Immigration probes alleged extortion of US-based lecturer

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The Nigeria Immigration Service has said it is investigating the alleged extortion of a United States-based Nigerian Professor, Moyo Okediji, by men of the service.

Okediji had on Tuesday taken to his Facebook page to post about how he gave $40 to some immigration officers who accosted him at the Seme border and demanded to be “settled” after they conducted a search on him.

Okediji, a Professor of Arts and History at the University of Texas, United States, wrote that after he was released by the men of the Immigration, whom he said “were many”, he discovered that $500 had also gone missing from his luggage.

He further said his ordeal was compounded when suspected officers of the Nigeria Police in the FESTAC area of Lagos allegedly harassed him.

He wrote, “Without the intervention of a crowd of young Igbo men who saved me from the hands of the Nigeria Police attached to the FESTAC Mile Two station, I would be a dead man today (Tuesday).

“I arrived Lagos today (on Tuesday). I came in through Ghana and decided to enter Nigeria by road so I could see the lagoon landscape, riding a Jeep that I hired to drive me down. Everything went well in Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic, until I stepped into Nigeria. The first immigration checkpoint that we encountered was at the Seme border, on the Nigeria side.

“One of the immigration officers took a look at me, and said, ‘Come down, oga.’ To cut a long story short, they robbed me of $500. There were many of them, and they invited me to their shed. They took my hand luggage, with all the money that I brought from the US.”

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He said the official’s excuse was that they wanted to search his luggage to see if it contained contraband.

“They asked for my Nigeria passport. I told them it had expired and I was in Nigeria to renew it. They said it was an offence for me to enter the country with an expired passport. I apologised. But they wanted none of that. They said I had to ‘settle’ them. They had my wallet containing the money I brought to spend in Nigeria.

“They saw two twenty-dollar notes and said I needed to give them these notes, otherwise they would seize all the money in the wallet, and take me to their office to make a statement. I had heard stories of visitors to the country ending up dead when the police invited them to their offices to clear some issues. So, I eagerly gave them the forty dollars. They gave me back my things. But when I counted my money later, $500 was missing,” he said.

The don narrated that when he further got to the FESTAC Mile Two motor park, “three gun-toting police officers appeared.”

“They (the policemen) asked for identifications. I gave them my driving licence, the university-issued ID card, my US passport and my Nigeria passport. They took them from me. By that time, about 10 police officers had descended upon me.”

“Before you could say ‘Ki lo de?’ (what happened?), the police officers searched me thoroughly.

He said he was “rescued” by some Igbo boys at the park, numbering up to 100 before the policemen allowed him to go.

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When contacted, the spokesperson for the NIS, Dotun Aridegbe, said on Thursday that “the situation is being investigated.”

On his part, the Divisional Police Officer, FESTAC, Balogun Gboyega, noted that the lecturer ought to come forward for a report so he could properly identify the suspected officers who allegedly harassed him.

Gboyega said, “The following day (of the incident), you (the lecturer) can take the pain to see the DPO or the Area Commander to make a case and identify these boys, for which we will do an identification parade of every one of them. Every one of them (officers) denied it because there was no complaint.”

Gboyega noted that policemen could search anyone but not to intimidate, harass, or embarrass such a person.

“The man feels that police officers harassed him, he can come and make a complaint,” the DPO added.

He disclosed that the police could not identify if the officers were men of the Area Command or the division because there was no evidence before the police yet.

“Only he (the lecturer) can identify those who did it,” he said, “if he can come, let’s do an identification parade for these people.”

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