Group petitions police IG over ‘illegal’ detention of Lagos businessman in Sokoto

Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar

The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, has petitioned Mohammed Abubakar, the Inspector General of Police, over the detention of one Francis Obi, a Lagos based businessman by the Sokoto State Police Command.

Mr. Obi, the director of Allied Drilling Company Limited, which deals in water drilling equipment, was arrested allegedly on the orders of one Ikenna Okoye, his business associate over allegations of fraud.

In a letter addressed to Mr. Abubakar, dated June 28, 2013; the group condemned the “clear illegalities and acts of corruption” leading to Mr. Obi’s arrest in Lagos and detention in Sokoto.

“All those found responsible or involved should be brought to account to deter such further improper conduct, abuse and corruption,” read the letter signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, NOPRIN’s Program and Advocacy Coordinator.

NOPRIN said that it received a complaint from Christiana Obi, Mr. Obi’s wife, that her husband had been whisked away by police officers from Lagos to Sokoto in a “manner typically reminiscent of abduction” allegedly on the orders of Mr. Okoye, his business associate of over seven years.

“The police officers who claimed to be acting on the orders of the IGP (Inspector General of Police) subjected Mr. Obi to unnecessary restraint, humiliation and dehumanization by putting him in handcuff, took him away without informing him of his offence and where he was being taken to; eventually drove him very far from the jurisdiction of the matter, and have kept him in detention beyond the legally permissible period of at most 48 hours,” the petition added.

The arresting officers have allegedly demanded N300,000 as condition for bail after leveling an allegation of fraud against Mr. Obi.

The transaction

Last Month, Mr. Okoye, who is also a dealer in water drilling equipment in Sokoto, informed Mr. Obi of his intention to buy a water drilling rig, according to Mrs. Obi.

Mr. Obi told him he did not have the equipment but promised to enquire from others in the business and inform him if he finds one, Mrs. Obi added.

Mr. Obi eventually saw the equipment at Ahmed International Company in Apapa, Lagos, owned by a Turkish businessman resident in Nigeria.

“Mr. Obi took photographs of the rig with a proforma invoice containing all the details about the equipment including the make, price and date of manufacture and sent to Chief Ikenna Okoye,” said Mrs Obi.

“After seeing the photographs and the details in the invoice, Chief Okoye got back to Mr. Obi and said he liked the equipment and asked him to negotiate the price on his behalf,” she added.

After negotiation, Mr. Obi and Ahmed agreed on N61 million naira, which was communicated to Mr. Okoye who accepted the price and informed them that his bank, Diamond Bank, would finance the purchase, Mrs. Obi said.

After the bank’s officials inspected the equipment and were satisfied, they proceeded to fund the purchase of the rig and the agreed money was transferred into Mr. Obi’s account on May 23, 2013, instructing him to pay Ahmed International Company.

“On the same day that Chief Ikenna Okoye made the deposit into Mr. Obi’s company account, he came to Lagos from Sokoto and Mr. Obi took him to Ahmed International Company, Apapa Lagos where the machine was to be purchased.”

After Mr. Okoye inspected the equipment, he Okayed the purchase and an agreement to pay 5 percent of the total sum was agreed, according to Mrs. Obi.

“After payment, Mr. Obi got a driver who drove the machine to Sokoto.

Two days later, the trouble started, Mrs. Obi said.

Mr. Okoye called her husband to inform him that the equipment was not a brand new one, to which Mr. Obi responded that it was obvious from the details in the proforma invoice as well as the cost of the rig.

“Moreover, he (Mr. Obi) reminded him that he also came down to Lagos, personally inspected the machine before he certified it and authorized him to pay for it” said Mrs. Obi.

“Chief Ikenna Okoye threatened that he would return the machine back to Lagos and get his refund from Ahmed International. Mr. Obi told him that he had no problem with that. However, Mr. Obi later learnt that Ahmed the Turkish dealer had travelled out of Nigeria and informed Chief Okoye.

