Lagos communities where police harass and extort youths

Lagos communities where police harass and extort youths

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Over two months after his encounter with policemen from the Lamgbasa Police Station in Ajah, memories of torture are still fresh in Akeem Adejumo’s psyche – a nasty past he wished was never part of his life.

His father sent him on an errand to Badore – some kilometres away from their Green View Estate in Ajah – in his (the father’s) Pathfinder Jeep.

On his way home, he saw an elderly neighbour who took a ride with him. As the journey continued, three policemen reportedly led by one Inspector Sunday trailed and accosted him after he dropped off the man.

They felt the vehicle was too big for someone his age and hurriedly concluded he must have stolen it. That was the beginning of a harrowing tale for 27-year-old Adejumo.

He said, “The elderly man was thanking me after dropping him off when the policemen stopped me and accused me of driving a stolen vehicle. They said they had been looking for the Jeep for the past two months. I told them the vehicle belongs to my dad which he has been using for about two years. One of them said I was arguing with them and slapped me. Another officer kicked the old man who tried to beg them on my behalf.

“Some neighbours came out to tell them that they know me and that the vehicle belongs to my dad but the policemen didn’t listen. One policeman shot into the air to scare them away. They entered the vehicle and asked me to drive them to the Lamgbasa Police Station but I headed towards our house and started shouting.

“They dragged the steering wheels with me. I started shouting ‘thieves, thieves.’ and one of them slapped me again. They all beat me up. Some people saw me and rushed to call my parents. The policemen brought me out of the vehicle and put handcuffs in my hands. They put me inside a tricycle with two others they arrested for cultism. A policeman drove the vehicle and we all went to the station. It was Inspector Sunday who led them.”

Adejumo told our correspondent that on getting to the station, the policemen subjected him to another round of beating; his entreaties to them that he was fasting that Thursday fell on deaf ears.

He said he felt humiliated when some other policemen at the station joined the team and insisted that he stole the vehicle, adding that he was later released when his father went to the station to claim the vehicle.

He stated, “I was just crying. They asked me to write a statement that I stole the vehicle. They beat me up because I refused to do so. All these while, they had removed the number plate of the vehicle and deflated the tyres. The incident happened during Ramadan period.

“My dad was crying when he came and saw how they beat me. The DPO was shocked when he came out and saw my dad because they know each other. He told the DPO that he sent me on an errand. He was furious but the DPO begged him.

“They quickly called a repairer to pump the tyres and returned the number plates. That was how we left the station. They really disgraced me that day. It was as if they wanted to swap me with a criminal. I can’t forget what they did to me that day.”

Gruelling as it was, City Round learnt that such harassment has become the lot of many residents, especially youths in Badoore, Abraham Adesanya, Ilaje, among other communities in Ajah.

According to a resident of Abraham Adesanya, Rasheed Yusuf, any young man who looks good and drives a posh car is now a suspected Internet fraudster (popularly known as Yahoo boy) to policemen in the area.

He said, “It has been like that for some time now. Some residents have complained at the Ogombo Police Station but nothing was done about it. There was a day some policemen raided here (Abraham Adesanya). They saw a resident coming out and accosted him.

“They took him to the Ajiwe Police Station and detained him. He was released on bail after paying N50,000. The problem is that any young man they see around is a Yahoo boy to them as long as that person drives a big car. They would ask you to open your phones and check your online banking app.”

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The Secretary, Eti Osa Indigenous Resettlement Youths Forum, Taoreed Oladepo, lamented that men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has become a burden to many people.

He said although he had never been harassed, he witnessed some and intervened in three different cases.

Oladepo explained that sometime in March 2020 at Resettlement bus stop, Ilaje, Ajah, some SARS men arrested a manager at a bar around the area because he had tattoos on his body.

He stated, “The manager wanted to buy fuel at a nearby filling station when the SARS men stopped him because he has tattoos on his body and ordered him to enter their bus. I walked up to them and told them I knew the man very well. They wondered what concerned me about it and I told them it was not right to harass him. They later released him on my insistence.  They would just park a mini bus at the junction and start harassing people with tattoos on their bodies and those with dreadlocks.”

In another scenario he witnessed within the community, he said SARS operatives stopped two corps members in a car and asked for the papers of the vehicle.

He stated that despite confirming the documents were valid, the policemen told the corps members to alight from their vehicle.

Oladepo said, “That incident happened in January. The corps members insisted they would not come down from the car. The SARS men also insisted they would not allow them to go until they came out or ‘settle’ them even though the corps member who drove the car showed them all the documents they requested. They collected N2,000 before they let them go.

“Of course, some people might be real suspects. They should investigate rather than just harass anybody they come across.”

A community leader in Oke-Ira Kekere, Ajah, Mr Jackson David, alleged that while extorting money from motorists along Ado Road, men of the Anti-Cultism unit usually caused traffic.

He urged the authorities to prevail on the operatives to focus on criminals instead of harassing innocent citizens.

David noted, “The policemen are working in the community but they do more harm than good. They would say they are doing stop and search but they are only collecting money from motorists. Nobody is saying they should not search because criminals are on the road, but when they search and do not discover anything incriminating on the person, must they take money? They stop everyone either you are a young or elderly.

“They are usually around Ado Road. Anti-Cultism is written on their shirts. At Ado Roundabout, they are always there and they cause traffic. Six months ago, they stopped me and asked for my vehicle documents which I gave them. One of them asked me to go and see their team leader who was standing somewhere.

“I asked him why I had to see his boss when he had already confirmed that my papers were complete. I confronted their boss and he asked if I was sure my particulars were in order. I told him he was insulting me and later left the spot. If not for my age and the confidence I displayed, they would have extorted me.

“You can part with some money if you so wish but it should not be because the policeman is carrying a rifle. That is robbery. Even if you want to arrest someone for not having valid particulars, you do so quickly without creating traffic. When you do that, you create problem for people.”

A mechanic along Badore Road, Rufus Adeyemo, admitted that cult clashes were rampant in Ajah and urged the police to go after the perpetrators.

He said, “Cultism clashes are rampant around Ado Road, Badore, Lamgbasa but the police should go after the culprits and stop extorting money from innocent people. A cultist was killed at Oke-Ira Nla by a soldier some weeks ago and everybody was happy. Until recently when it subsided, we heard gunshots every day and people would be running helter-skelter.”

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, SP Bala Elkana, promised to respond to our correspondent’s enquiry on the incidents. But he had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.

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