Alleged Extortion by Security Agents: NBA Urges Obaseki to Review Curfew

Godwin Obaseki

Adibe Emenyonu in Benin-city

The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Benin-city branch, Edo State, has canvased for a review of the 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew imposed in the state by the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that security agencies were using the opportunity to extort the public.

A statement issued by the branch Chairman and Secretary, Pius Oiwoh and Andrew Lawani respectively, said the NBA has received several complaints about the attitude of some police personnel, alleging that the security forces have turned it into an extortion ring and a huge money spinner.

The statement alleged that a matron, who was conveying a diabetic student to St Philomena Hospital in Benin-city, was detained by the police last Friday night before the intervention of the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, “who had to personally come to the scene at Dawson-Akpakpava axis to facilitate the movement of the matron and the patient to the hospital where they could access medical attention.

According to the statement, “Prior to this latest incident, we have had reports of some security personnel who detain pregnant women and their family members going to labour wards, and were only released after they have been extorted. The state Commissioner of Police has been kind enough to intervene at the behest of the Bar in some of these very pathetic situations.”

The NBA cautioned the security personnel to be mindful of the fact it was the several cases of injustices against the people that triggered the #EndSARS protests last year.

When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Kotongs Bello, denied the allegation of extortion, saying: “The intervention by state deputy governor is not an issue of extortion, but that of stopping people from moving during curfew.”

He said “There is a law by the state government which we are enforcing. When it is 10 p.m., except for reason of ill-health, there is no other reason to move around in the state. When apprehended, you are taken to a mobile court where you will pay a fine for violating the law, which is not extortion. The police are not doctors; if somebody is ill, you have to seriously verify that the person is ill before the person can be considered for movement. We are working by the directive of the governor through the state Commissioner of Police. If you don’t want to be taken to a mobile court to pay a fine, then don’t come out.”