A United Kingdom-based Nigerian businessman, Mr. Yinusa Owolabi, has accused the Nigeria police of extorting money from him, as well as harassing him over an incident that occurred in the United Kingdom.
Owolabi, specifically accused the International Police Force (INTERPOL), Abuja, Nigeria, of a frame-up, saying the matter the Nigeria police were meddling in was already being handled by policemen at the Birmingham Police Station, UK, with the reference number, 205W158583E16.
Owolabi’s plight has been taken up by the Human Rights Monitoring Agenda (HURMA), a non-governmental organisation, which had sent a petition to the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
The petition, which was signed by one of HURMA’s legal officers, Mr. Lekan Alabi, was also sent to the offices of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Police Service Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and the Nigerian Bar Association, among others.
The NGO said the police resorted to “this high-level rights abuse and illegality” after a Nigeria-based businessman, Benjamin Olowodola, reported a transaction that occurred in the UK to the police in Nigeria.
HURMA explained that Olowodola had visited Birmingham in August 2016, to purchase generators valued at £42,000 from Eagle Generators Limited, a firm owned by a man identified simply as Nasir.
It said Olowodola consulted Owolabi’s company, Oshramon Ventures Limited, to provide a 40-foot container for the generators.
The petition read in part, “On August 15, Owolabi accepted to cargo the generators at an agreed price and sent an empty 40ft container to the premises of Eagle Generator Limited in Birmingham for onward delivery to the seaport. But the Eagle Generator Limited failed to load the generators into the container between the hours of 11.30am and 1.30pm as agreed by the parties and this necessitated the driver of the truck to leave the empty container behind so that it could be loaded at the seller’s convenient time and that the truck would return the following morning to take it to the port.
“However, when the driver returned to the Eagle Generators Limited the following day, he found out the container was missing and informed his boss, Mr. Yinusa Owolabi, of the development. While Nasir reported the matter at Birmingham Police Station, Owolabi did same at Stratford Police Station, close to his office in the UK. He also took Olowodola to the Stratford Police Station to report, but the officer in charge of the matter noticed same had earlier been reported in Birmingham and transferred the information provided by the two complainants to the Birmingham station that was close to the scene of the incident.”
HURMA said while the UK police were still on with their investigation, Owolabi visited Nigeria for his father’s burial in September and called Olowodola on the telephone to discuss the state of the matter as a concerned businessman.
“But arriving at Olowodola’s office at Tejuosho, Yaba, Lagos, on September 27, men from INTERPOL effected Owolabi’s arrest and detained him in their Lagos office for three days on phantom allegation of stealing, which the accused vehemently denied.
“While in their custody, the police told Owolabi to pay £42,000, the value of the generators. His passport and UK Residence Permit were also seized from him. Having blatantly refused to pay the £42,000, your men extorted N192,000 from him before he was released on bail on September 30.
“He was told that based on the fact of the matter, he could not be charged for stealing. However, for reasons best known to the command, after extorting money him, his passport and residence permit were not released to him.”
HURMA said it was curious to know why the police had refused to release Owolabi’s documents, and why Nigeria INTERPOL refused to send the case to the appropriate jurisdiction where the alleged crime was committed, and why Owolabi was being accused of stealing when the generators were not stolen on the accused’s company premises, but that of Nasir.
The Commissioner of Police, INTERPOL Abuja, Olusola Subair, said the police were still investigating the case and would soon return Owolabi’s documents to him.
He said, “The case was a business transaction which transpired in the UK. The suspect was to help someone ship some generators to Nigeria, but the generators disappeared. The suspect alleged that he had reported the case to the UK, but we need to find out if that is true.
“The two men came to Nigeria and the case was reported to us in Abuja. This man was not detained and so, there is no ground for his allegation of extortion.
“It is true that we have withheld his passport and the reason is that the complainant said the suspect did not report the matter properly.
“We have written to the INTERPOL Manchester, which oversees England. We asked them to confirm to us if they are investigating the case at all.
“All we need to know is if the case was truly reported at Birmingham and Stratford stations. Once INTERPOL Manchester replies in the affirmative, we will release his travel documents to him.
“We have explained all these to the man. The amount involved is huge. Will he be happy if he reported such a case and the police refused to take proper action?”
Speaking with PUNCH Metro, Olowodola said Owolabi should produce an evidence of the report he made at the police station in the UK.
He added that Owolabi was concerned about his returning to the UK, but was not bothered about his (Olowodola) business that had been jeopardised by the theft.
He said, “I do not want to talk to the press about this. If he has spoken to you, go and publish the truth in what he said. You cannot teach the police how to conduct their investigation.
“Let him produce an evidence that he reported the matter to the police in the UK. Let him bring a copy of the statement he wrote. He is concerned about his family and anxious to return to the UK, but he is not concerned about my own business which has been jeopardised for six months. Let God be the judge, but I will not teach the police how to do their work.”
Olowodola added that Owolabi should allow the police to conduct proper investigation into the matter, instead of taking his case to the press.
“How can you say generators worth £40,000 disappeared just like that? He should let the police do their work, and stop making a scene out of this.”