By Francis Ezediuno
A human rights group; NOPRIN has petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, over the continued detention of two staff of Bendoricks Travels & Tours Limited, based in Marina Lagos; Ijeoma Ekpe and Peter Joseph by Mr. Joseph Makan, Commissioner of Police, the International Airport Police Command over what it described as a purely civil matter.
Both staff of the travel agency were arrested on the request of one Pastor Alex who was a personal of the CP.
In a petition signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, NOPRIN National Co-ordinator, they requested the IGP to order a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into this case to ensure that the CP Airport and others with him are disciplined appropriately if found to be culpable and also that the IGP should reiterate and make it clear to officers that they should not detain accused persons unnecessarily, especially over matters that are clearly civil.
According to the group, the matter was out of the jurisdiction of the Airport Police Command.
According to NOPRIN, “we wish therefore, to bring to your attention the particular case of the Commissioner of Police, Airport Police Command, Ikeja and to request you to show example with him if he is found culpable of the allegations of abuse of police powers in ordering the arrest and detention of innocent citizens over a civil misunderstanding with the complainant who is said to be the CP’s personal friend”.
It disclosed that it was informed that, “Pastor Alex had approached Bendoricks Travels & Tours Limited, based in Marina Lagos, to procure air tickets for 3 passengers, originating from Singapore to Fiji Islands.
“Pastor Alex had earlier through another travel agency got the first legs of the air tickets from Lagos to Dubai and from Dubai to Singapore. He then approached Bendoricks Travels & Tours Limited to get the connecting flight from Singapore to Fiji Islands.
“Four days to the expected travel date, Pastor Alex got in touch with the Agency and requested a change in the travel date. The agency commenced the process and informed Pastor Alex of the charges to be paid to the airline for rescheduling the booked date.
“Alex asked the Agency to make the payments on his behalf, but the agency categorically told him they were not in a position to do that and asked him to make the payment to enable the airline effect the new date.
“On the 4th day, Pastor Alex came to the agency with the sum of two hundred dollars ($200) to effect the change in date. When the agency opened the transaction, it was discovered that the airline had closed that booking and voided the tickets.
“Based on Pastor Alex’s pleading that the Agency should keep trying to see if there is the possible that the airline might open that booking again, the Agency kept working on it with the hope that if the airline opens the booking again, which has a small possibility, they can make the changes, otherwise they will return his $200 to him.
“At the end, the airline did not open the booking and the Agency could not effect any changes and Pastor Alex was duly informed about this last ditch efforts.
“Pastor Alex started asking for a refund of the ticket fares or brand new tickets! But the Agency made it clear that they could not be held to do that, because he defaulted, not them.
“The next thing was that police swooped on the Airline’s offices and took away two key staff members namely, Ijeoma Ekpe and Peter Joseph to the International Airport Police Command at the first floor of the Departure side, and marched them to the Commissioner of Police, Airport command- Mr. Joseph Makan, who attempted to pressure the Agency staff to either refund the fares or issue new tickets. Of course the Agency stood their grounds.
“CP Joseph Makan instructed that the arrested two Agency staff be taken to the Airport Police Command, Bisam for detention and the case was assigned to one Officer Matthew- 08033208148.
“The two Agency staff members were detained from the 30th of April to 1St of May, 2019 and while in detention, the police also tried all they could to extract commitment from them to do the bidding of the complainant to no avail.
“On the 1st of May, at about 11am, relatives of the detained persons, the complainant and the Agency’s lawyer had a meeting at the police station with the police team led by Mathew. At the meeting the detainee’s lawyer asked the Police to release the detainees on bail and charge the matter to court. The police refused.
“In the course of the meeting, the MD of Bendoricks called from the UK and spoke with the complainant who pleaded that he should use his experience to help him out of this matter and the MD requested that first of all, all his staff detained should be released and when that is done, which the police quickly accepted, the complainant should procure medical reports that one the passengers was sick on the day of travel and therefore the others couldn’t travel”.
NOPRIN recalled that during the visit to Lagos State in April of the IGP in response to the alarming spate of killings by police officers in the state, he warned police officers against reckless abuse of firearms and, among other measures, resolved to hold responsible DPOs and Area Commanders for any further infractions by officers and men under their authority.
It noted that despite this warning, police officers continued to abuse their powers with some senior officers being directly responsible.
By Francis Ezediuno