Members of the Nigeria police codenamed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) who wanted to celebrate Easter with money forcefully collected from a group of bloggers and online media practitioners have landed in trouble as the internet and other social media platforms are currently awash with the photos of the SARS officials forcefully collecting money from the journalists.
The four media practitioners under the aegis of Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN) who were returning home from Owerri, the Imo state capital, after a two-day-national convention in the state, were waylaid by the policemen led by one Uche Ndumele while on their way to the motor park to board a bus to their different destinations across Nigeria.
The OMPAN members were in Owerri from Thursday to Saturday, brainstorming on the way and manner to position the online media practice in Nigeria with a bid to reduce the incidence of fake news, curb the excesses of some unprofessional behaviours among bloggers and other online news media and regulate the online media practice as it relates specially to bloggers in the country.
Participants were drawn from all the six geopolitical zones of the country including Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Adamawa, Abuja, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ogun and other states who are known bloggers and online publishers, reporters and editors.
But reports made available to Editor of Emeraldng.com, who also participated in the convention at the weekend, revealed that the SARS officials led by Uche Ndumele in Owerri as the participants were heading home and begin practicing what they have acquired, Juachi Ochu, publisher of www.profjay.com, Matthew Okache, publisher of www.voplink.com, Williams George of www.touristtv.com and Trinity Jesam of detailingcross river.com were arrested by the SARS officials in the Imo state capital for unidentified reason.
The officials may have thought to celebrate their Easter with loots from the online gurus but it was a huge mistake for them as the internet and other social media platforms have gone haywire with the photos and audios of how they forced the four young men, detained one in the station and compelled others to go to the ATM to collect money for them, with the threat that they would be jailed if they fail to do so.
According to the victims: “At about 10:30am on Sunday, on our way to the park to board a vehicle going to our different destinations, we were accosted by men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad. After checking our papers and every other document, we were asked to follow them to their station (state CID) opposite Imo state government house.
“On getting there, we all alighted from the vehicle and a thorough search was made on us and on the vehicle which nothing incriminating were found on us nor inside the vehicle.
“So, we asked for our release and one Inspector Uche, who happens to be the leader of the gang, insisted on we giving them money, probably after having a feeling that we were all in a hurry to go back to our family after a stressful and successful national convention of Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN) in Owerri.
“We pleaded with them to let us go as we are law abiding citizens of Federal Republic o Nigeria but all our plea fell into deaf ears as the inspector refused to listen to us.
“He threatened to put us in jail and indict us with a criminal offense if we don’t give them money. We were advised to make use of the ATM, which I was made to stay back at the station as a collateral while my colleagues went to the ATM to make withdrawals.
They left for the ATM and came back with some cash which was handed to the officers in the attached pictures above.”