Residents of Aba, the commercial hub of Eastern Nigeria have cried out over what they termed incessant arrest and intimidation by police officers in Aba Area Command.
News Echo gathered from most of the residents that police officers in Aba Area Command may have declared war against innocent residents, following the recent attacks on them and killing of three of their colleagues.
This newspaper also gathered that between January and February 2021, three police officers have been killed in Aba; one at Uratta-Eziukwu Division, two at Abayi Division.
News Echo reports that while Sergeant Okezie Obioma of Uratta-Eziukwu Division was killed in January at Uratta-Junction Aba, ASP Vincent Gonze and Sgt Emmanuel Okoronkwo of Abayi Division were killed last week inside the station during a gun battle with hoodlums.
The residents who feared that the killing of the three officers may have turned the heart of the police against innocent citizens, hence their recent desire to arrest anyone they see in the night, pleaded with the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to call his men to order.
They also called on Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to speak out and remind the police that they need the cooperation and confidence of the people to fish out the real criminals around.
A resident of Aba-Owerri road, Umungasi who craved for anonymity for security reasons called on Abia leaders to charge the Aba Area Commander, Kabiru Ibrahim to be professional in giving orders to his men.
The resident accused Ibrahim for allowing some dubious police officers under his watch to maltreat residents who have no business with the incessant attack on police while the real perpetrators may have escaped.
“Since this Kabiru Ibrahim took over as Area Commander here in Aba, the level of maltreatment has become unbearable. Nobody is happy with what is happening in Aba.
“Attacking of police station and killing of law enforcement agents is dangerous for our society, but should that now make police to see the residents as enemies? What have our people done to them?
“Abia State Government said that tricycle and motorcycle riders should stop work by 7pm, the police twisted it as if there is curfew in Aba. They arrest people anyhow and extort from them. With this kind of behavior is this, how can they gain public confidence?
“How can people report suspicious movement to them? When will they realize that we need them and they need us as well? Something must be done because I don’t see why men who are paid every month should convert innocent residents as their ATM,” he said.
Another resident who simply gave his name as Mr. Clement for security reasons, said he narrowly escaped the indiscriminate arrest of police officers from Aba Area Command.
Clement said that the officers who operate on unmarked vehicle (minibus) along MCC road and Old-Express road always take residents by surprise, as many usually think the minibus is a commercial vehicle only for them to end up under police net.
According to Clement, “The streets of Aba may soon become deserted every evening. The extortion is too much. The type of indiscriminate arrest going on here at MCC, World Bank Estate, Umuojima road and Old-Express road since the attack on Abayi Police Station, is the worst I have ever seen.
“It is like the police officers here have been waiting for such opportunity to pour out their anger on Aba residents. What they now do is when criminals who do not have our support or our interest at heart attack them, they will turn around to vent all there angers on us.”
Disturbed by the situation, Mr. Evans Izunwanne said that the indiscriminate arrests is causing serious fear in the city and warned that the manner in which police carry out the arrests may likely introduce another criminal activity in Aba.
“My problem is that these police officers are not seriously thinking at all. If you keep arresting people with unmarked vehicles and without uniforms limiting the only identity that makes you a police man to just your riffle and sometimes black T-shirt, kidnappers can still take advantage of that and begin to pick up people and everybody will think they are police.
“As far as I am concerned, police with this their current style of arrest is giving criminals clue and this is very bad. My neighbor’s apprentice was taken to Ndiegoro Police Station for just going out to buy insecticide by 7pm.
“According to what he narrated after he was bailed with N20, 000, they called him to ask him a question here at Tenant road by George’s Street, the next thing; he was pushed into their vehicle down to Ndiegoro (Cameroon Barracks).
“I have also heard how these dubious police officers now pose as commercial bus operators and when the unsuspecting persons enter, they will park their car at a lonely place and threatened to take them to Umuahia as people who were part of the persons that attacked the Abayi police station.
“They made people to bail themselves if the person had the money with him and if the person doesn’t, they will take the person to the station where the person will pay a higher amount of money for bail the next day.
“I also learnt that some persons who had their ATM cards on them were escorted to make withdrawals in some deserted ATM points along factory road in Umungasi.
“Aba residents have been made targets and casualties of a crime that they don’t even know who and how it was committed. Look at how Osisioma axis, especially Abayi that are the beehive of activities in Aba have suddenly been turned into a ghost town not by criminals, but by extortionist police officers.
“Between 6-7pm, everyone will retire to their homes to avoid arrest. They have forgotten that Aba is a commercial city. People are now advised to come back before 6pm or sleep over wherever they are in the town to avoid these wicked officers.”
Another angry resident told News Echo that he just regained freedom last Thursday. “My only offence was going out to buy meat. I went downstairs to buy food, but later decided to get more meat. When I returned to where I bought food here at Hospital road, the woman said that the type of meat that I like has finished. “I went to Ama-Hausa to buy suya as an alternative. Just as I was arriving where I wanted to buy the meat, policemen in a Sienna car asked everyone to stand still, we stood still.
“They later asked us to sit on the road, which we did. To my shock, they later separated the Hausa people from us and ordered us into their waiting car. When I tried to explain to them that I only came to buy meat, they refused to listen.
“Those who tried to question them got the beating of their life. They were flogged with machete by the police officers from Aba Area Command. My in-law came and bailed me in the morning and they made him pay N10, 000 for nothing.”
Efforts to get the response of the Abia State Police Command on the matters raised, claims made, allegations leveled against the police proved abortive, as the Police Public Relations Officer in Abia State, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna failed to respond to messages and calls placed to his mobile line.