“On June 24, 2013 Mr. Obi got information that Ahmed was back to Nigeria and promptly informed Chief Okoye who said he would come down for them to go and see him.”

The arrest

Last Wednesday, Mr. Okoye informed Mr. Obi that he was on his way to Lagos, and they agreed to a rendezvous at 2nd Rainbow bus stop, along the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.

However, at the meeting point, four plain clothed police officers from CID Zone 2, Lagos, swooped on Mr. Obi and one Mr. Chukwuma, who introduced him to Ahmed.

“Without informing him of any offence he may have committed or any reason for arresting him, the police officers put Mr. Obi in handcuff and ordered him into their private vehicle.

“Mr. Obi demanded to be told why he was being arrested, handcuffed and ordered into a private vehicle. He demanded that they should first take him to the nearest police station for proper identification and entry, but the policemen ignored him. They seized his phones and refused to allow him contact anyone.

“As they drove off, Mr. Obi asked where they were taking him to and they said they were going to Zone 2 headquarters, Lagos. However, along the way, they diverted and headed towards Ibadan and ended up at Ibadan Toll Gate Police Station,” said Mrs. Obi.

At the police station, three police officers who allegedly arrived in a hired private car from Sokoto, came to take Mr. Obi away but the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, insisted that his statement must be obtained.

“After making statement, and at the instance of the DPO, Mr. Obi was allowed 5 minutes to make contact. He then called his friend, one Mr. Dan Thompson, who later called Mr. Obi’s wife and informed her of her husband’s ordeal. “

Mrs. Obi said that she and her husband’s staff, who were aware of his scheduled meeting with Mr. Okoye, became worried after he could no longer be reached on his mobile phone.

Mrs. Obi said that she reported to the police station nearest to her home, the Okoko Police Station, but was directed to the Festac Police Station where she was told that some officers from SARS (State Anti Robbery Squad), Ikeja, had informed them about an arrest they wanted to make in the area.

“It was only around 11 pm on that day that Chukwuma (the man who accompanied Mr. Obi to meet Chief Okoye and was arrested along with him but later released at Ibadan Toll Gate Police Station) called Mrs. Obi and narrated the foregoing to her,” read the petition.

“The next day Mr. Obi called his wife and informed her that he was being detained at the State CID Sokoto and accused of fraud. He informed his wife that the police at the CID Sokoto are demanding the sum of three hundred thousand naira (N300, 000) as condition to release him. He said the police officers have asked him to deposit the money into Chief Okoye’s bank account,” it added.

One Ikechukwu Anumudu, who was Mr. Obi’s apprentice in Lagos but now doing business in Sokoto, went to see Mr. Obi in the police cell and was asked by the police at the State CID, Sokoto, to sign a bail bond of the sum of N35 million for Mr. Obi’s release.

Mr. Anumudu refused

“Mr. Anumudu also said Chief Ikenna Okafor (the complainant) is demanding the sum of N10 million from Mr. Obi as part refund for the cost of the machine which he claims is not brand new and not worth the price he bought it,” the petition said.

“Chief Okafor is boasting to Mrs. Obi and others that the arrest was ordered by the Inspector General of Police who he claims is his personal friend,” it added.

NOPRIN said that it was unable to see any element of fraud in the transaction and called for an immediate release of Mr. Obi as well as an investigation of the conduct of all the officers involved in the arrest.

“It is curious why the police officers who took Mr. Obi from Lagos to Ibadan Toll Gate Police Station told the DPO that they were from Zone 2, Lagos but had earlier told Festac Police Station that they were from SARS, Ikeja,” said Mr. Nwanguma.

“NOPRIN is in doubt that the IGP will order or condone such clearly illegal operation which procedures are contrary to the NPF code of conduct and professional ethics.

“The conduct of the officers both of Lagos and Sokoto commands undermine the due process. They are destructive of the police image and of public confidence which the IGP has being working very hard to restore,” said Mr. Nwanguma.

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