- Victims Recount Ordeal
SOME officers of the Nigeria Police Force in the State of Osun have been extorting some innocent youths who are into electronic and internet related businesses, investigations have revealed.
While the policemen hunt for suspected internet fraudsters notoriously known as ‘Yahoo Boys’, findings revealed that innocent youths who are into legitimate online business are being extorted, intimidated and threatened by the policemen.
Investigations by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that policemen who claimed to be on special operations on intra-city roads and expressways are known for extorting the youths and the yahoo boys.
Notable routes where the policemen extort the youths and internet fraudsters are Gbongan/Ibadan road, Ife/Ibadan Expressway, Osogbo/Ilesa road, Ikirun/Offa road and Ikirun/Ila road.
The policemen usually operate with the popular mini commercial bus known as korope and private cars.
The medium noted that the policemen who sometimes mounted checkpoints on the roads usually stop commercial transport buses, private cars and motorcycles forcing any of the occupants suspected to be an internet fraudster to alight.
In most cases, the suspect would not be allowed to continue his journey with the bus.
OSUN DEFENDER had witnessed series of forceful alight of passengers from commercial buses on the Gbongan/Ibadan expressway.
The policemen, after forcing the suspects to alight, will go straight for their phones, asking them to unlock it and thereafter check for some applications believed to be used to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.
If the suspect is indeed into internet fraud (Yahoo), the policemen would first instill fear in him and threaten to prosecute him, in a bid to make him ‘cooperate’ with them.
Findings by the medium revealed that the policemen have considered the ‘Yahoo boys’ as ATM (Automated Teller Machines) from who they can get cash and fraudulent money.
Instead of prosecuting the suspected internet fraudsters, the policemen have resorted to asking for money from the ‘yahoo boys’, and even establish friendship with them for ‘future purpose’.
OSUN DEFENDER gathered that the policemen usually obtain nothing less than N150, 000 from any internet fraudster arrested before he will be released.
One of the claims which the medium was unable to verify is that some of the policemen have Point of Sales (POS) machines being used to withdraw money from the ATM card of arrested internet fraudsters.
The medium learnt that the policemen, sometimes, also follow the ‘yahoo boys’ to ATM points to withdraw cash for them.
Investigations revealed that the ‘yahoo boys’ have strong network among the rank and file of the police, which helps them to negotiate amount and secure the release of anyone of them.
However, some youths who engage in cryptocurrency (bitcoins, forex trading, Ethereum, binance, Litecoin), among others, have also been suffering similar fate with the internet fraudsters, it was gathered.
According to findings, the youths who are into cryptocurrency business are also being treated like ‘Yahoo Boys’ by the police, even when it was clear to them that the suspect is not a fraudster.
OSUN DEFENDER gathered that any young man on whose phone any of the e-business apps was found, are usually made to part away with some certain amount before they are released to go by the police.
Some victims of the police extortion have taken to the social media, particularly Twitter, to narrate their ordeals in the hands of the police.
A young man, Mr. Oluwatosin Babatunde, had taken to the social media to complain how he was harassed, threatened and extorted by the police on the Ife/Ibadan expressway on his way to Lagos on February 17, 2022.
Babatunde who confirmed his post on the Twitter handle to OSUN DEFENDER yesterday, said: “My encounter with the police special unit today, 17/02/2022, was nothing to talk about along Osun-Ibadan expressway. Please I need an honest answer to this question, is it unlawful trading cryptocurrency in Nigeria?
“I was stopped around 8:05am in the morning. I was driving my own car heading to Lagos state to buy my fiancée goods. They were five in number. They stopped me at Ikire checkpoint and my phone was searched and they saw binance message on my gmail, that is where the issue started.
“They ask me if I am into crypto after they have checked all my binance messages and I said yes. They took me to the small station at the checkpoint.
“They told me I will need to pay them before they can release me or they will transfer me to their station and arraign me in court. I agreed to that because I don’t think I can pay that 200k they were asking for.
“They forced me to write a statement and we reached one point where they said I should write it down that I am an internet fraudster by involving myself into what government has already banned.
“I insisted that I won’t write such a thing about myself that they should just do their investigation by checking my history on binance. They threatened me but I insisted and they transferred me to Ikire police station where they later collected N30,000 from me after pleas from my fiancee and her friend.
“The experience for me was bad and not worthy to have happened to me after impeccable evidence that I am not a yahoo guy.”
Another incident of the police extortion was reported by OsunPoliceWatch, a Twitter account tracking activities of the police in the state of Osun.
Operators of the Twitter account had reported on January 21, 2022 that: “A young man was en-route Okitipupa from Osun and was stopped at Akoda, Ede by men of the Prompt Response Unit of the State CID. After his phone was searched, he was taken to their office where they saw pictures of gift cards on his phone and was asked whether he is into yahoo which he claimed he did before he began his crypto currency business.
“They printed photos of the gift cards on his phone from January, 2021 and then went through his bank statements and blockchain wallet.
“He was asked to withdraw 153k (N153, 000) from his account while his phone was taken from him. While the officers were with his phone, his blockchain security key was reset and bitcoins and usd (US dollar) worth $4k ($4,000) transferred from his blockchain wallet.
“He lost access to the wallet and is only receiving email notifications as we speak. After careful intervention, the victim was invited by the same PRU unit and they are asking for an amicable resolution which will involve refunding part of the transferred funds.
“We demand identification and prosecution of the officers involved in this crime since email notifications confirmed the account’s security was breached while the phone was with the officers.
“A total refund of both the #153k (N153, 000) withdrawn from his local bank account and the total refund of the bitcoins worth over $4k ($4000).”
On January 23, 2022, the operator posted on the OsunPoliceWatch: “Update on this case. “The officers who fraudulently extorted the victim have now been identified and detained. The CP, The PPRO and the OC of the PRU unit have all committed to enforce all police disciplinary actions to get them punished.
“The victim has also confirmed that the stolen assets have now been transferred back to him. We thank @PoliceNG_CRU @oluobamzy @WahidSaka @InsideOsogbo and other critical stakeholders who are ensuring that peace is sustained in Osun and this war against police brutality is won.”
The two reported cases are one out of thousands of extortions of the police.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Osun Command, Mrs Yemisi Opalola said it is wrong to assume that all cases of police extortion are done by officers in the state command.
According to Opalola, there are policemen who are posted on the expressways from other states for special operations, saying that if such officers commit a crime, members of the public will wrongly conclude that they are policemen in Osun.
When asked about the specific mention of the PRU of the Osun command of the police, Opalola said anybody who has complaint against any police officer in Osogbo should not hesitate to report to her office.
She encouraged people to always summon courage to report police misconduct to the nearest police station or office of the Police Public Relations Officer at the headquarters of the police.