Residents of Enugu State metropolis on Thursday accused men of the Nigerian police of extortion and intimidation in the guise of enforcing government’s order on lockdown.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had on March 31 banned all forms of social gathering and close down markets across the 17 Local Government Areas of the state.
The measures were introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, which has recorded two confirmed cases so far.
Many residents of the state now live in fear of police officers who are accused of incessant raids on shops, and artisan workshops like mechanic and welding workshops.
Some residents who were victims of such raids and arrests alleged that they paid various amounts of money ranging from N5, 000 to N10, 000 to bail themselves.
Sometimes the negotiated payments are done before reaching the police stations while other times they were taken to the police stations where they had to bail themselves.
Specifically, on Saturday April 4, 2020, police officers from the Ogui Road Police Station raided some shops at Nwosu Terrace, P&T Quarters, Enugu and arrested some shop owners and their sales girls and boys.
During the raid, one Mr Uche, popularly known as Ndudinegwu and his sales girl, as well as his neighbour who is a printer were arrested alongside other people.
Uche told our correspondent that they were taken to Ogui Road Police Station where he paid N8,000 to bail himself and his sales girl.
Again, on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, men of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) Enugu, raided the same street and arrested six boys between the ages of 18 and 26.
The six boys were arrested in a salon when they came to cut their hair.
One of the boys, Obinna who gave the names of his co-victims as J-boy, Nnaemeka (operator of the salon), Victor, Collins and David, told The PUNCH that they were taken to the SARS office at Gulf Estate Enugu, where their neighbour came to bail them at N5,000 each.
A resident of the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, regretted that whereas some youths and families in other parts of the country were being paid social intervention and palliative allowances, those in Enugu who were trying to survive the effect of the lockdown were being exploited by law enforcement officers.
He called on Governor Ugwuanyi and the commissioner of police to come to their rescue since only markets, beer parlour joints, as well as social and political gatherings were banned.
Efforts to get the reaction of the state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Abdulrahaman, or the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Daniel Ndukwe, proved abortive as they did not pick calls placed to their mobile phones.