by Dare Lawal
The police in Lagos has arrested a man, Gregory Ekene Muonyililo, who tried to record a video of what he perceived to be an abuse of office by some policemen at a checkpoint. Muonyillo is a medical worker with a pharmaceutical company in Amuwo Odofin, Lagos.
Recently two videos of police officers extorting hapless citizens went viral leading to the sack of one of the officers, a male corporal who was demanding for a N25,000 bribe. Nothing has been done about the female corporal who was allegedly demanding for N100 bribe.
It was probably in light of those that Muonyililo attempted to record a similar act in his locality. He was not so lucky.
As he came out of his office on his way to lunch, he sighted some policemen on duty who were allegedly harassing a commercial motorcyclist. He thought they were trying to extort money from the motorcyclist and so brought out his mobile phone to use it to video the incident. The policemen, attached to the Area E Command, who saw what he was doing, went away with his phone and later returned to arrest him.
The officers, according to reports, were not extorting the motorcyclist but were trying to arrest him for violating the Lagos State traffic law that restricted the operations of commercial motorcyclists on 475 out of the 9,100 roads in the state.
Muonyililo ‘s brother, Onyeka, said: “Apparently, the policemen set up a checkpoint in front of his office yesterday (on Monday) and were harassing motorcyclists. He went outside to get something and when he saw it, he started videoing it.
“Although he should have been more discreet, he wasn’t and they saw him and became agitated. They collected his phone from him and after a few words were exchanged, left.
“They went back to their duty post with his phone and my brother went back to work. When they later came back looking for him around 4pm, he thought it was to give him back his phone but to his surprise, they told him to follow them to their station.
“From Amuwo Odofin, they took him all the way to the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja, and he was detained and slept there.”
He however said efforts were being made to ensure his release from detention, adding that the police had said they would charge him to court.
The Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), debunked claims that the policemen were demanding bribe from the commercial motorcyclist. She also said that the Muonyililo was not taken to SARS as claimed by his brother but to the X-Squad department of the state command for interrogation.
She said: “I don’t like it when people try to frame the police. I spoke to the man who was arrested and he never told me that the policemen were asking for bribe from the commercial motorcyclist they were trying to arrest.
“What he told me was that he did not like the way the policemen were trying to arrest the motorcyclist and we now asked him what better way should have been employed and he kept quiet.
“Since this issue of video started, people would video and then transcribe and then send it out to the public through the Internet to different social media as part of efforts to paint the police black.”
Braide was not asked and she did not say if videoing a police officer constitutes an offence worthy of spending the night in a police cell.
The Police PRO said that investigations were still ongoing and the outcome of the investigations would determine whether the police would charge the suspect to court or not.
An even more interesting conversation took place when the issue was raised with the state Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, at an event yesterday.
He said: “There are questions you should ask first. Was the motorcycle rider right in disobeying state government laws? Were the policemen wrong in doing their job?”
He was then asked if it was a crime for a citizen to take pictures of policemen on duty. He hedged on his answer, refusing to debunk or affirm it. He however asked why the suspect should take pictures of policemen who were carrying out their legal duties.