A Nigerian lawyer practicing in Gambia, Christopher E. Mene, has alleged an invasion of his buildings in Benin by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He said he arrived Nigeria from the Gambia on May 16, 2023 ahead of the naming of his new born baby when he got a call from one of the security guards on the property located at Number 15 Prince Osagie Street, Igue-Iheya, Benin City.
“At about 4 am on Tuesday the 23rd day of May, 2023, I received a telephone call from one of the guards on the property and the call actually woke me up from sleep.
“He informed me that a huge number of persons numbering about 25 with some of them wearing EFCC red jackets invaded my said property at about 2 am by first breaking the padlock on the small gate and on gaining entrance, broke down all the security doors on each flat and the glass and steel doors on the entrances to the six staircases and several of the inner doors and panel doors and have forcefully taken in all my tenants and some other persons in each and all the flats, together with all the cars in both properties away to their office.
“Later that morning when it was daylight, I went there to see things for myself and my security guard explained to me how they broke into each flat, beat up and brutalised the occupants, broke several doors, inflicted very severe injury on one of the tenants until he bled profusely.
“Blood stains could be seen on the ground from the tenant’s flat up to the front gate and on the wall, where the tenant was reported to have rested his back, while sitting on the ground where he was dumped by the invading forces”, Mene narrated.
He said his wife who is also Lawyer manages the property on his behalf and from information provided by each tenant and contained in their files, the tenants include a Medical Director, Trader, Students of the University of Benin and others engaged in businesses.
He explained that a quick inspection of the flats revealed extensive damage to most security doors and inner doors in most flats as each flat was turned upside down and the tenant’s belongings strewn everywhere.
Mene gave the total cost of replacing the damaged doors as N4, 179, 000.00, adding that the amount may likely increase when the cost of the damage to the protectors were included.
He said at May 25, 2023, the tenants were still in EFCC custody, adding “The information so far received from some of the relatives of the tenants is that the officials are demanding that each tenant pay them N1 million before their release will be considered. Personally however I am unable to verify this information.
“I also learnt that most of the operatives that invaded my property from 2 am to 4 am spoke Hausa. One can only hope that the extreme brutality and impunity display by these officials and meted out on the tenants has no tribal undertones”.
Mene further stated that after he inspected the damage to his property, he went to the Police station at Ugbowo at the EDPA to lodge a complaint over the invasion but the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the station explained that police cannot interfer with the work of the EFCC.
“Such brazen act of impunity and lawlessness on the part of such an Agency is shocking to me. How is it possible in a democracy for a Government Agency to employ such gestapo style to trample on the fundamental human rights of fellow citizens of this country. It is so heart rending”, Mene lamented.
In his reaction, Wilson Uwujaren, Head, Media and Publicity of the EFCC, said
“The commission carried out a sting operation in which 44 internet fraud suspects were arrested at different locations in Benin.
“The suspects have been processed, and 33 are found to be culpable of the alleged crime. I will try and confirm whether the said property at Iheya was affected by the operation.
However, it is important to state, contrary to the claims in the document, that it is not the commission’s standard procedure to break into property except there is a willful attempt by suspects to evade arrest. The picture of gestapo-style operation with many damaged doors so gleefuly painted without images and claims of bribe demand for bail are strange.
“The commission is averse to such. If truly such demands were made, the suspects should file a complaint with the Department of Internal Affairs”, he advised.