It Could Be Anyone: Eyewitness Story Of How SARS ‘Rob’ People In Port Harcourt

By Ikenga Chronicles July 23, 2018

It Could Be Anyone: Eyewitness Story Of How SARS ‘Rob’ People In Port Harcourt

Chris Martins

The combination FSARS and Mobile Policemen around Mandela Carwash in GRA Port Harcourt must have extorted nothing less than N1m yesterday from Road users. I was a victim. I demanded to be arrested and taken to the station for our so-called offences to be properly documented and treated…of course they vociferously, almost violently and shamelessly refused…they instead demanded ridiculous sums of money from me for my brother to be released.

His crime: his UK phone was riddled with regular, innocent text messages…Dude is a flipping resident of the UK for the last 12 years, visiting Nigeria for the first time in 4 years, shown evidences of his residency, UK drivers licence, PhD qualifications, Bournemouth University staff lecturer ID and complimentary cards, UK bank/credit cards and even old atm and POS receipts in his wallet and his crime was, yes you guessed right – G Boy!!!

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME???…WHAT AN INSULT??? Their reason is that it is because he looks young, bearded and was driving a flashy car…how preposterous?

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First of, when my younger brother called to say he had been stopped by some heavily armed men, in less than 5 seconds into that conversation, I heard shouts and obvious distress in the sounded like slaps, next thing, the line cut. The only thing I got from that 5 secs convo was that armed men stopped me somewhere in GRA…Alarmed and not even sure if it was the police or where to look, I drove thru every street in GRA phase 2 & 3 for the next hour. Within that hour, I must have given his both lines over 300 missed calls. Because his lines were still on and no one was picking I concluded dude has been kidnapped seeing that there’s no way if it was the police, they won’t let him pick his calls to at least let his people know which station to come.

At this point, it occurred to me to check every police division around that vicinity. Went to Nkpolu Divisional Police Station, Olu Obasanjo and Abacha Road Police Stations respectively…didn’t find him and neither was there any incident reports….they were all so kind to call all their patrol teams and each one of them claimed not to have been in such an encounter that morning nor received any incident reports. Now you can imagine my frustration and fear. At this point, it has been almost 2 hours and some 300 or so more calls later with no response. I was gutted, totally gutted…but beyond that, I was afraid, afraid for my brother’s life. .for the first time I wished it was the Police. It felt safer given the circumstances.

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Horrified and confused at the same time, I decided, drive around some more, then head to the family house to see if he must have dealt with whatever situation and gone home…didn’t make any sense tho, seeing that he still wasn’t taking my calls. On my way home, coming off Prof. Abowei Street onto Tombia extension, right there! I saw his car. He wasn’t in sight at all. My heart calmed when I saw my cousin pleading seriously with the officers on ground. I figured this cousin of mine must have seen him and stopped to inquire what the situation was.

Not sure I parked very well, I stormed out of my car in a fit of rage screaming at the officers first for seizing his phones and secondly for treating the young man like a criminal. I mean, this was some 2 hours and over 700 calls after that first call he gave me…his both phones were seized, dude was cuffed and put in the back seat of their patrol vehicle, for what? I literally went nuts. You can imagine my state of mind right then..It was a mixed feeling of joy that I have at least found him safe and sound and anger that it was even the police the detained him unlawfully, treated him unprofessionally and rendered him incommunicado. If this isn’t criminal, I wonder what is?

Of course, we all know SARS don’t like people that are fearless and fight back. They all lunched at me threatening all sorts. Not giving a sh*t in the world, I sustained my rage and gave it back to all of them pound for pound..for reasons best known to him, one threatened to flog me with a machete he was brandishing. He was clearly under the influence of whatever he must have been smoking and behaved more like a retarded hooligan than a police officer? Still, I was outspoken and fearless. Not a single f#*k was given that day.

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I demanded to know my brother’s crime – you already know what. Seeing that it makes absolutely no sense, I immediately demanded that he should be released or we should head straight to the station for him to be processed appropriately since they seem to have proof that he is a G-Boy. It should be as simple as that. I had time. I was willing to go any length. Release the dude or arrest him properly, but no! A choice they all knew, they were not gonna take. It wasn’t the lucrative choice. I saw them stop countless vehicles on trumped up charges only for them to be fleeced off their hard-earned money after several visits to the ATM. I am talking from N30k and above. Business was thriving. I witnessed countless people leave their cars, rush to the ATM and pay for their release because of course, who wants to go thru all that trouble and stress on a chill Sunday morning?

The officers had already succeeded in making my brother accept to pay N30k to secure his release. He was obviously distressed, confused and more importantly hungry. He drove out that morning wearing only shorts and a shirt to look for something to eat from any nearby fast food then that. I vehemently refused to pay that money. Of course, it was him that was in the situation and me asking that he should be arrested and detained till we saw the end of the matter to him was like – Chizi, I don’t need all that bullsh*t right now. I have been here for almost 3 hours under the sun and hungry, I just wanna go home, have a cold bath, a hot meal and lie down.

Regardless, I still demanded to go to the station so we can get to the root of the matter claiming I also am interested in finding out if my brother was involved in the so-called illicit crimes he was being accused of..If they have evidence against him, wouldn’t it be criminal on their part to release him without proper prosecution after taking money on the road? Wouldn’t it also be criminal on my part to bribe them for his release? It was clear these men wanted that money badly so they hurled all sorts of threats that they could find in their playbook…Dude was tired, traumatised and restless…he just wanted to go home.

At this point I gave in and demanded to do transfers to them. Of course, they refused. I personally drove to a couple of ATMs in a bid to get cash to no avail before taking advantage of Kilimanjaro’s cash back services to get cash.

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By the time I came back, I saw they had stopped a very good friend of mine, again for trumped up charges. I gave them N20k as opposed to the N30k my brother agreed to give them telling them it is either that or nothing…lets go to your station instead or you take this N20k. Dude took the money immediately and released my brother.

Now over to my friend Etinosa, after dilly dallying with these folks, N25k later, he was released. I personally drove him to a Sterling Bank ATM where he withdrew the cash to pay for his release. Of course, they held his car while we drove round looking for how to withdraw our hard-earned cash to give these criminal Nigerian Police Officers for no reason.

Now, thoughts running through my mind writing this post is, Chris keep quiet, these guys don’t take criticism lightly, you might just be putting a target on your back…but the other side of me is saying no, these stories have to be shared for something to be done to curb this level of criminality in our security agencies..I did not steal the money I gave them, neither did Eti or all the other folks they were extorting yesterday…we worked hard for you read this post be rest assured this or something even worse is being carried out by those same folks on that same spot this very moment…it is thoughts like these that have perpetuated these behaviors from these men unabated.

I am all up for the security agencies mounting roadblocks and carrying out security checks on any vehicle but trumping up charges and fleecing people off their hard-earned money for no reason is a no no. If you have any reasons to arrest an individual, do so. If you don’t, let them go. Last I checked, even the Nigerian Police Force reckons bail is free.


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Publisher’s Note: This story has been published with no editorial work done on it in order to reflect the true state of mind of the writer. No additions or subtractions have been made.