As Human Rights activists that attend to calls from members of the public on daily basis on police related issues, we get to hear and see how the police in Edo state have turned the people to ATM machine by demanding huge sums of money from relatives of detainees to secure their bails. This happens across all Police Divisional Headquarters to the inclusion of the State Command which acts as the final ‘clearing house’ when the case is transferred or reported there.
The officers have developed confidence and boldness to demand for any amount for the secure of bail which ranges from N50,000 to over a million naira depending on the gravity of the matter. Once the amount is parted with, the suspect is released without prosecution.
The Anti-cultism unit appears to be at the zenith of it all, after the IGP declared war on cult related activities in Edo state, it became a window for the police officers in that unit to arrest anybody in the pretense of investigating cultism, even when such investigation is concluded and the suspect is not found wanting, he is still compelled to part with as high as N50,000. In the event, he is found to be a cultist and he is capable of paying the ‘bail fee’ he is left off the hook without further prosecution.
A more recent operational tactics employed by officers is to embark on patrol and arrest young men on the street or those in drinking joints forcefully taking them to the station for suspected cultism. Sometimes ago, I did a report on how the Monitoring Unit which is directly under the Commissioner of Police went to Asotime Groove along Ihama Road to carry out a massive raid accusing them of cultism and prostitution, the state command cells were filled to brim and others taken to Adesuwa Police station. In our investigative strategy, we detailed a comrade to monitor the situation, reports from him revealed that, the men were made to secure their bail with N50,000 while the women with N20,000 each, by our rough estimation, about 200 persons were arrested that day.
Sometimes last week, I went to take somebody on bail at the state command, I was hungry that morning and I needed to eat, while I was eating in a cafeteria outside the command, I eavesdropped a discussion among four young men who came to patronize the woman too, they were lamenting how their families parted with the sum of N410, 000 to secure their bail over an accusation they know nothing about. You will recall too that, the case of Benson Obode, his Landlord was made to pay the sum of N500, 000 to secure his bail just because he is the Landlord of a suspect.
Real culprits pay as high as 2 million naira to secure their bail in certain circumstances, millions of naira are received by officers of the state command just on bail of suspects. The danger of this is that, the actual culprits are released into the society to pose threat to our lives and property.
Edo state command of the Nigeria Police Force had never experienced this high level of impudence exhibited in the collection of ‘bail fee’ until the deployment of Ezike to the state. It must be noted that, the civil society community had had a long time interface with the police force in ensuring that citizens’ rights are protected at all times. We have ensured that bail is absolutely free but then, it becomes practically impossible for us to be involved in all cases both at the state command and the various divisional headquarters.
The IGP should as a matter of urgency carry out a discreet and personal investigation on this issue raised as it has become an open secret in Edo state on how the current police formation has turned the people into ATM machine. We have countless testimony of our experiences as we engage the police on daily basis.
PROFESSIONAL POLICING IS A SINE QUA NON TO ACHIEVING JUSTICE AND EQUITY IN THE SOCIETY.
Comrade Osaze Edigin,a Human Rights Activist, sent this piece from Benin City