Residents of the Ekenobizi village in Umukopara town, Umuahia South council area of Abia State, have begged Governor Dr. Alex Otti and the state’s commissioner of police to take action against what they have characterised as harassment and extortion from cops in the region.
A variety of locals, who begged to remain anonymous, claimed that police officers from the Umuahia Area Command and Zone-9 along the Ekenobizi-Amachara Road are extorting and dehumanising them.
They complained that the police harass them and offer silly justifications such as dressing nicely, wearing jewellery, plaiting their hair, and wearing expensive watches and earring.
He said the police in Umuahia without any restriction, have cooked up what they tagged criminal dress codes and are capitalizing on it to extort innocent youths in broad daylight without anybody asking what they did wrong.
“The activities of police officers from Umuahia Area Command and even the Central Police Station and Zone-9 should be checked before they cause more problems.
“What they are doing around Amachara, Ekenebozi to Abia youths is getting out of hand. Once they see you on a necklace, good clothes, and good phones, automatically you’re a criminal.
“They don’t mind chasing the person to his early grave provided they can get hold of phones to enable them to extort money from the owner or fabricate all manner of crimes he had committed unknown to him.”
The source narrated a recent ugly incident at the weekend when police officers had to double cross a tricycle conveying some wedding guests, drag out a young man and started questioning him about his dress.
‘They searched through the young man’s phones, and saw nothing, but insisted he must forget where he was going and follow them to their station. And on his refusal, they dragged him on the road like a thief and throwing him into their car.
“On Saturday noon, at Ekenebozi, opposite Methodist Church, a young man heading to a wedding was inside a tricycle and was brutalized, beaten and dragged into police Hilux like a criminal simply because he dressed like a young man from America.
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“Despite the protests by women from the community, police ignored them, harassed the young man, searched his phone after seeing nothing, they beat him up and whisked him away.”
Another resident urged with the Governor,AIG zone 9 and CP to monitor the policemen from the Umuahia Area command and Zone 9 to stop them from harassing innocent business people and youths who are into entertainment businesses.
“Just last week, they saw another guy inside a tricycle around Dibus junction around that boundary between Umuabali and Amachara around Umukopara there, they went after him because he has two phones and wore a necklace. Four police officers chased him simply because he dressed well.
“This is exactly how police officers in Umuahia are chasing youths away from the city and people are watching. If you have tattoos, have earrings, dress well, and look good, police officers will come after you.
“They level all manner of accusations against our youths who are into entertainment, extort them simply because they dress well.
“We’re calling on Governor Otti to look into what’s happening at Umukopara Road and see what the police are doing there. The anger of people rising. They’re provoking youths in different villages in this Umuahia. We’re calling on the CP to caution his boy. The Zone-9 and even the CP crack squad are involved in this.
“This issue they’re causing in Umuahia is not going to be good for anybody. These police officers are provoking the people. This is not good for police public relations. I pray they’ll listen and stop this madness before it brews into a problem.
“If one goes to Zone-9 to see somebody, you must give them N2000. Bail out has become as expensive as N100,000. Do you know that if you come to Zone-9 to see someone and they bring the person out, you’ll pay N20,000?
“Even if you say you want to buy food for the person, they take him back to his cell, and when you return, you’ll still pay them again. Let the Governor look into what police officers are doing in Umuahia before they set this peaceful city on fire.”
Contacted on the situation, Police Public Relations Officer,Abia State Police Command,ASP Maureen Chinaka, said that the police need evidence to act on such matters, as several times such complaints come, they go there without finding anything.
“I have received some related complaints similar to this. When we go there to see what was complained about, we don’t see anything.
“I want you to understand that we cannot act without evidence. Those who see such unlawful acts should send video evidence so that the policemen doing such acts will be traced and disciplined for their actions.
“We can not act without evidence. Reports like this can easily be denied. But with evidence, it can’t be denied.”