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Nine Dismissed Policemen May Be Charged With Robbery

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Some of the policemen who embarked on an illegal raid in the FESTAC area of Lagos State and tortured 30 persons including a journalist last week, may be charged with armed robbery, PUNCH Metro has learnt.

PUNCH Metro had reported that a journalist, Femi Owolabi, was arrested alongside 30 others around Rapongi night club, FESTAC, and driven to the State Department of Criminal Investigation, Yaba and all their valuables – including money – were collected from them.

The policemen, who are attached to the Anti-Robbery section, allegedly collected between N5,000 and N10,000 from each of the victims before releasing them. Some of the victims were said to have been driven to a Zenith Bank branch in FESTAC around 4am and were forced to withdraw money from the ATM which they used in ‘buying’ their freedom.

A reliable police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the policemen would undergo an orderly room trial at the Lagos State Police command headquarters, Ikeja.

He added that the policemen would be grilled by a panel of senior officers who would determine their level of complicity and the punishment to be meted out to them.

The source added that after dismissal, the policemen would be dragged to court to face robbery charges.

He explained that since most of the cops belonged to the rank and file, it would be very easy for the Lagos CP to dismiss them

He said, “So far, only the journalist (Owolabi) has been able to write a statement. He met with the CP on Wednesday and was able to identify the nine policemen paraded at the CP’s office. The CP has said the policemen will undergo an orderly room trial.

“At the trial, senior officers will determine the appropriate punishment for each policeman. Depending on the level of complicity, some of them might be demoted while others would be dismissed.

“However, the CP has said those found worthy of dismissal should be charged with armed robbery. The CP said since the victims were made to part with money at gunpoint, the policemen committed armed robbery and should be charged to court.”

The source told PUNCH Metro that policemen attached to the Anti-Robbery Section usually embarked on illegal raids on Fridays when most senior officers were away.

He said the policemen took advantage of the fact that policemen attached to the SDCI were not bound by jurisdiction like their counterparts attached to police divisions.

He added, “These policemen usually go on illegal raids on Fridays and arrest people around night clubs or pubs. They know that fun-seekers usually go to clubs with cash and that is what these policemen try to take advantage of.”

The source told PUNCH Metro that some of the valuables of other victims had been recovered from the errant policemen.

“Unfortunately, only the journalist (Owolabi) has come forward to write a statement. We will be happy if the others who were arrested on that fateful night would be brave enough to come forward to assist with investigations and claim their valuables,” he said.

The Lagos police boss, when contacted on the telephone, had said he would not comment further on the case so as not to jeopardise investigations.

However, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joe Offor, said the CP had directed the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the SDCI to investigate the matter and send a report to the command headquarters.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, told our correspondent that the errant policemen indeed deserved to be charged with armed robbery.

Agbakoba, who is a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, described the case as a huge scandal and urged the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to use the case as an opportunity to launch a police reform.

He said, “Policemen dragging people to ATM points at gunpoint is unheard of. Indeed, this is more than armed robbery. It dents the image of the police and the IG must ensure that those policemen are prosecuted for bringing shame to the force”

PUNCH METRO