- Officers target Yahoo Boys to enrich themselves
By Erasmus Ikhide
THE Edo State Police Command and its AIG Zone 5 counterpart have been convulsing amidst a litany of corruption allegations raging from the subversion of justice by freeing a murder suspect to forcefully collecting millions of naira from ‘Yahoo boys’ and framing up innocent citizens in order to extort money from them.
The ugly report of unethical policing in Edo State is tweaking at a time the Nigeria Police Force is faced with the persistent call to disband the criminal SARS outfit by Nigerians and the global community for the inhuman brutality, unremitting corruption and extortion of hard earned money from innocent citizens.
A Civil Right activist, name withheld bemoans and describes the extortionist drive of the officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force in Edo State as alarming: “The Anti Vice Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, Zone 5 led by one DSP Wale who is said to be richer than some DIGs in Nigeria has deviated from its constitutional duties to serve the Force with integrity.
“They now go after ‘Yahoo boys’. They collect a minimum of 2 million naira and a maximum of 5 million naira each from suspected yahoo boy for bail.
“Almost all the junior officers in the Zone have turned billionaires overnight because of the huge amount of money collected from ‘Yahoo boys’. The Anti Graft Agency should be mandated to investigate their source of wealth.
“They even settled “Yahoo boys’ who are having a dispute over sharing of money with a view to collecting a percentage.
“This development is ugly. When confronted, the said Wale will say that he is untouchable and that he is very close to the AIG. It is alleged that the said OC has a building in the United States”, he said.
The current crisis rocking the Edo State Police Command and the AIG Zone 5 came to the public glare when the elders of Ikhuonbo community in Uhumude Local Government area of the State alleged that the Inspector General Police’s monitoring team, Zone 5 Anti Vice counterpart, headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Wale Ajibuwa and (DSP) Richard Balogun connived to free one Mr Johnbul Owenaze, a murder suspect by manipulating his charges.
The community elders of Ikhuonbo alleged that the Nigeria police with the help of Wale and Richard reduced murder charges preferred against Mr Johnbul Owenaze, a notorious former chairman of the defunct Iguomon Community Development Association (CDA) to a bailable offence for pecuniary reasons.
The community elders said the suspect, Johnbul Owenaze had on several occasions jumped bail at the state’s criminal investigation department (CID) through the help of (DSP) Richard Balogun, the head of anti-kidnapping unit who is one of the major beneficiary from the land exploit and criminal escapades of the (CDA) activities while it lasted.
The Ikhuonbo community elders alleged that men of the Nigerian police in okhuaihe division in collaboration with the O/C anti-kidnapping DSP Richard Balogun and the O/C Anti Vice AIG Zone 5 have been the conniving police officers aiding and abetting the criminal activities of a notorious criminal gang of Iguomon Community, led by Johnbul Owenaze. They alleged that five of the gang members have been remanded at the federal maximum prison, OKO Benin city for their involvement in the murder of some indigenes of Ikhuonbo community and the robbery and vandalization of properties worth millions of Naira from their community.
According to the Iguomon’s elders, Mr Johnbul Owenaze who was rearrested three weeks ago after jumping bail severally was rearrested two weeks by the IRT operatives. The Ikhuonbo community elders said Owenaze was handed over to the office of DSP Wale where charges of murder, robbery, kidnapping, instigation of native war etc were filed against him before he was hurriedly arraigned by (DSP) Wale and (DSP) Richard for light charges before a magistrate court in Ehor, the headquarters of Uhumude Local Government and set him free.
One of the elders of Ikhuonbo community alleged that before then DSP Wale refused to hand over the suspect to men of the IRT who have several cases and petitions against him because he (Wale) had collected the sum of N2.5million naira bribe from the suspect, hurriedly referred the case to the O/C legal unit of the state’s CID for immediate prosecution with lesser charges thereby dropping the charges of murder, robbery and kidnapping to mitigate the charges against Owenaze and have him granted bail.
The people of Ikhuonbo community alleged that DSP Wale’s unholy activities in Ikhuonbo and Iguomon communities are unconnected with the free lands he forcefully acquired where he erected three different buildings in addition to uncompleted State-Of-The-Art-hotel.
A police officer who is shy of prints quips: “It’s quite unfortunate that the reckless corruption exhibited by both Wale and Balogun this morning has paved the way for a self-confessed murderer like Johnbul Owenaze to escape justice via light charges before a magistrate court in Ehor against the actual charge of murder for which he was arrested and investigated”, he said.
The police officer disclosed that (DSP) Balogun still sends kickbacks to the immediate pass Police Commissioner Haliru Gwando who often come to his rescue any time he ran into trouble, long after Gwando has been transferred out of Edo State because Gwando is Balogun’s godfather. He further said that the duo of Wale and Balogun have become a clog on the wheel of justice dispensation in Edo State.
When contacted, both (DSPs) Wale and Richard debunked the allegations of freeing Johnbul Owenaze, a murder suspect, extorting money from ”Yahoo boys’ or having houses in the US or Iguomon community.
“I only got a call from IG Response Monitoring Team from Abuja not to release a criminal suspect that was held in my custody in the person of Johnbul Owenaze, which I heed. I swiftly release the suspect to the team on their arrival in Benin. The case was thereafter transferred to State Police Headquarters and was charged to court by O/C legal for prosecution.
(DSP) Wale said he couldn’t have shielded Owenaze from murder charges because the same suspect earlier petitioned him to the Police Service Commission for dismissal for a matter he knew nothing about in the past.
(DSP) Wale further avails us the response he got from the Police Service Commission from one of the members to prove his innocence: “Supol Wale, you may wish to know that a petition has been written by Iguomon community in Edo state against you and one Insp Festus to the Hon. Chairman Police Service Commission and the petition has been referred to the Psc committee against illegal Police conduct on civilians, of which I am a member of the said committee. The committee is studying the petition and where necessary, may invite you and other officers mentioned. Please exercise caution, pending our investigation. From Barr. Akoko J. E, Chief Legal, Police Service Commission, Abuja.
“The allegation of collecting millions of naira from ‘Yahoo boys’ is pure falsehood because all cases of the arrest made since I became O/C anti-vice are usually charged to court without delay. I think that has been my major offence. The other allegation of owning a house in the US is laughable. I don’t know the road to the international airport, much less having an international passport or owning a house in the US, he said.
(DSP) Richard Balogun was not amused with what he called “wicked allegations against him to tarnish his image and rubbish the good work he has been doing as the O/C anti-kidnapping at the State Police Headquarters”.
“The only time I ever had anything to do with Owenaze was when I was mandated from Abuja to track his location for possible arrest, which I did and he was arrested around bypass along Sapele road area in Benin City.
“Anyone with the pictures of the alleged three houses It’s said to be building at Iguomon community with paper documents should come forward with them as a proof that I actually owned them”, Balogun charged.
Another Civil Society advocate based in Benin who do not want his name in prints caution the IGP, AIG ZONE 5 and Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Johnson Kokumo to urgently conduct a proper investigation into the alleged murder case levelled against Mr. Johnbul Owenaze. He said justice must be served in the interest of peaceful coexistence between the two warring communities since the suspect’s collaborators have been jailed for the same murder case they were all involved in.
It’s clear that the Inspector General of Police, the AIG zone 5 and the Edo State Commissioner of Police have been kept in the dark on the latest development of allegations of freeing a murder suspect, extortion of millions of naira from ‘Yahoo boys and police brutality of innocent citizens.