphones and whatever items they could find on them.

“Some of the youths, the policemen had already thrown into their patrol vehicle, waiting to drive them to only God knows destination,” recalled Hon Iwunze, who added: “The Police men were even telling the youths, those of them with their ATM cards, to look for POS operators where they could withdraw money to bail themselves. In order words, the security officers wanted to extort money from the innocent Mbaise youths.”

It was learnt that Rt. Hon. Emeka Martins Chinedu, who was said to be on a campaign tour from Ezinihitte Mbaise to Ahiazu Mbaise, unfortunately ran into the “illegal and embarrassing operation” being carried out by the policemen.

NewsBits gathered that the lawmaker, stopped his convoy, introduced himself and tried to find out what offence the youths committed. But not satisfied with the response he got from the Police officers; he was said to have quickly contacted the member representing the area in the Imo State House of Assembly.

Iwunze further said: “The national lawmaker, and the state legislator made several calls to the police authorities in the state. The Deputy Commissioner of Police in Charge of Operations was said to have denied knowledge of any Stop-and-Search operation going on in the axis in question, although he reportedly admitted that the Task Force does exist. However, the CP, when contacted, then warned his men to, henceforth stop searching handsets, palmtops, laptops, permit for the use of vehicles with tinted windows, belonging to the citizens of the state.”

Citing a statement reportedly issued by the Imo State Police Command, Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Mike Abattam, the State Commissioner of Police was quoted to have “warned his officers and men to henceforth, stop the checking of phones, palmtops, laptops and permit for the use of tinted vehicles in the state.”

The statement signed by Mr. Abattam was dated Monday November 28, 2022. Part of the statement was said to read:”the Commissioner of Police in Imo State, has ordered policemen on patrol, Stop-and-Search duties, who are in the habit of harassing youths and checking their phones, and others items to stop such act forthwith.”

It was gathered that shortly after”the legislative phone calls,” as one indigine of the area described it, the policemen released all the youths and their belongings in the presence of Hon. Emeka Martins Chinedu, who insisted on having the young men in his Constituency regain their freedom before he continued his campaign tour to Ahiazu Mbaise LGA.

Yet another eye- witness, one Mr. Patrick Madu of Lude Autonomous Community, Ahiazu Mbaise LGA recalled: “I was not there when it all began; I was driving through Ahiara Junction, when I saw my Honourable representative – Hon Emeka Chinedu – addressing and reprimanding a team of Taskforce. The advice was centered on the need for them to not only play by the rules, but also put a stop to harassing or searching for phones and laptops, which according to him, is in contravention of their fundamental human rights.

“I can assure you that one of our brothers (names withheld) from Lude, was among those who were released instantly due to the timeous intervention of the Honourable gentleman.”

NewsBits gathered that this is not the first time the Federal Lawmaker would “swiftly standing up for his people.” A native told our correspondent that in 2020, stories were told about how Hon. Chinedu intervened in the unlawful detention of an Mbaise business mogul, who was arrested in Lagos and transferred to Abuja.

 According to the source, “when I got the call and reached out to all prominent Mbaise sons in Abuja, Hon. Emeka Chinedu was not just the only individual who agreed to come to his rescue through phone calls but was also physically present to make sure our brother was released, and driven in his (Emeka Chinedu’s) vehicle, to the Airport to catch a flight back to Lagos.” He added: “I can confirm that we have a congressman in him.”

Another native further informed NewsBits: “Sometime in February this year, when the News of the invasion, siege, unlawful arrest and wanton destruction of some communities in Ahiazu broke out, it only took Hon. Emeka Chinedu the few hours to move the Federal House of Representatives to order the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff and others to immediately investigate the matter. His action did not only bring a sigh of relief to the people of those community, but also prevented further invasion as allegedly promised by the invaders.”

Not done with the investigation, and with the inkling of the obvious impediment to unravelling such dastardly act of invasion, siege and wanton destruction of lives and property in a society like ours, Hon. Emeka Martins Chinedu again, moved the House to order all security agents on duty to make body-worn Cameras compulsory across the Federation which is in line with international best practices.

“Body camera as wearable audio-visual or photographic system which integrate with in-car video and used to record events involving law enforcement officers in order to improve their transparency and accountability will prevent the security agents from engaging in unprofessional conducts,” was said to have argued.

Recall that Ahiazu Mbaise/ Ezinihitte Federal Constituency was neither the first nor the only Constituency that was invaded in Imo State, nay Nigeria within that period and beyond.

NewsBits learnt that before the incident which happened at the Eke Ahiara Junction, the citizens of Imo State were, especially the youths were said to have been subjected to a series of inhumane treatment, and sometimes, torture, extortion, and all forms of man’s inhumanity to man by the security forces operating in the state. However, it is believed that the CP’s order to police officers and men in the state would be effectively implemented to allow peace reign.

Related posts