Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
Police Sergeant Gbenga Joseph was attached to the Edo State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) until his dismissal from the force last November.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, he explains his dismissal over N50,000Â involvement of his boss with a murder suspect, his incarceration, and a N500, 000 extortion also by his boss for him to regain freedom and the eventual sack from he force. Alleging illegal dismissal, Joseph says hardened criminals are being released by anÂ officer at the Edo State CID,Â Â after receiving both material and financial gratifications from the people involved.Â Gbenga is in hiding after a colleague of his disclosed how he is being hunted by his superiors to stop him from exposing their iniquities. He appeals to the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ogbonnaya Onovo to investigate his statement in this interview and offers his willingness to provide evidence to back his claims. He also asks for protection as he is being hunted day and night by a cabal in the state CID. Excerpts:
I was enlisted in the Nigeria Police in June 4,1992 and I have served in various states since then. I studied International Relation at the University of Ife and graduated in 2003.But I served mainly in the Criminal Investigation Department for over 10 years. I was transferred to Edo State in March 2009 and I worked in the intelligence department until I was sacked.
The whole thing started inÂ Â June, 2009.ThereÂ was a murder case transferred from the Area Commander Auchi, to the state CID Benin involving six suspects. The senior brother of the main suspect was introduced to me by one of my younger brothers and he told me that they needed assistance, that he wanted me to appeal to an officerÂ to release his brother because his brother was not involved in the crime.
I said, okay I would tell him because it would not be the first time I would be used to get a suspect released.Â Â I went to the officer andÂ told him what the people said. He said I should ask them to bring N500,000 and he would release the suspect. So, I went to the people and told them but they said the money was on the high side but that they could pay N250,000. So, I went back to the officer and he later agreed. They brought the money and he said I should keep it because he had to travel with the Commissioner of Police to Abuja, followingÂ Â the Akoko Edo re-run election.
But after collecting the money, the suspect was not released and I think the relations became worried.Â They complained to anÂ SSS officer and I think they went and met the CP or the officer over the matter. I was not in the office on the 31st of August, when I received a call that the officer said that I was holding some money. I said I had the moneyÂ Â with me and I would give it to him any time he wanted it, as usual.
But the caller told me there seemed to be a little problem.Â I told the caller not to worry, that I would settle the problem whenever I got to the office.Â So, when I got to the office, I went to see a lady officer who happens to be a Yoruba woman, and we had a very good working relationship.Â She asked me what was happening between me and the officer.
I told her that the money was with me and that there was no problem about it. She said that the officer had been angry with me but I decided not to give her details in order not to reveal my dealings with the officer. She asked me how much was with me. I said I had N200,000 with me at that time and that I could get the remaining N50,000 later. She now said, okay, I should bring the money and follow her.
But on our way, I saw Mrs Ewere who ordered that I should be disarmed. I asked why should I be disarmed? I did not argue with them. I followed the woman to the officerâ€™s office. The woman now told the officer that his money was with me and that I had assured that I would go and bring the balance.
He asked, â€˜ which money?â€™ I told him the money they said I should give him. He queried whether he asked me to collect money from anybody. I kept quiet so that people would not understand what transpired. Surprisingly, he told the OC Interpol to go and obtain statement from me and he should also handcuff me and lock me up. I kept calm because I felt the officer was just acting the drama so as to deceive other officers that he was dealing with me but would later let me go.
They beat me up and when they said I should write a statement, he said no, that the IPO should write it for me. He wrote the statement himself, saying that the officer never asked me to collect money and that I went behind the officer to collect money. They now said I should sign the statement. I told them I could not sign because all they wrote were lies.
But they started beating me again and after much pressure and beatings, I was forced to sign. Shortly after that, the OC Interpol came and told me that I should not worry that the officer and I would settle soon, that it was just that because of the pressure on ground, the officer would detain me and leave me later. I said, â€˜no problem, Sirâ€™. But surprisingly for me, I was in detention for one good month. People now started calling him to intervene in the matter. An influential man intervened and met the officer who said he had no problem with me, that I should just go and give him his money.
The influential man told him that, â€˜ he cannot give you the money while in detention; you have to free him so that he can go and look for the money?â€™ He said they should go and get N100,000 to release me. These people rallied round. That was on the 2nd of September, 2009. When they gave him the N100,000, he still refused to release me. On the 7th of September again, he told them that if we provide the money he would release me.
Because of that, I sent for my younger brother who is in Kogi state. I begged him to send me N100,000. There is a Constable in Interpolâ€™s office (name withheld), he gave me his UBA account number.Â My people now processed the sum of N100,000 to me on the 7th of September, through somebody, which we collected and handed over to the influential man who gave the money to the officer.
But the officer said he gave the money to the another officer that there would be no need to write another undertaking again that I had paid N300,000. And I went there hoping that he was going to release me. He now said that he had not concluded, that he wanted to consult before he could release me.
I was in the cell for over a week again before my people approached him again to release me. But surprisingly, he said if I should go and get another N200,000 to make the money N500,000 that he would release me. People pleaded but he refused.
I called my younger brother again. He was able to raise the N200,000 on the 14th September through the same account. After collecting the N200,000, he did not ask me to come and write any undertaking again. While I was in detention, a lot of things happened. They brought me out of the cell one day and they told me that they had sent signal to Commissioner of Police and that I should tried.
I said okay, as long as there would be justice and fair hearing. That faithful day, they dedicated one woman, a Superintendent of Police in Ugbeku station to try me. But I learnt the woman said she could not try me, and because of that, she ran to the hospital and collected medical report for sick leave. She said she could not try me because the mandate they gave her was to dismiss me outrightly and she said she could not do that.
