A large number of Nigerians have condemned the chaining of an Edo State driver to a patrol truck along Sopkonba Road Junction, Benin, the Edo State capital.
A resident, Augustine Ogbomwan, who was filming the torture of the unidentified driver with his mobile phone camera, was also said to have been detained by the police.
It was learnt that some cops attached to the Esigie Police Division had stopped the driver’s vehicle on Sunday.
The policemen allegedly asked the driver to alight from the vehicle and searched him.
A businessman, Franklyn Irabor, who lived close to the scene of the incident, said when the cops did not find anything on the driver, they searched the passenger in the vehicle, but did not also find anything incriminating.
He said, “One of the policemen bent down and picked something from the ground. He then challenged the passenger over the item, which they said was hemp.
“Suddenly, the passenger fled and they arrested the driver. They hit him with their batons and guns before handcuffing him to their patrol truck. They drove away as the man initially struggled to catch up before falling, while the police van dragged him on the road.
“The driver started calling for help. We could not bear the man’s pain and we decided to intervene. The policemen challenged us for interrupting police business.
“My elder brother, Courage, who was with me, told them that there was no justification for their action; but they asked him to shut up. One of the officers cocked his gun and threatened to shoot us.
Edo State Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu
“We thought it was a joke, until they started firing into the air. One of them pushed my brothers away and another one came and handcuffed me. They hit me in the back with the butt of their guns. I sustained bruises. They slapped my brother who tried to stop them from arresting me. They also handcuffed him with me.”
Franklyn said at that point, a crowd formed around the policemen to stop them from leaving with the three of them, adding that the team called for a backup.
He said the new set of policemen, on arriving at the scene, however, chided the team on the ground for their action.
“The policemen that arrested me and my brothers were in mufti, while the new policemen were in uniforms. The ones in uniforms told the other team that it was wrong for them to handcuff and drag the driver on the road.
“Because of the disagreement between the two teams, the ones in mufti left. One of the other policemen apologised to us for our injuries and said he would find the key of the handcuffs. After about 45 minutes, they came and unlocked our handcuffs,” he added.
Another witness, Kenneth Obasohan, who confirmed Franklyn’s account, described the policemen’s action as irresponsible, adding that the attacks on the brothers and the driver were unwarranted.
“The driver was foaming in the mouth after they dragged him on the road with their vehicle. They didn’t put him in the van and that was the genesis of all these,” he added.
As of 6pm on Wednesday, a video of the incident posted on Facebook around 12pm on Tuesday, had been shared by over 3,608 persons.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the video, which was already trending on different social media platforms, angered the Edo State Police Command.
A resident, who had captured the incident on his phone, Ogbomwan, was said to have been detained after the video went viral.
“They actually arrested him on that Sunday and he slept in the station till Monday when he was released after paying N30,000 for bail. They asked him to come for his mobile phone on Tuesday.
“But when they saw that the video, which was posted by another person, had gone viral, the Investigating Police Officer, Inspector Idemudia, detained Ogbowan when he went to collect the phone on Tuesday. The IPO said he was acting on the orders of the Divisional Police Officer, who felt embarrassed by the video. The man is still in detention,” Franklyn added.
Nigerians, who saw the video, called for the punishment of the officers over the incident.
One Chosen Edosa claimed that the Esigie Police Division was notorious for extortion.
He said, “Esigie division is a place where animal police are. They have done a lot of injustice to my family. Drivers along Akpapava Road, from First Junction to Second Junction (are usually victims); they don’t let taxi drivers have peace. When they are hungry, they go for drivers who are looking for their daily bread. And when you get to their station, you will ask them, ‘Oga wetin I do?’ and they will say, ‘Go bring N10,000 to clear your motor.’ I have a lot of bad experience with them.”
Another poster, Olatunji Ahmed, questioned the training of officials of the Nigeria Police Force.
“Even if this guy is a criminal, I don’t think he deserved this treatment. God is watching us in this country. I believe He will help us in this country when it’s time,” he added.
Another Facebook user, Friday Ighodaro, suggested that the policemen involved in the incident be fired for lack of professionalism.
When PUNCH Metro called the state police spokesperson, DSP Moses Nkombe, he declined comment and shunned our correspondent.
The following conversation ensued:
PUNCHman: “Good day sir, I am calling in respect of the case of the driver that was allegedly chained and dragged on the ground with a police van. What is the position of the command; has any policeman been indicted?”
PPRO: “I don’t think you are a trained journalist. Do you publish your story before you balance it or you balance before you publish?
PUNCHman: “I called to get your reaction, sir. I don’t get what you are saying.”
The PPRO cut the call.
A text message sent to him to ask if that was his official reaction was not replied to as of press time.