A Spate of Police extortions in Anambra State in the context of enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown

The incident in a viral video of a resident of Anambra State identified as Muokwe Henry Jones narrating how a member of a Police team around Umunze shot at and deflated two of his car tyres, while on his way to the bank to withdraw money for food for his family in the wake of the lockdown in the State over Covid-19, is not an isolated case.

The man’s narrative of how the Police officers, in the guise of enforcing compliance with the lockdown stopped his vehicle and demanded money from him before they could let him go, is typical. He narrated how they were demanding money from many other vehicle owners whom they stopped. According to his account, when they demanded money, he explained to them, he was going to a nearby bank, and pleaded with them to allow him to go and withdraw some money to take care of his family, but the Police officers insisted that he must ‘settle’ them. Argument ensued leading to one of the Police officers shooting his car tyres.

He further disclosed that the police officer who shot his tyres turned round to accuse him of violating the State government’s restriction order over Covid-19. Citizen Muokwe also alleged that the policeman threatened to kill him thereafter.

Had he given them the money they demanded, he would not have violated the order.

The implication of this is that the Policemen are on the streets extorting money and resources from people purportedly violating the order, rather than enforcing it. They are exploiting the violation of the order to fleece the violators, rather than actually enforcing the order. And those who fail to ‘cooperate’ by ‘settling’ them, get punished like the man whose tyres were shot at. The man can be considered lucky if you compare him with the other victim who was brutally shot dead or the other who survived with life threatening injury.

Expectedly, the Commissioner of Police (CP) Anambra State has expressed disapproval of the policeman’s unprofessional and criminal act of reprisal against a man for refusal to bribe him, and has made a commitment to investigate and make the outcome of investigation public.

We commend the CP and look forward to the outcome of investigation.

RULAAC has been receiving complaints of many similar acts of extortion in different parts of Anambra State by police officers who pretend to be enforcing the lockdown and restrictions on movement in the state.

RULAAC and its partners in Anambra State Police Stakehokders Partnership Forum (PSPF) call on the CP to set in motion, mechanisms to monitor the conduct of police officers enforcing the movement restrictions in the State. Police officers must act responsibly and with integrity. They must also operate within the law and police standard rules of professional conduct.

However, we urge citizens to be law abiding and comply with the orders while government makes provisions to cushion the hardships pushing people to violate the order.

We encourage Citizens who are victims or witnesses of police extortion, harassment and brutality to send information/report their experiences to RULAAC on 08064974531or to Police Stakehokders Partnership Forum (PSPF) on 0803 210 2294

Okechukwu Nwanguma

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