PUNCH The Lagos State Police Command has arrested four policemen for robbing a software developer, whom they accused of being an Internet fraudster.
The spokesman for the command, Bala Elkana, told PUNCH Metro on Sunday that the cops were being interrogated at the command headquarters, Ikeja.
He noted that three other civilians, suspected to have been involved in the incident, had also been arrested.
“We have the four policemen in custody. We have also arrested three other civilians as well. Investigation is ongoing,” Elkana added.
The software developer, with the Twitter name, Toni Astro@toniastro_, had yet to respond to enquiries from our correspondent as of press time.
However, in a series of tweets on Saturday, he accused the policemen of detaining and extorting money from him after accusing him of Internet fraud.
He tweeted, “I grabbed a bike via one of the bike-hailing services in Nigeria from the Abiola Gardens (Ojota) to Ketu so I could get a BRT from there home.
“About getting to Ketu, two men in police-like uniform stopped the bike and told me to get down. I immediately did, with the mindset that the bike guy did something wrong.
“They asked for my phone and I unlocked it and gave them. They told the bike guy to end the trip and go. So, they gave me my phone to pay the guy from the mobile app. After 20 seconds, they said I was going with them to the station. And I was like, what station?
“Next thing, they pointed guns at my leg, telling me to enter another bike they stopped and go with them to their station. I entered and one of the men asked for N1m and he’d let me go.
“And I was like, N1m? Where would I get that from? I told him I was not what he thought. I’m a software developer at this company. He said everything na yahoo yahoo still. He physically harassed me on the bike still. To every onlooker on the street, I was a criminal or some sort.”
He added that the men took him to Area ‘H’ Command, Ogudu, and he was taken to the back of the station.
Astro explained that the policemen collected his bag, which contained his laptop, chargers and office jotters.
He further tweeted, “As soon as they saw the laptop, the other policemen there said, ‘You’re the one spoiling the economy’. They told me to open it and immediately I did.
“About four other policemen were there, making a total of six. The next thing was slaps and punches, here and there. All I could hear was, ‘Confess you’re an Internet fraudster or not?’ I kept saying I was not a fraudster and that I was a developer for a company and all.
“These guys took off my hoodie and dragged me to the cell, locked me up with no proof or evidence that I was what they claimed me to be. I asked that I make calls, and they said that I would be writing my statement. One of them came to me and asked that I pay N500,000.
“And I was like 500k? From where? I said my student ID card was in my wallet, you could check it and see. They said they ain’t checking any ID card. They went through my emails and WhatsApp conversations and found nothing.
“The beating continued from about four policemen. I requested that I call my relatives or anyone and they didn’t let me. One said I’d sleep in that cell till Monday except I was ready to confess what I did for a living.”
He noted that while the men checked his emails, they saw his account balance and asked him to go and withdraw all the money in the account to pay for his freedom.
Astro said all his explanation that the money was for the treatment of his sick dad and transport to work fell on deaf ears.
He further tweeted, “I explained the whole case to them. They said they didn’t care about his health. I must pay them.
“So, they started threatening me with guns, and one said we’d take you to Kirikiri tonight. Another said we’d call EFCC. Even after they found no evidence or trace of fraud. They went out to talk after one hour of threatening conversations and physical harassment.
“They requested I bring half of the money in my account for them, saying that man must chop. I just wanted to leave there, and I didn’t want it to be dark. It was about 5pm already. I then asked if I could just transfer instead of going to the bank to withdraw.
“And they said so you’d come back to trace us. The other ones started the beating again. They told me to take a bike to a bank close to the station at Ogudu and get the money.
“I left, went straight to the bank to get the money. It was late; I couldn’t tell anyone to lend me a phone when I looked all battered. I got to the ATM, I couldn’t even think straight to get the correct PIN. I got the money and took the bike back to the station.
“As soon as I got back, they took me back to the cell and counted the money. Then they said you can check all your things if they’re complete. All that was in my head was remote job isn’t it. I have to leave this country at the end.
“I packed all my things, collected my watch and left the station at about 6pm. I’m home and safe now, but today still feels like a dream. I was physically harassed for no reason and paying someone or a group of people for no reason out of the money I worked for.”
The tweets quickly went viral and revived the #EndSARS campaign hashtag on Twitter, which became the most trending topic on Sunday.
Many Nigerians, including celebrities and social media influencers, called for the arrest and prosecution of the cops, as others shared their recent ugly experience with SARS operatives.