Some power-drunk mobile policemen attached to the Police Special Fraud Unit in Lagos State on Wednesday seized the telephone and identity card of a reporter with The PUNCH Newspaper, Toni Ufoh.
Ufoh had gone to the Milverton, Ikoyi area of Lagos State where the office of the SFU was located to speak with some prospective tenants allegedly defrauded by a developer, Adewale Tunde.
The PUNCH reporter was talking to the victims in front of the station when he was approached by the policemen, who accused him of filming the SFU building.
The men thereafter seized his telephone and ID card.
All efforts to retrieve the items proved abortive, as the policemen manhandled Ufoh and deleted the pictures of the housing scam victims in his phone.
Recounting his experience, the reporter said, “About three policemen, one in camouflage and the others in mufti, approached me as I was speaking to one of the victims of the fraud at the SFU office gate. They asked to see what was in my phone and I explained to them that I was a journalist and I came to interview some of the victims of the housing scam. They demanded to see my identity card, which I promptly showed them. Immediately, they seized it and took me to their security post.
“One of them searched my phone for the recorded video but could not find any, so he checked the picture folder where he saw a picture of the fraud victims where they had gathered, and he deleted it.
“Despite appeals made to the officers by the fraud victims, some of whom informed them that I was a journalist who only came to interview them, they failed to return my phone and identity card after waiting for several hours. The policemen took me to their office and threatened to lock me up with criminals who would deal with me severely.”
The acting PUNCH Metro Head, Samson Folarin, who spoke to one of the officers on the telephone, urged him to release the items as the reporter was only doing his job.
The policeman, who did not identify himself, said, “What warrant him to come here and interview people? If he was doing his job, that was why we seized his phone, let him explain himself to the CP. The CP is on his way and he knows what is going on now.”
Folarin asked that the matter be resolved amicably.
The officer said, “We have already informed the CP; the CP is already on his way over the matter. We don’t know what can happen. This was how they burnt our stations. What makes him come to interview or video on police premises?”
After all efforts to retrieve the phone and ID card from the officers failed, Ufoh left the station.
He said, “I am just hearing about this for the first time, but I will find out by tomorrow.”
The prospective tenants, numbering about 200, had paid various sums of money ranging from N200,000 to N1m to secure apartments in a house on Obayon Street in the Akoka area of Lagos.
Our correspondent learnt that after the victims paid into the developer’s Stanbic Bank account between November and early December 2021, he disappeared.
The victims were led by a businessman, Obiakor Emmanuel.
The case, which was reported at the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, was transferred to the SFU.
Most of the victims, who turned up at the SFU on Wednesday, used the occasion to demand the arrest of the suspect.
They were being interviewed when the reporter was manhandled by the policemen.