How bribe-seeking SARS officers made me hide in bank toilet - Journalist

How bribe-seeking SARS officers made me hide in bank toilet - Journalist

- Bribe-seeking SARS officers forced one James Ibe-Anyanwu, a journalist and business owner, to hide in a bank toilet after they tried to extort money from him

- He ran into the toilet after being instructed by the Lagos PPRO not to part with any money; and to wait for policemen to arrive

- The SARS operatives have now been identified, and the Lagos commissioner of police has directed that they be arrested and prosecuted

A Nigerian writer and businessman, James Ibe-Anyanwu, took to Facebook to call for help, while hiding from SARS operatives, in the toilet of a Zenith Bank branch at Ago Palace-Way, Okota, Lagos state, on Monday, April 9, Premium Times reports.

In the post, Ibe-Anyanwu narrated how he was humiliated and accused of being a fraudster, by the SARS officials. He further claimed that the security operatives seized his phone, as he called the spokesperson of the Lagos state police command.

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He stated: “I’m updating from my hiding place. They are waiting for me by my car. Phone battery down. Please share.” gathers that his post sparked outrage among Nigerians on Facebook, with many people calling on the police authorities in Lagos to intervene in the matter.

Upon the arrival of the police X-squad personnel many hours later, the SARS officers reportedly led by one Inspector Jude Akhoyemta, fled from the scene.

Anyanwu stated: “It was past 2pm yesterday and I was at Zenith Bank Okota Branch to submit a document prepared on my company letterhead. I was asked to edit a part of it and resubmit.

“Because I wanted to conclude the transaction same yesterday, I had to go look for a business center around to type in the edit. Across the bank was one, and as I walked towards it, a young, scruffy-looking man accosted me, saying he was a police officer. His superiors wanted to see me inside a bus waiting around.

“He was slightly bearded and on mufti, so I was skeptical. I asked for his ID card and he unhooked it from his waist and showed me. The prints were tiny and blurred, so I reached out to collect it and read properly. ‘So you want to snatch my ID card’, he shouted.

“He took from me the PLANEX-branded envelope containing plain letterheads and other documents, and walked towards the bus, asking me to come along. Right away I made a call to my brother, Ekene Okoro, and briefed him.”

The journalist, who also owns a company called PLANEX, disclosed that by the time he reached the bus, the operatives changed the story, claiming that he had snatched the ID card from the officer.

He stated: “They were about seven armed men, and one of them started interrogating me. Why did I choose to use this branch of Zenith Bank instead of the one close to my office in Ikoyi? Where is the other director of PLANEX? Why was the document I was to edit not stamped with my company stamp?

“Dismissing all my answers, he said they would take me to my office in Ikoyi to confirm. That he knew people on that street and had just spoken to them, and they couldn’t identify me. ‘Speak to my office landlady', I said. He ignored me.

“At that point I stepped aside and called the Lagos PPRO and narrated my experience. He asked me to pass on the phone to them and they took the phone from me, cut the call, and seized the phone.

“I became scared and started inviting passers-by into the argument and people gathered. One man intervened and begged them a lot and they calmed down, though insisting that they would still take me away anyway.

“Then they asked to search my car, parked outside the bank premises and I let them. Finding nothing, they took my ID card and demanded my car key and car documents. I had to corner their leader to a side and beg him, telling him he was like a father to me and should appeal to his men. His men were almost going violent but he kept calming them down.

“He told me to go arrange some money and I told him I needed the phone to transfer money from the corporate account to my ATM account. I needed the car key too to get the ATM card. On my way to the ATM, the one who arrested me asked me how much I was going to withdraw. I told him N5,000 and he flared up.”

According to Anyanwu, after placing a call across to the PPRO, he was instructed not to part with any money as a team of policemen would be sent to the location.

After the instruction was given, he quickly ran into the banking hall after withdrawing some money, then proceeded to the toilet, from where he made the Facebook post.

