The Network of Police Reform in Nigeria has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission over the alleged infliction of physical injuries and extortion of five civilians by some soldiers in Aba, Abia State.
In a petition addressed to the commission’s executive secretary, the group demanded an investigation into the incident as well as the actions of some police officers who allegedly aided the soldiers.
NOPRIN further demanded a refund of ₦93,000 extorted from the victims as well as a reimbursement of the cost of medical treatment for the injuries inflicted on them.
“The soldiers should be subjected to appropriate disciplinary actions in accordance with military laws and regulations as deterrence to others,” the group added.
The Alleged Assault
The incident occurred on May 26 at Grand Lotte World Hotels in Aba, Abia State, where the victims – Ifeanyi Ogba, Ogbonna Ogba, Orji Raymond, Chisom Anyaele, and Ifeanyi Okechukwu – were billed to perform as DJs at a birthday party, according to NOPRIN’s petition.
Before the party began, two soldiers drove into the hotel in a Toyota Camry accompanied by two ladies.
The victims identified one of the soldiers as Adeniyi Mayowa, attached to Ngwa Road military checkpoint in Aba.
About 15 minutes after the soldiers’ arrival, according to the petition, the officers came and took away Mr Anyaele and demanded he invite his colleagues over the phone.
“When the other DJs arrived at the scene, following the distress call by Chisom (Mr Anyaele), they were stunned when one of the soldiers started slapping them repeatedly while they pleaded in confusion what the matter was.
“This particular soldier, in a kidnap fashion, bundled them into a waiting car in handcuffs while still assaulting them mercilessly with his military belt and drove them to a police station, Cameroun Barrack Police Station, Aba at about 1 a.m.”
At the police station, the soldiers accused the DJs of stealing a phone belonging to one of them, a claim the victims vehemently denied.
Without hearing from the men, the petition said, the police detained them for 19 hours until the intervention of the Divisional Police Officer who found them innocent and ordered their release.
Upon their release, the five DJs walked out of the police station but into the arms of the two soldiers who were waiting for them outside the station.
“They bundled them into two Pickup vans (Hilux) and drove them straight to the Army Base at Ngwa Road by Ohanku checkpoint and resumed brutality against them, mercilessly hitting them with planks and machetes,” the petition stated.
“The said soldiers were filled with rage and told them that ‘since you think you have upper hand in the police, then you forgot we are soldiers and not police men; if you wish you should go ahead and call the chief of army staff, he has no right over us and we will kill all of you and dispose your body and nothing will happen.’
“The soldiers forced them to strip bare and lie down, and they continued to beat them with planks and machetes on their heads, bare backs and buttocks.
“One of the soldiers was filming them in their nakedness while others continued torturing them.”
When they could no longer bear the pain of their injuries, the five men agreed to contribute among themselves the needed money – ₦93,000 – to replace the stolen phone.
When contacted, Geoffrey Ogbonna, the Abia State police spokesperson, said he was not aware of the incident.
An official of the National Human Rights Commission declined to say whether the agency had received the petition and asked the reporter to come to their office for her enquiries.