They threatened her. After three days, the woman was forced to try me. On the day the trial started, the woman did not know that I understand Hausa. She told somebody that they asked her to dismiss one young officer, that people should pray for her. She told the person that she did not want anybody that would put her in trouble, that the person she was asked to dismiss was a young promising officer but that she was confused.
The officer was the first person they called to come and give evidence. He came thereÂ and denied that he ever told me to go and collect any money for him, and that he did not have any business with me. I wanted to ask him some questions but they shouted me down, telling me that I should be aware that I was dealing with a senior officer, so I should shut up. So, I was not allowed to ask question.
How did they now come about your dismissal?
After I spent one month in the cell and paid N500, 000 and the trial, some officers asked me to keep quiet, that if I said anything or tried to fight the system, they would rope me into one criminal charge and send me to prison. Every thing looked like a film to me because I never knew the system would be so wicked to me. I thought they were going to ask me to defend myself so that everybody would know the truth.
But they never did. I was not even given the opportunity to see the Commissioner of Police who signed my sack letter without hearing from me. After I learnt they had recommended my dismissal, I decided to leave the system because I was reliably informed by a police officer in the quarters that they learnt I wanted to write a petition against them. So, they wanted to lure me back, and pretend they were begging the CP and then lock me up again so that I would not tell the world the rot and the injustice in the system.
A lot of police officers have been laid off just like this due to the wickedness of some officers. But because they are scared, they cannot say a word to anybody. I never knew that I had been dismissed because The officer promised me that I would not be dismissed. I was shocked until I laid me hands on my dismissal letter with Ref No PC197098/EDF/PERF/2, entitled â€œDisciplinary Rank and Fileâ€. In the signal, they said I had been dismissed with effect from 17/11/2009.
During the cause of the investigation, the accounts of my in-law and that of my wife were frozen by The officer. And this matter has nothing to do with these people. Following this action, I wrote a petition to the ICPC, the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police over the matter. I sued the officer for freezing the accounts and the court served the letter.
I heard they sought the advice of the OC Legal and he told them they could not win such a case because itâ€™s against the law. Based on the information they got that I had written to the ICPC and the IG, they went out hunting for me. One of our colleagues called me that I should leave Benin, that they were after my life.
One of The officerâ€™s aides sent his two children to a friend of mineâ€™s house one night to see if I was there, and my friend told them I had travelled. They left that place and went to another friendâ€™s house in the barracks and they were there till 4am in the morning searching for me.
They went to the influential manâ€™s house house searching for me all night. I called the Station Officer (SO) and asked him why they were looking for me. He said I should come so that we could discuss. I asked, â€˜discuss what when I have been dismissed?â€™ He said he wanted to advise me to withdraw the court case and the petition, that I would be reinstated. But I warned him never to call me again. This conversation was made on the 16th of December, 2009.
How The Officer frees arm robbery suspects illegally
There was a time three armed robbers were arrested. They were being investigated by the Anti Vice section of the State CID. The three suspects (name withheld) were confirmed armed robbers. They made confessional statements. But to my surprise, negotiations started going on.
This officer was at the center of it. He is very close to the officer. They demanded N1.5million, that is N500,000 from each of them. These three suspects were so deadly that the command sent a team of detectives to Delta and Anambra states to recover the arms they used in robbery. To my surprise, on the 7th of September, The officerâ€™s driver went to the cell and brought out one of the suspects under the pretence that he wanted to go and wash AC CID car. But surprisingly, the suspects never returned to the cell.
Up till now, there was not entry and the case died naturally. It got to a stage that the IPO of the case, complained that the suspects were no longer complete, they shut him down. On the 14th of September, after they collected the money from these criminals, they begged some persons to come and sign a surety for one of them who was the ring leader of the gang.
He was released on the 14th of September and the bond was duly signed by The officer. The third suspect, was released in mid October, 2009.Â The Magistrate court cannot even do that; the High Court cannot release you without seeking legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). These suspects confessed that the last by-pass that they blocked, they did the operation with the help of others from Asaba and Onitsha. These boys made a lot of confessions. Now, they have released them and they have killed a lot of people in the process.
Secondly, The officer owns a lot of land in this city and only both of us know about it. I have been the middle man and loyal servant to him. He was given a land at Uholor by the Monarch.
Again, there was an incident in Okpilla where the suspects were arrested. But after the officer collected N750,000 from them, he released the main suspects. These people committed arson in Okpilla, and arson and murder are capital offence in this country. After releasing them, he went and arrested three innocent people to replace them.Â These innocent people were arrested and charged to court and they are still in prison today languishing as we are talking. The lawyer to the suspects in the cell wrote a petition to Federal SARS in Lagos and they now sent a signal to Edo state Command which the CP allgedly endorsed a letter to the officer asking him to produce the main suspects.
Appeal to the IG of Police
I am appealing to the world, particularly the IG who is presently working hard to reposition the police, to look inward for some officers like the officer who are frustrating his good job. We all know that our IG is a just man with a clean record. A lot of people here have been sacked unjustly and they are not given the opportunity to say a word. I am not safe in Edo state Command. I can come anywhere to defend all I have said.
The plan that was revealed to me was to get me arrested, incarcerated me and me frame with up in order to jail me. I appeal to well meaning Nigerians and the National Assembly to intervene in this matter because that is the only way to rid the police of corrupt officers.