By Ozioruva Aliu – Benin City
Three persons namely Johnson Eze a tailor, Hyacinth Inhanrebhor and Pascal Omozee on Monday told the Edo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry for victims of SARS and related abuses of how the police arrested them over an allegation that they were gay, tortured and forcefully extorted N100, 000, N50,000 and N60,000 from them respectively.
Eze, who said he was detained at the Iyekogba Police Station in Benin City on the orders of the Area Commander for three days, alleged that he was abused and coerced to sign a statement already prepared by the Police.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr Eze said he was arrested on June 15, 2020, by the Area Commander, Johnson Acha, and his team and was detained till June 18 after he was forcefully made to pay N100, 000.
He said, “I was arrested along Textile Mill Road in Benin on June 15, 2020, by the Area Commander and his team. They seized my sewing materials and my phones after arresting me. They took me to the police station and forced me to agree that I was homosexual. They used a stick to beat me to say the truth and after then they detained me.
“I sustained an injury in my forehead and my leg during the beating. They molested and detained me based on accusations that I was gay. I was molested and humiliated for three days from June 15 to 18 after which I was forced to pay N100, 000.
“After the frustration, I was made to pay N50,000 cash and another N50, 00 through PoS machine using my ATM card. They called a girl to bring the PoS machine to me. They threatened to trace and kill me if I told anyone that I paid money to them.”
Under cross-examination by counsel to the Police, Polycarp Odion, the victim, however, said he did not obtain a medical report from the hospital to substantiate his claims of being beaten and injured.
Mr Odion told the Panel that the victim was only blackmailing the police after he had been caught in the act of homosexuality.
But counsel to the victim, Innocent Ukpai, alleged that it was the pattern of the Area Commander and his cohorts to invade the privacy of Benin residents, arrest, detain, molest and extort money from them for no justifiable and unsubstantiated reasons.
Ukpai, who is also the counsel to the two other victims, Inhanrebhor and Omozee, said in all the arrests, the police ensured that the family and relatives of the victims did not communicate with them or knew where they were until the victims agreed to pay the sum of money demanded by the police officers.
“Our clients are law-abiding residents in Benin City, Edo State who have been variously and unconscionably exploited, beaten, molested, and detained by the Area Commander, Iyekogba Police Station, Benin City, unconstitutionally, illegally and utter abuse of office,” Mr Ukpai added.
Mr Ukpai, therefore, demanded N10 million compensation to be paid to each of the three victims.
After listening to the arguments, Ada Ehigiamusoe, Chairperson of the panel, adjourned to Tuesday for further hearing on the matter.