Victims of robbery at Gwandala, New Nyanya, Nasarawa State, have accused the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Abuja, of extorting N60,000 from them for investigation into the robbery attacks on their homes.
The victims alleged that the Investigating Police Officer, identified as ASP James Echu, told them that the money was for “IG approval and fuel” to investigate the robbery incident which occurred on May 15, 2018.
The complainants stated that Echu was initially given N5,000 for fueling the patrol van and additional N15,000 for his subordinates, adding that he subsequently collected additional N40,000 for the approval of the Inspector-General of Police to investigate the robbery attacks.
Narrating his ordeal in the hands of the robbers, Amos Ejiroghene explained that the bandits scaled the fence and jumped into his compound around 1.30am, adding that they broke down his door and asked him and his family members to lie on the floor while they ransacked the rooms.
After taking four phones, electronics and N100,000 cash and other personal items including shoes, the robbers demanded for the key to his Toyota Camry with which they made their escape after attacking two other homes in the neighbourhood.
Ejiroghene further stated that a neighbour who was trying to leave his residence to evade the marauders was caught and attacked with a machete, adding that he sustained injuries in the head and hand.
According to him, the victims of the robbery took the injured man to the Masaka police station, but the female officer on duty refused to attend to them, saying they should come back by 10 in the morning.
He said, “The other residents who were robbed went to the Masaka police station around 4 a.m. to report the case, and collect police report to enable them to take the injured man popularly called Alhaji to the hospital, but the policewoman on duty said they should come back by 10am. They refused to respond to the distress calls.
“When we got to the station around 12 noon, the policemen on duty said we should come the next day, saying that the lady we met earlier was not around. That was when I got angry and I went to see the DPO who said his officers should follow us. They came and saw the scene of the robbery and since then, we didn’t hear from them.”
Displeased with the turn of events, Ejiroghene and a neighbour reported the matter to the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja where it was assigned to ASP James Echu.
“When we got to SARS, Echu initially demanded N10,000 to buy fuel, that was on May 17. We gave them N5,000 for fuel and N15,000 for his boys. He now said we needed to write a petition to the IG so he could have the authority to interrogate the suspects very well.
“He said it is a lawyer that would write the petition and the lawyer would take N10,000, but I told him I can write the petition. Other robbery victims said we should give him the money.
“He now said that to get a stamp and approval from IG for the investigation is N40,000. He called it ‘IG approval.’ So we decided to give him the money so that he can recover our stolen properties.
He added, “More than four of us were aware of his demand; it wasn’t done in secret and I was the one that handed over the money to him inside the facility there. But till this moment, he has not recovered a pin. Altogether, he has collected N60,000: N40,000 for IG approval and N20,000 which we willingly gave him, but he has not recovered anything from the suspects,” Ejiroghene stated.
He further narrated that Echu subsequently arrested a suspect identified as Emmanuel who was recognised by a house-help at one of the houses that was raided, adding that the IPO later informed the complainants that the suspect had confessed to the crime.
“A lady who was also robbed led the SARS operatives to pick the suspect identified as Emmanuel on May 18. The IPO later informed the lady that the suspect had confessed to the crime and identified about nine other accomplices who participated in the robberies. From that time till now, we have not heard from the police,” he added.
“Anytime we asked the IPO, he would say they were still working on the suspects. It was later I found out that the IPO has a 22-year relationship with the suspect’s father and because of that he has been dilly-dallying over the case. He has also failed to recover any of the stolen properties,” the businessman alleged.
When asked about the alleged extortion, Echu did not deny it but simply stated that the money was received by his superiors, noting that the complainants were not serious about the investigation into the robbery case.
He said, “Don’t mind them; it was just now that we got their petition. They paid the money for the approval, that is how they go about spoiling people’s names. I asked the pressman (one of the victims who is a journalist) to bring the IMEI of the phones that were stolen because we need it in order to get the suspects, but for the past three weeks, he has not shown up.”
“Last Tuesday, he now brought the numbers, about 12 of them. My superior has approved and they are now working on it. Don’t mind them, they are very stupid people, they don’t know what they are doing.
“Had it been they brought the numbers since, we would have apprehended the people that robbed them. They paid the money to my superiors, they should write a petition against me, I would respond to it,” he said.
The Commander in-charge of FSARS, DCP Yusuf Kolo, said he was not aware of the extortion, adding that the complainants did not inform him about it.
“Tell them (complainants) to come forward and I would ask them to identify the policemen involved, I don’t tolerate such misconduct. Why didn’t they complain to me when we met?
“Immediately they told me about the robbery incident, I asked my men to go after the suspects and we are still carrying out the investigation,” he said on the phone