A 33-year-old businessman, Samuel Soyemi, tells ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE how he and his family members were forcibly taken away by a group of policemen and vigilantes who invaded his home in the Osiele area of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, stole valuable items and dispossessed him of the sum of N1,025,000 on October 10, 2023
What type of business do you do?
My name is Samuel Soyemi. I am an electrical engineer and an event planner. I am based in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and I am 33 years old. I am happily married with a nine-month-old baby.
Can you narrate your encounter with the police that resulted in the alleged loss of your personal belongings and the sum of N1m?
On the evening of October 10 (2023), I noticed several individuals loitering around my compound after 11 pm. Curious, I decided to open the door to assess the situation. Much to my surprise, I was confronted by individuals brandishing guns and claiming to be police officers from Zone Two in Onikan, Lagos State. They demanded that I go inside and they followed closely behind.
Can you describe their appearance?
None of them were in uniform or displayed any form of identification, apart from one person who had a jacket with the inscription, ‘Zone Two,’ written on it. However, when I inquired about the reason for their actions, they were unable to provide any concrete reasons or charges against me or anyone else present. They were stumbling over their words, with some accusing us of being ritualists and others labeling us as cultists. It was at that point that they began searching my house without a valid search warrant. Under the guise of a search, they took phones, jewellery, and gold bracelets, including my local bathing soup, my wife’s diamond earrings, a power bank, and other items. After the robbery, which they referred to as a home search, they kidnapped me and my five siblings who were visiting for the holiday. They informed us that they were taking us to their office in Zone Two.
Did they tell you anything on your way to their office?
Yes. Along the way, they demanded N10m from me in exchange for our release and threatened to end our lives if we refused. However, I did not have enough money with me that night. I informed them that I could not provide the requested amount; that was when they threatened us on the side of the road, warning that if we did not cooperate, they would kill us and leave no trace of what transpired. At that point, I urged them to permit me to make some phone calls (to see whether anyone) was willing to lend me money.
Can you remember any specific details about the place where you were held?
They agreed to my request to contact my loved ones and ask for money, and we drove to the Ifo police station in Ogun State. However, they realised that I couldn’t gather the amount of money they demanded. Most of the people I called said they didn’t have any money. When they asked me how much I had managed to gather, I told them I had raised N1,025,000. Later, they instructed me to send the money to a bank account. I transferred the money to the account, and we were released the second day at about 5am. Before leaving the station, I inquired about our missing belongings. They told me to forget about them or they would waste our lives with no traces. However, none of us were ready to face death, so I reassured them not to worry and that we would find replacements for whatever we lost. I made an effort to interact with them cleverly to ensure our safety. Additionally, I began my investigation to determine where they came from. Initially, I confided in my brother who is a broadcaster before visiting their station to report the incident.
Were you physically injured by the policemen?
No, but they subjected us to harassment and threatened to end our lives if we did not comply with their demands. At one point, they were telling us a dog they just killed didn’t receive more than a bullet; imagine that kind of statement. They went to someone else’s house, and the man had a big dog. They (the policemen) shot the dog to perfect their illegal operation.
Did they leave any objects or evidence that could aid in identifying them?
Not really, but all I can say is that all of them were not policemen.
How many of them accosted you?
There were seven individuals in total, some of whom were vigilantes while some were policemen. They were all armed with guns and stun guns. They referred to each other as officers rather than using their names. There were many abnormalities about them. However, I was able to recognise some of them when they were apprehended at Eleweran police station and their team leader at Zone Two.
Where were you and others kept when the policemen took you to their station?
We were kept isolated at a corner of the station because they did not allow us to enter (the station) until they released us.
Were you and your family members the only people picked up by the policemen?
No, my family members were not the only ones they picked up that day. They also abducted other people that I would not like to talk about. I am only concerned about my situation and do not want to interfere with other people’s affairs.
What actions have you taken since the incident occurred?
I reported the case at Zone Two police headquarters and was invited by the Police Community Relations Committee. They apologised and promised to return my belongings and money. However, when I did not receive any further updates from them for a week, I informed my brother. Not too long after that, I was informed that I had been invited by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone Two. The AIG directed me to a committee that would handle the matter. Since then, they have extended four invitations to me without taking into account any progress or refunding any of my assets. Meanwhile, whenever I visit the Zone Two headquarters, I spend nothing less than N80,000, yet no action is taken. I have spent N320,000 on transportation while honouring the four invitations. It was at that point that I drafted a petition with the assistance of my lawyer and submitted it to the office of the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, in Abuja, and that was how the matter escalated.
At one point, I received a text warning that my life was at risk. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how the message got deleted from my phone. However, I included the incident in the petition I submitted to the IG’s office, highlighting the jeopardy my life was in.
You mentioned that you sent all your money to them. How did you manage to return home when they released you and others?
I had to rely on the support of friends and family who lent me money. We used part of the money I received to arrange transportation for ourselves back home on the day of our release. However, I have all the proof of payment, including printed copies.
You said your encounter with the police happened late in the night. When did you arrive home that day?
On the day of the incident, I returned home significantly later than usual. I arrived after 10 pm, and the incident occurred after 11 pm. However, I did not notice any signs of being followed when I was heading home.
Did those who took you away arrive in a police vehicle?
Not at all. The vehicle they used was a wine-coloured Space Wagon, along with two motorcycles. I overheard their conversation mentioning that the vehicle was faulty and needed to be repaired after the operation. They also claimed that they were using the vehicle to transport their earnings from their illegal operations of which, unfortunately, we happened to be victims.
Did you run a check on the account number the money taken from you was transferred to?
After transferring the money to the provided account number, I decided to investigate the bank account. I contacted the monitoring officer at the Magbon police station in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The man pleaded with me not to be angry, explaining that it was an illegal operation. He promised to investigate the owner of the bank account and get back to me. Subsequently, he called the account owner and asked who sent the money. The woman (who received the money) identified a policeman as the sender, stating that she transferred over N4m to his account on the same day. This indicated that they had targeted other individuals and collected money from them as well.
They also went to Sango that night. Unfortunately, when we reached the Ifo police station, we were handed over to some of their accomplices, making it impossible for us to outsmart them without risking our lives. However, at the station that night, there seemed to be no one present except a woman dressed in a police uniform. I was shocked by her statement.
What did she say?
She told the policemen that they should have killed us. I couldn’t believe that a policewoman would make such a statement against innocent citizens. If possible, I will even consider taking legal action against her.
Have you or any of your family members had such an encounter with policemen in the past?
No, there haven’t been any such incidents, and I have full trust in my wife as well since she is a calm and easygoing person. However, my brothers don’t live with us; they were just visiting for a holiday. They attend a school in Lagos. Therefore, I am certain that nobody from my family has offended the police. They (policemen) simply came to steal from us.
You mentioned that some of those who came to your residence were vigilantes. How did you identify them?
Two of them had trousers belonging to a vigilance group, which made it clear that they were vigilantes.
Do you have faith in the ability of the authorities to give you justice?
Initially, my family and I were in desperate need of protection as our safety was in jeopardy. It is important for them to assist us promptly in recovering all our stolen belongings and the money we paid, as we are currently struggling to feed. In fact, I am useless as a man now because I am unable to bring anything to the table. We also lack peace of mind and are unable to sleep comfortably at home due to distrust in those responsible. In addition, the individuals I borrowed money from are already anxious about receiving repayment, I am just tired of everything. The government should please come to my aid and give me justice and reform the Nigerian police so that citizens can live peacefully.