By Evelyn Usman
Two students of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ikwo, Ebonyi state, have narrated how some policemen attached to the Airport Command, Ikeja, Lagos, allegedly extorted N40,000 from them, while on their way to board a flight back to school, last Saturday.
The students: Michael Ekene Okonkwo and Udo Chukwu Maduforo, were in a cab heading to the local airport, when their vehicle was flagged by a team of policemen in front of Golden Tulip hotel, on Airport road.
They stated that the policemen searched them, but did not find anything incriminating on them.
They said they pleaded with the policemen to allow them to catch a flight to school and showed them their identification cards but that their pleas fell on deaf ears.
The students told Crime Guard that “they harassed us, delayed us without telling us what our offence was.
“They searched our bags and didn’t find anything. One of them pushed us in the face and at the end collected N40,000 from us. at the end of the day we missed our flight”.
One of the students’ mothers who spoke with Vanguard, Mrs Evelyn Okonkwo, explained that “When I received a call from my son that they were held by the police, I quickly headed for the spot and at the same time prayed that there shouldn’t be the release of an accidental bullet. All I wanted to know was the offence they committed that warranted their being held.
“Before I got to the spot, he called again to tell me that the policemen had released them to go after extorting N40,000 from them.
“The money was meant for their upkeep in school. By the time they arrived at the airport, their flight had left.
“They missed their Air Peace flight scheduled for 11:40 am. They had to return home and travel on Sunday morning at an extra cost”, she stated.
Describing the action of the policemen as an act of corruption and wickedness, the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Okechukwu Nwanguma, called on Police authorities to investigate the matter and bring the erring officers to book.
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Nwagunma expressed disappointment that despite the current raging issue of police corruption and abuse of power “ which has again put Nigeria in the spotlight of international opprobrium, these officers could not be deterred or persuaded to check their greed for money acquired through extortion.
“This is shocking for two reasons: That police officers trained and paid to serve and protect citizens could descend to holding students- young people who could be their children- to ransom and ignored their explanations that they were students going back to school and their plea to let them go since they were not found with anything incriminating- so that they would not miss their flights. They robbed them of their money and made them miss their flight”.
RULAAC according to him, “has the authority of the families of these innocent victims of unmitigated police corruption and abuse of power to demand that: The Commissioner of Police, Airport Command, Ikeja, identifies these despicable corrupt officers, ensures that they refund the total amount of money they extorted from these hapless students as well as refund the total cost of their tickets.
“The total cost is N186,400. A breakdown of the amount is N33,000 X 2= 66000( for the missed flight ticket). They paid an extra N80,400 to reschedule because it was business class.
“The CP should ensure that the officers involved in this criminal act which contravenes Police professional standards and which brings the image of the police to further disrepute be subjected to appropriate disciplinary measures in accordance with the police rules and regulations. This is important for deterrence.
“RULAAC also demands that the CP takes any further actions he deems necessary to remedy the violation of the rights of the students, reassure the victims and the general public that the command does not condone or tolerate corruption and abuse of police powers. These are necessary to redeem the image of the NPF”.
Efforts to reach the Police Public Relations Officer, Airport Command, SP Olayinka, proved abortive as he did not respond to calls put across to his mobile phone.