COVID-19: CSO decries extortion of motorists by Police from Idimu station

August 1, 2020

Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) monitoring law enforcement action within the framework of COVID-19 lockdown and curfew enforcement

Periodic Assessment Report on Police Compliance with Inspector-General of Police’s Directive and the Nigeria Police Force’s Guideline for Law Enforcement Agencies on COVID-19 Enforcement

Reports from monitors deployed by Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) indicate high level of extortion of Nigerians, especially motorists by Police Officers on enforcement of Covid-19 Protocols and movement restrictions. One of the areas from which reports have been received more frequently is Idimu under the jurisdiction of Idimu Police Station which shares the same premises with Area ‘M’ Police headquarters

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According to our monitors, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Idimu Police Station and her policemen, under the guise of enforcing the curfew in Lagos State which initially started at 8 pm and later extended to 10pm, set up check points where they stop vehicles, creating a gridlock. Many vehicles are ordered to park by the road side at the same time, creating clusters of vehicles and persons which violate the physical distancing protocol. Some are directed into the Police Station where the Police officers demand money from the drivers before they free them to go.

According to our monitors, ‘The DPO, who has a penchant for (wearing) jeans, usually wears a half-hijab, which covers most of her face. Once it was 8pm, she and her men would block the roads with obstacles to enforce the curfew, causing traffic jam’.

At the initial period when the curfew started at 8pm, the roadblock was set up at Adebola Street Junction, opposite GTB. Members of the Adebola community, who are usually attracted by alterations between motorists and policemen, with some of the policemen threatening to shoot, openly discussed the extortionist activities of the police officers’.

When the curfew was extended to 10pm, the roadblock was moved to the front of Area ‘M’ Police Command, which also houses Idimu Police Station.

Following repeated complaints and ‘curses’ by community members against the police, our monitoring team went to the scene (around Area M) on July 27, at past 10pm to monitor the situation.

They observed ‘the usual’ gridlock caused by the checkpoints set up by the police on both sides of the road, slowing movement with long queues of vehicles. ‘On that day, the person in charge of the operation was a short man, wearing a white pair of trousers and a top. Many vehicles were escorted at gun point into the station after intense questioning, which our team couldn’t hear’.

Our monitor also noticed that some commercial bus drivers, who sighted the roadblocks from afar, reversed, took one way, cut off from the blocked route leading to the police checkpoints and entered an un-tarred street, to come out of Idimu bus stop.

Many passengers, whose drivers were arrested, were seen at the front of the station, looking confused.

One of the female passengers, who spoke with us, said: “The policemen stopped our driver because of the 10pm curfew. They have marched him and his bus into the station. But the truth is that our driver didn’t have money. I’m actually heading to Ikotun, but I don’t think that’s possible anymore. Let me just trek back, to my friend’s place. I will spend the night there and continue to Ikotun tomorrow. Police are just using this curfew to enrich themselves. The policeman at my place in Ikorodu has bought tricycle and minibus since this Covid-19 started.”

One Mr Yemi, an Uber driver, alleged: “Every vehicle that is ordered into that station, will have to part with at least N5000.”

Our monitoring team went to Adebola Street. It is instructive to mention that Adebola Street and Area ‘M’ are just a stone’s throw apart.

One of the Adebola Street, residents, Mr Gbenga, said: “My friend was arrested for ‘breaking curfew’; they asked him to pay N15, 000. He had to call a Mopol (Police Mobile Officer) friend before they collected N6, 500 from him. If they impound your car over curfew, it is N10, 000 if it stays overnight, but if you have N5000 on you and pay immediately, they’ll collect it and allow you to go. They are making money. In fact, the DPO is the person in charge of counting impounded vehicles one after the other. The DPO likes money too much!”

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‘The Policemen are there every day, beginning from 10pm, curfew time’.

Police detention facility filled with suspects against IGP’s directives

On June 24, our monitoring team received information about the arrest of Mr Kingsley Bajogu, driver of Toyota Camry (Big for Nothing), marked SMK 126CZ.

He was allegedly arrested for driving against traffic at Oyingbo area of the metropolis and injuring a policeman in the process. He was arrested by policemen from the Lagos State Task Force and taken to their office at Oshodi, where he was detained in a cell filled with other suspects. The suspect’s car was also was impounded.

His detention is contrary to the IGP’s Covid-19 prevention directive restricting arrest and detention only to major offences.

Kingsley was not only detained, but was locked up with several suspects, an action that can cause the spread of Covid-19 among the inmates, their relatives and communities. The fact that three detention facilities at the task force’s offices were all filled with suspects also goes contrary to the IGP’s directives aimed at preventing crowding at detention facilities.

Our monitor spoke with Kinsley’s brother, Martin, 08033207568, concerning his brother’s arrest and detention.

He said: “He took a path he was not supposed to take and task force policemen arrested him. In the process of trying to arrest him, a policeman was injured. They are now holding him because of the injured policeman. The police said they would have allowed me to bail him, but because of the injured policeman. They insisted that I should go and see the injured policeman. They said he was in hospital; I don’t know what the truth is. My brother has been in detention since yesterday. I saw my brother inside the cell. There are three cells and all were filled with suspects. During the day that I was there, some people were bailed, but again, more people were brought in. There should be more than 20 suspects in each cell.”

Martin promised to revert to our monitor the following day, but didn’t.

IRT Lagos State Office not complying with Covid-19 safety rules and guidelines

On June 29, our monitoring team was at IRT Lagos Office at the GRA, Ikeja. We observed that Covid-19 protocols were not being observed at all. There was no provision for water and soap for hand washing. There were also no hand sanitizers. In fact, policemen were seen crammed in different small offices. Majority of the policemen were not wearing face masks and many of them were seen shaking hands and not maintaining social distancing. These policemen are obviously putting themselves, their suspects and relatives at risk. Many of them said that Covid-19 was not real. Sadly, our team couldn’t get to the detention area.

It has become clear from our monitoring of the activities of Police and other law enforcement agencies enforcing compliance with Covid-19 Protocols and restrictions on movement that they see their call to duty more as an opportunity to enrich themselves by harassing, and extorting money from defaulters through intimidation rather than a call to enforce compliance with regulations. This is evident in the fact that their focus appear to be more on demanding and receiving money and letting the supposed offenders move on after paying than on preventing or ensuring sanctions for the violations. In fact, it is as if they prefer that citizens default rather than comply so that they may remain games for them to prey on for their corrupt self enrichment. Most of the law enforcement officers themselves are not also complying with the protocols as many don’t wear face masks while on duty. They also don’t ensure physical distancing. You often find those at checkpoints stopping many vehicles at the same time, forming clusters and then they begin to collect money from them in turns before they release them to move on.

The IGP has done well by rolling out directives and guidelines for police officers on enforcement duties, but there is a monitoring gap which civil society organisations like RULAAC have tried to fill by monitoring and reporting misconduct and corrupt practices by police officers involved in enforcement. The IGP needs to demonstrate that the NPF does not tolerate or condone these discreditable acts of misconduct by taking firm and transparent actions against erring officers for deterence

RULAAC calls on the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State to investigate the findings in this report and to set up a police monitoring team (or activate existing ones) to monitor the activities of Police officers enforcing the Covid-19 Protocols including the IGP’s directives. Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure that police officers not only enforce law and regulations professionally and with integrity but that they also comply with laws, directives and protocols.

Okechukwu Nwanguma
Executive Director

DISCLAIMER : Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers of ElombahNews!

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