More facts have emerged about the incident that led to operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Akwuzu, Anambra State torturing and demanding N6 million from an Onitsha, Anambra State-based trader.
The International Human Rights Defence, a nongovernmental organization, which took up the fight on behalf of the trader, has described the situation as saddening and a disappointment.
The victim, who doesn’t want his name to be mentioned over fear of other vendetta by other SARS operatives, deals in long span aluminum roofing sheets and accessories.
The Executive Director of I-REF, Justus Ijeoma, said the SARS men, aided by their leader, SP Sunday Okpe, arrested the victim and kept him incommunicado with his wife and family for over two weeks, plunging the family into unimaginable worries and anxieties.
In the course of trying to get justice for the victim, Ijeoma discovered that Okpe and some of his men jointly demanded N5 million from the victim, while Okpe separately demanded another N1 million for his personal pocket.
Thus, though he shared from the N5 million, he still pocketed another N1 million for himself.
He threatened to wipe out the victim’s family if he so much as whispered about his arrest, detention and torture and the N6 million extortion to any soul.
Okpe’s bulletproof plans shattered after Ijeoma relentlessly pursued the matter and uncovered several unsavoury details about the arrest of the victim the policemen perceived to be a business tycoon.
The troubles of the victim started in 2013 after he received a phone call from an unknown person.
Ijeoma noted: “That was in the heydays of kidnapping in Anambra State. The caller threatened to storm the victim’s home to kill and kidnap. The caller claimed to be trailing the victim, his wife and children. To buttress his claims, he would sometimes call stating where the victim was, what he was wearing and what he was doing. The caller warned him to attempt to report the matter to the police or else is situation would worsen.”
The caller told the victim that his brother (victim’s brother), who was overseas, but killed in Lagos, was his robbery partner.
He claimed that part of the money robbed must have been given to the victim by his deceased brother.
Ijeoma, who had immediately petitioned the IG about the matter, said: “It was a period of psychological and mental torture for the victim and his family as the caller continued to torment the whole family with phone calls. The caller threatened to wipe out the whole family unless the victim pays the sum of N50m.”
Troubled, the victim consulted friends, who advised him to ensure he pays up because his life and that of his family were more important than any amount of money.
Thus, he went into negotiation with the caller and finally paid N20 million.
The victim thought the matter was buried and forgotten until April 30, 2018 when three men armed with rifles stormed his factory and attempted to bundle him into their Toyota Camry car.
They threatened to shoot to kill if he drew any attention to himself.
As they marched him to the car, the victim raised the alarm, thinking that the men were kidnappers.
His cry for help alerted his wife and factory workers.
Ijeoma stated: “The victim thought the men were kidnappers or assassins. When his wife and factory workers gathered the men claimed to be policemen from Awka. The victim asked for identification and further asked why they wanted to abduct in such a manner. Just for asking that question. They started beating him.”
Frightened out of her wit that she might watch them kill her husband right in front of her, the victim’s wife quickly alerted Ijeoma.
Most of the SARS men in Anambra State know him and his antecedents.
Unfortunately for the victim, Ijeoma was in Netherland.
He, however asked to speak with one of the policemen.
One of them, who was the commander of SARS Neni, spoke with Ijeoma.
After listening, he advised that the victim should go with the men.
Ijeoma said: “The commander even at that point refused to divulge the reason for arresting the victim. The victim was taken into incommunicado for six day. He was taken to Awkuzu and tortured while the SARS men tried to force him to confess to being a criminal.
“The victim was taken into their torture chamber and hanged for close to an hour until he passed out.”
He was further made to sign two sheets of papers before the torture commenced.
The SARS operatives would later claim that the victim was arrested because he paid N50 million to an unknown caller in 2013 rather for him to have reported the case.
According to them, that was the root of his arrest.
“The SARS men claimed that somebody reported the victim to them in connection with the caller, who was a self-confessed criminal,” said Ijeoma.
The victim was arrested on April 30 and released on May 5.
It was gathered that the SARS men tortured and threatened to kill the victim unless he pays them the sum of N20 million.
The activist further said: “On May 14, they carried out a mock execution of the victim. They blindfolded him, put him into their vehicle and drove for a period of two hours. At a particular location, which the victim suspected was somewhere around Edo State, they brought out the victim and remove her blindfold. They told him that was the end of his journey.
“They showed him a burrow pit, which they told him was where they would waste his life like they had wasted others in the past. The leader of that particular group on that fateful day, ‘Onye army’ as he is called, directed his men to point their guns at the victim and to unanimously fire at him when he issues the command. He ordered the victim to keep walking towards the burrow-pit.
“As the victim got to the edge of the pit, Onye Army, shouted fire! The guns of his men went off. They fired into the air and the victim fell to the ground and almost passed out. You can imagine how traumatic this must have been.”
After the mock execution, the victim was blindfolded again and returned to the station.
At the station, the men told him that his life was spared in order to give time to rethink.
They told him that he had been given less than 24 hours to comply their demands.
The victim, petrified after his experience, went into a negotiation and accepted to pay N5 million.
Ijeoma said: “The Commander, SP Sunday Okpe, called the victim into his office and told him that the only condition he would approve the N5m was for the victim to give N1m separately. The victim agreed. Okpe personally threatened the victim that should he tell anyone what transpired, that he and his men would kill and wipe out the victim’s family.”
When the victim asked for account number to transfer the money, the SARS men declined.
They demanded for cash.
Meanwhile, this scenario was playing out on a Saturday.
The victim promised to bring the money on Monday, but they also refused.
He was asked to transfer the money into the account of Andrew Onwurah Mordili, a stranger to the victim.
They ordered Mordili to withdraw the money and bring the cash to them.
The SARS operatives didn’t want to leave any trace.
They further insisted that Mordili should be the victim’s surety.
Okpe asked the victim to bring his own N1 million himself in cash on Monday.
When the victim brought the money, Okpe, once again, warned him to never on any account divulge the events and transactions to anyone or his family would be killed.
When The Eagle Online called the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, to get further information about the incident, he didn’t pick his call.
A text message was also sent to Moshood.
But he was yet to reply as at press time.