Twenty-year-old Anthony Moses, the son of a police inspector tells GODFREY GEORGE how he and eight of his family members were allegedly framed and arrested, and detained by men of the Cross River State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department for about a week on trumped-up charges
Briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Anthony Moses. I am from the Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State. I am 20 years old. I am currently waiting for admission into the university. However, I joined the family business; we sell sharp sand. I am also a farmer.
You were recently arrested by the Cross River State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department. What led to the arrest?
Yes, it is true. I was arrested by the SCIID. It all started as a little squabble we had with another family that claimed sole ownership of the beach where we normally dig sharp sand for sale at Ekpene stream in Odukpani. We had a lot of customers who used to come with their caterpillars and diggers and we, the family, would monitor them and charge them for the sand. It rotated between my family and another family. We are both from the Obot-Nkum village, which is known as the ancestral home. When we worked for three weeks, the other family also worked for three weeks. It has been like that for years even before I was born because this is the trade I came to see my father doing before he got a job with the police.
But it was a surprise when, one day, the other family just decided that they owned the entire beach and should not share it again with us. We first thought it was a joke but they started threatening our parents and it became too much for us to bear. So, my grandfather who knew the genesis of all of this took the matter to court. The case was there for six years till the High Court in Calabar, Cross River, gave its judgment. The judge, Justice Ayade Emmanuel, told both families to enjoy the resources as “jointly owned, managed and enjoyed previously to propagate peace and development of the communities”. I have a copy of the judgment given by the judge with me. It was given on June 1, 2022.
What exactly led to your arrest?
Over eight of my family members and I were at the beach, as usual, to supervise the digging and collect the proceeds since it was our turn when we saw some strange boys coming toward us. This was on Monday (July 11). We thought they were people who wanted to buy sand so we didn’t suspect anything. We just noticed that one of them was making a call. All I heard was, “Yes, they are around. They are around.” As we tried to run since I came in my car, they ran towards us and started beating us. They were more than us in number so they beat us badly. I, particularly, was injured in my eyes. Some used sticks to destroy my car’s windscreen and the body of the car. It was when we were being taken that we found out that those men were law enforcement officers. They were police officers who were hired as thugs to come beat us up. They have denied that they were not thugs and that they only came to enforce our arrest, saying that someone notified them that we were cultists. I begged them but they refused to listen. They took us, seized our phones and my car key, and cuffed us, dumped us in the van they came with. I was even bleeding from my eyes and mouth but they didn’t mind. They took us all the way from Odukpani to the SCIID office in Calabar.
How long did you spend in their custody?
I was there for almost one week. I was arrested on Monday; I regained freedom on Saturday. My eyes were swollen up on the third day in the cell because no medication was given. The police themselves took a photo but they refused to let us go. I was tortured for days for what I did not understand.
What exactly did the police say your offence was?
When I asked why I was there, they did not say anything. Later on, they gave us a file while they wrote “Cultism and Conduct” as our offenses. They then told us to sign underneath. I didn’t know what they were talking about. In fact, I suffered. When I told them that my car keys had been seized by someone, they said they would provide my car keys after my release. They didn’t even want to understand anything I said. They were hell-bent on enforcing their order. After we came out on the third day to explain ourselves, the officer in charge then said he would strike out the cultism charge but we must pay money for conduct. The man did not even understand. He didn’t even want to understand. He just said, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Forget about it. It is a normal allegation. Talk about the conduct.”
How much did they request from you?
The police said we should pay N1m for bail. But, we pleaded with them till they reduced it to N500, 000, and then, to N200, 000 which my uncle eventually paid. We even had to bring a lawyer before they agreed to collect the money. They said it is a ‘bail bond’.
Have you gone back to the site since then?
How can I? What if this time around I am killed? The police officers called us back yesterday (Monday, July 18, 2022) and asked us to be interviewed. They even demanded extra money from us. We gave them money. They now said we should return again in a week’s time, possibly, for another extortion. They are not handling the matter how it ought to be handled. They are just ripping us off of our money because they know that site is our only source of livelihood. That is unfair! In fact, last night, one of the officers called me and was threatening me, saying that it was not the way the matter was supposed to end and that if I returned to the police station the following week, he would ‘show me pepper’. Honestly, I am scared. These people are bent on making me suffer for what I don’t know. When I was in the station, I got information from my uncle who came to bail us that my mother was attacked by those boys who had beaten us. She (mother) had gone for her firewood business but was warned not to ever come out to sell firewood again. People used to come as far as Arochukwu, Abia State to buy firewood from her. So, when one of her customers came, those boys attacked them and chased him away. These boys are not even from this village. They have emboldened them with charms.
What do these boys really want? Have they revealed who sent them?
I don’t really know. But, they are obviously thugs from the other family who do not want us to ever enjoy the resources as the court had directed.
What is your lawyer saying about this?
He is confused. He also needs money. I don’t even understand. There is nobody that can talk on our behalf. That is why they are doing all this to us.
How about your father?
My father is a police inspector, serving in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Why then is he not involved in this case? Is he not aware?
He is aware. He came back and took a picture of the car that was destroyed. He also took a picture of my eyes. I heard that the police officers told him to tell me to repair my car and send the bills to them.
What really are your demands?
I need the government to come into this matter. If it does, the matter would not be like this again. At least, we would be sure that this harassment would stop. Since they cannot obey a court order of the High Court, maybe, they will listen to the government. All those police officers have been bribed. We are struggling with how we are going to eat because that is our only source of livelihood. We also have to pay for transport to Calabar every week from Odukpani. The transport fare for the eight of us is N25, 500. How do they expect us to cope with all that? That was how our family was to court in Calabar, too. As I am speaking to you, I am peeling cassava. It has got that bad. If the Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, does not come in, we will all die.