NOPRIN Petitions Lagos CP over Unlawful Detention, Demand for Bribe

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Chiemelie Ezeobi

The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a network of 49 civil society organisations, has petitioned the Lagos State Police Command over the unlawful detention of one Blessing and the demand for bribe of N70,000 to secure her release.
The petition signed by NOPRIN National Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma, was addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohmini.

The petition reads in part: “NOPRIN has received some shocking information concerning alleged criminal, unprofessional and discreditable conduct by the Officer in Charge (OC), Anti-Kidnapping Squad, Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Adejobi and other officers under him.

“We hereby request you to order a prompt, impartial and full investigation with a view to ensuring that they are brought to book if found to be culpable.

“NOPRIN is informed as follows: That on August 31, 2017, Juliana Francis, Crime Editor at New Telegraph Newspapers, Lagos State received a call from her colleague, Juliana Taiwo Obalonye, also a journalist with The Sun Newspapers who informed her that her sister, Blessing, a single mother of two, had been arrested and detained since August 29.

“She was arrested on the allegation that she stole the sum of $50,000 belonging to her colleague, Mrs. Abiola Ojo Osagie, with whom she had worked for 10 years.

“That Mrs. Abiola Osagie claimed that she left the $50,000 in a bag in her office and travelled for three weeks.
“That when Mrs. Abiola Osagie returned, she didn’t check the bag for some days and when she eventually checked, she discovered that the money was gone and she immediately accused Blessing because she had a key to the office and was in charge of delegating people to sweep that office.

“That Mrs. Abiola Osagie reported the matter at Ikoyi Police Station and Blessing was arrested on August 29. That after investigation, which included a search on Blessing’s home and a check on her bank account, the DPO advised that Blessing should be allowed to go.

“That not satisfied with the DPO’s investigation and advice, Osagie allegedly asked the DPO to ‘make Blessing confess’ to the crime, but the DPO made it clear to her that torture is not part of investigation in his station.
“That Osagie then took the matter to the Anti-Kidnapping and Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command under the charge of Mr. Adejobi with one Igbin as IPO. That the OC Anti-Kidnapping Section ordered that Blessing be locked up among suspected cultists and kidnappers.

“That Blessing spent most of her hours in the cell crying, with her children left in the care of neighbours.”
That the OC Anti-Kidnapping Unit stated that Blessing was culpable and refused entreaties to grant her bail or charge her to court.

“That the OC persistently ignored requests and pleas from Blessing’s relatives as well as interventions by journalists and other concerned individuals, to grant Blessing bail or charge her to court.
“That not even a request by one of Blessing’s father’s friends and colleagues, a retired SSS operative could persuade the OC, Anti-Kidnapping Squad, to grant her bail or charge her to court.”

The petition also stated that on September 1, Blessing’s family was asked to go and look for two people with valid passports, N2 million in bank account, and property that has Change of Ownership (C of O) to take her on bail.

The policemen also allegedly demanded N70,000 as part of the conditions for bail, prompting Blessing’s sister, Folake to run around to raise the money. As they were only able to raise N50,000, the OC allegedly refused to grant her bail, insisting that the money must be complete.

The petition also alleged that after much pleading, the OC eventually ‘granted Blessing bail’, but held unto her mobile phone which will be released on September 5, if she comes with the balance of N20, 000

NOPRIN expressed concern that the OC Anti-Kidnapping assumed the role of investigator, prosecutor and executioner by unjustifiably detaining Blessing beyond the duration permitted by law without showing any evidence of her culpability.

The group also said refusing all entreaties to either grant her bail or charge her to court was a clear demonstration of abuse of police powers and violation of the victim’s constitutional rights further elaborated by the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2011.

They called for prompt investigation of these acts of misconduct and infractions of the law by the OC and some officers under him, adding that police officers responsible should be subjected to appropriate disciplinary measures.