But for an ATM, which dispensed cash after a previous one had failed, a Port Harcourt, Rivers State resident, John (surname withheld) would have been killed by four operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Rivers State Police Command in Port Harcourt.
Recalling his ordeal and lucky escape, in a piece titled, “The C case of Citizen John: A Plea to help Port Harcoirt,’ OF CITIZEN JOHN – We could be next..’ he said it was one experience he would never forget.
John said was with his wife on a weekend retreat at Golden Tulip Hotel in the ‘Garden City’ some weeks back when he excused himself to go and watch the August 26, 2017 crossover bout between world boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather and martial artist turned boxer, Conor McGregor, at Lamborghini night club.
He said he became sleepy after 1.30am and was driving back to the hotel when around Greg Ogbeifun Street in GRA, he was flagged down by four men of the Special Armed Robbery Squad (SARS) for they introduced themselves as such in the course of the encounter. They were in plain clothes but wore vests with Police inscription.
Unknown to him, he and the policemen were going to emact a street bout like Mayweather and McGregor were engaged in thousands of kilometres away at the T-Mobike Arena on Las Vegas, United States.
In this case, the police were Mayweather facing an underdog McGregor.
They asked him where he was coming from and as he was trying to explain himself, he was handcuffed firmly and asked go and sit in the middle of the back seat of their Camry Car.
They took his phones, powered them off and told him he fitted the description of a kidnapper they were looking for.
They also claimed he was suspected to have kidnapped a woman that night.
The distraught Port Harcourt resident asked them to check his identity card lying in his car and also search his car.
By then, sleep had fled from his eyes as he realised he was in serious danger.
He told them the supposed kidnapped woman was not in his car and so what were they talking about?
They ignored his pleas and when he was reluctant to get completely into the Camry car, he got a very painful machete slap on his knee.
In what looked like a scene from a movie, one of the policemen cocked a gun by his side, and followed it up with a threat to kill him.
That was when I became really scared, he said.
They zoomed off with him while one of the policemen drove his car and followed them, and they kept driving around the city.
Eventually after much pleading he was told that only N200,000 would earn him his freedom.
He said they began to search for an ATM as they drove from Mummy B Road to GRA Junction, then towards Waterlines where he was uncuffed. After an ATM at GTB failed him, another bank ATM was only able to dispense N100,000 which he took to them and informed them that his set limit cannot be exceeded until the next day.
The money was taken grudgingly and they spun around and drove against traffic back to GRA Junction where they released him.
The shortfall was the same way the Mayweather vs McGregor fight fell below expectation, garnering $55.4 million dollars instead of $80m the w
John said he scampered to the safety of his wife thoroughly shaken and traumatised.
Spokesperson for the state police command, Andrew Omoni, could not be reached for comments.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had recently accused SARS operatives of involvement in kidnapping and armed robbery in the state.
Speaking at a press conference, he had alleged that SARS operatives were named in an official police signal, as being responsible for kidnappings and robberies in the state.
He said the issue came to the fore after the Inspector-General of Police X Squad foiled the attempted kidnap of Mr. Azumana Ifeanyi on September 11, 2017 at GRA in Port Harcourt.
He said the killing of a SARA operative in the incident said the reported killing of an operative at Oroazi area of the state had vindicated him.
Wike recalled that when he was elected in 2015, he wrote to then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, alleging that a top SARS operative was involved in crimes in the state but was ignored.
Also in Rivers State, five SARS operatives were found guilty by a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, of the extra-judicial killing of two friends.
The operatives were led by ASP Samuel Chigbu while the victims of extra-judicial killing were Michael Akor and Michael Igwe in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state.
Michael Akor (28) and his friend, Michael Igwe were arrested on June 22, 2009 by the security agents, who eventually killed them in a bush in Oyigbo the next day.
Apart from finding the SARS operatives guilty, the court ordered the Nigeria Police to pay N50 million compensation to the families of the victims.
Justice Adolphus Enebeli gave the order in an enforcement of fundamental human rights suit brought before the court, even as he declared that the team intentionally killed the two men.
Justice Enebeli observed that no investigation or trial was carried out by the security agents before shooting and killing the two young graduates, adding that their action was contrary to some sections of the Constitution.
He averred that the defence that the victims were hit by bullets during a crossfire between the police and a group of hoodlums was not substantiated and declared that it was not a coincidence that the two victims were shot at the same part of their bodies.
The judge added that the victims died at Briathwaite Memorial Hospital and were buried at the same place and time.
The errant operatives have since been dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force.