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FUTO: How Police brutalised, extorted money from students in Owerri

FUTO logo | File Photo

.Students now live in fear, parents lament

‘We are not criminals; we are not Yahoo boys. We are only poor students. Why would they be punishing and extorting money from us when we are not criminals’

By Ngozi Mbaoma

For some students of Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Friday October 20, 2023, will remain indelible

in their memories.

Not that they were commemorating the #EndSARS massacre of October 20, 2020, which claimed the lives of many Nigerian youth; they were being tortured, extorted and humiliated by the policemen at Umuchima Ihiagwa Owerri, who were supposed to protect them.

The day of the torture also co-incided with the third anniversary of #EndSARS killings in Nigeria.

Their journey to the Umuchima Police Post detention camp began around 6pm on Friday October 20, 2023.

Back from lectures few hours ealier, a police van drove in. It was like any other vehicle that comes around the hostel on a normal day.

But that evening, it was abnormal. As the van parked, five stain-looking armed policemen – four in police uniform without name tags, and one in mufty – jumped out of the van; arrested the students outside before going after others inside the hostel.

For asking to know their offence, the students received the beaten of their live at the detention camp.

 By 10pm on Friday, still locked up, the 10 students including a female, were asked to free themselves with N100, 000 each.

Also read: NSCDC nabs ABU student over death of teenager

Before then, the leader of the Police team had brought out an ash-colour tray filled with substance suspected to be Indian hemp and asked the students to hold it, while he filmed – just to incriminate them.

Not satisfied with the humiliation, the helpless students were forced to sign incriminating statement written by the Police, indicting them.

One of the students, who spoke to Nigeria News Flight on anonymity in fear of further molestation, confirmed their plight in the hands of the police, stressing that they [Police] were not wearing name tags.

Still traumatized, he still feared that the police would come after them if their identities were disclosed.

He pointed out that the molestation of students of FUTO by the police had been on for a long time especially off-campus students and appealed to the Inspector General of Police to intervene.

“We are not criminals; we are not Yahoo boys. We are only poor students. Why would they be punishing and extorting money from us when we are not criminals?” he said.

One of the parents, whose child suffered the same fate, Chief John Umunna, lamented the plight of the students.

He narrated that he was called on Friday night to send money immediately for the release of his son detained by the police.

He said that the son passed the night at the police station with other innocent students before he could transfer the money to them on Saturday.

When the Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Henry Okoye, was contacted on the incident, he said that he was not aware of it.

Okoye asked to be given time to talk to the Area Commander in-charge in Ihiagwa before responding, which he never did as at press time.

Even the management of FUTO claimed ignorant of the incident.

When contacted, the Associate Dean of Students Affairs, Prof Ekpe, said that he was not in the position to discus on the issue; but would contact the authority.

 “Personaly I am not aware of the plight of the students even though they live off-campus,” he said.

But some residents of Umuchima, who spoke to Nigeria News Flight said that they were living at the mercy of the police and other security oufits in Ihiagwa and other parts of Owerri.

Umuchima-based trader, John Dike, said that the situation was getting out of hand.

“Students and other youth in this area are whisked away steadily by police on accusation of being Yahoo boys or drug dealers. When they pay money they release them.

“It is unfortunate that this is happening in Imo – once peaceful state,” he lamented.

He appealed to the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, and the Police authority to fishout the bad eggs in the system and punish them accordingly.

Recall that some police men were arrested and paraded for harassing and extorting money from students in Owerri, recently.

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