He continued: “My phone battery was on 2 per cent and I needed to save it, in case the rescue came. I sat there in the toilet for close to two hours. By past 4pm, I feared the bank would soon close and called the PPRO again, who assured me his men were on the way.

“He asked me to put the CSO of the branch on the line for him, since his men were being held up on the way.

“They spoke and he asked the CSO to put the bank mobile police unit on the line too for him to instruct them on what to do. But before the bank’s policeman could come speak to the PPRO on phone, the phone battery had gone flat.

“I narrated everything to him, the bank policeman. But he was skeptical, saying if I did nothing, SARS would not be after me. I learnt from the CSO that the SARS people actually came inside the bank to look for me while I was in the toilet, purporting to want to give me back my documents.

“The bank policeman now said I should leave the bank, that the bank was not the place for people to hide. So he eased me out of the bank and, outside where my car was parked, I noticed the number plates had been taken away. The SARS bus was no longer around so I assumed they had left."

However, the writer disclosed that the SARS bus returned from nowhere and double-crossed the car, as he got in.

He said: “I turned swiftly facing the bank gate and blocking it, hooting crazily to draw attention and for the bank security to let me in. The bank security, on the order of their skeptical policeman, refused me entry, leaving me out for SARS to devour. It is a branch I have frequented for over 10 years, visiting there almost weekly.

“SARS people jumped out of their bus and started banging on my car windows. One attempted to puncture the tyre but that superior asked him not to. My phone was still yet to come on, heightening my fear. It was the longest moment of my life, as I was surrounded by 7 armed policemen who had patiently waited for me for over 2 hours. They ordered me to wind down but I wouldn’t and a crowd began to gather.

“They stepped aside, speaking to the bank policeman. The bank policeman later came to me and asked me to wind down, that he had spoken to them, and that I should leave even outside the bank premises where all this was happening.

“The management had asked him to chase me away, he said, adding that the bank was not the place for me. Shouting through shut windows, I pleaded with him to let my phone come on so help could reach me. He threatened to use force on me if I didn’t leave that very minute. I steered out of the gate and parked in the outside parking lot, still locked up in the car.”

The officers asked him to come down from the car, despite his attempt to run away from them. Even the superior who had previously been soft, also got angry and dumped the number plates and documents on the car bonnet and stormed out, as another officer tried to smash his glass.

He continued: “The others followed him, entered their bus, and they drove ahead and waited.

“I was scared that they were still waiting along the same road I was to take, so I remained in the car. The bank policeman came back again, fuming, banging on the car and urging me to leave.

“I had to take the opposite direction amid a slow-moving traffic, driving insanely cutting through the traffic until I found a free road which was in the opposite direction to my house. I fled, literally.

“At that point my phone had come on. The PPRO and his deputy called respectively. They had been trying to reach me. Their men who were on the way also called me saying they had been unable to reach me since and were now around.

“For the next hour they all kept calling checking up on me. Even the Lagos SARS commandant called, apologetic. They all rose to the challenge and began to look for the erring officers.”

In response to the incident, the police spokesman, Chike Otti, disclosed that the commissioner of police, Edgal Imohimi, had ordered that he arrest and prosecute the officers.

He stated: “On sighting the X- Squad personnel of the command, the erring policemen hurriedly left the scene in a manner suggestive that they were on an illegal duty.

“The Lagos state commissioner of police directed the officer-in -charge of the X-Squad section to fish out the policemen within two hours. That directive was actualised with the identification of the policemen involved. They were led in that inglorious duty by one Inspector Jude Akhoyemta, attached to FSARS Ikeja.

“The commissioner has ordered their arrest and as soon as that is done, the public will be notified.”

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Meanwhile, previously reported that journalists attending a media convention in Imo accused some policemen attached to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department of collecting N10,000 bribe from them.

The officers, led by a certain Inspector Uche, harassed the journalists, who are members of the Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria, and threatened to frame them if they refused to part with the money.

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