A Nigerian journalist, Mr. Onome Amawhe has petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Olukayode Egbetokun and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Mr. Solomon Arase, over his ‘unlawful arrest’ by an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). Amawhe said the arrest was over a disagreement between him and his landlord. The police officer is said to be in Zone 2 Command Headquarters, Lagos.
In the petition dated September 28, 2023, and titled ‘Complaints of Abuse of Office, Illegal Detention and Victimization against ACP Isah Lawal and W/Inspector Jennifer Akaibe of Zone 2 Command Headquarters, Lagos,’ Lawal was accused of summoning Amawhe to Zone 2. Amawhe was reported to have been summoned via a phone call from a female inspector named Jennifer Akaibe for a July 13, 2023 meeting.
The invitation followed complaints by his landlord, Mr. Ahmed Alade, that his rent had yet to be paid. Amawhe said he explained to Lawal that the landlord had ignored his repeated complaints that the apartment had a defective roof which caused leakage that eventually led to the destruction of the art pieces in his house valued at $15,000. Mr. Amawhe also said the rent for 6 months being owed wasn’t intentional as he had been given an invalid quit notice which was in defiance of the Lagos State Tenancy Law.
The petitioner alleged that despite the explanation, Lawal ordered his detention and threatened to arraign him in court on trumped-up charges if he failed to pay the outstanding rent. Amawhe also explained that before the encounter with the police, the disagreement with his landlord had been handled by the Citizens’ Mediation Centre, an agency of the Lagos State Government for the resolution of landlord-tenant disputes.
He said following the July 6, 2023 resolution, his landlord, Ahmed Alade, agreed to pay for the damaged artwork after he (Amawhe) had paid the rent arrears. The agreement reached at the mediation centre was explained to Lawal but he chose to illegally intervene against the warning of the Police Service Commission, the petition alleged.
On April 6, 2023, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Dr Solomon Arase (rtd), a former IGP, had warned personnel of the police to desist from interfering in land and debt collection matters, saying such issues are meant to be handled through alternative dispute channels.
“When I got inside the cell, I tried to inform my family of my whereabouts, but ACP Lawal denied me access to my phone. The next day, the woman inspector came for me and I was handcuffed and taken to court to be arraigned. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to be arraigned for. I was first taken to Tinubu Magistrate Court, which did not sit that day. In an apparent desperate move, I was taken to another magistrate court in Ikoyi, which also did not sit,” the petition stated. After spending three nights in detention at the Zone 2 Command Headquarters, Lagos, associates and friends of the petitioner paid the rent, Amawhe said.
“I was released from cell on the evening of July 20th. Up until now, Isah Lawal and his team have not mentioned my damaged art pieces or made any effort to verify my claim. They simply allowed Mr. Alade to walk away without addressing the issue of my damaged art pieces which I raised at the point of interrogation,” Amawhe stated in his petition.
Mr. Amawhe said he found out that Isah Lawal runs a racket on debt collection by routinely dabbling into disagreements among individuals bordering on civil issues.He alleged that Lawal “collects his share of the money he illegally used his office to extort”.
He continued, “In my case, Lawal willfully infringed on my rights and freedom. After an agency of the Lagos State Government with well-defined tasks to resolve issues similar to that between Mr. Alabi and I had heard from both sides and gave a ruling in line with the law guiding landlord-tenant relationships, AC Lawal illegally took over and unfairly took sides with my landlord.
“AC Lawal did not stop there. He used the premise of inviting me to a meeting to illegally detain me, and denied me access to my family, my telephone and legal representation. He kept me in detention for five days which could have been much longer if fellow detainees had not offered a route to reaching my friends.
“I was able to regain my freedom based on my media background. But I am also concerned about the fate of dozens of detainees I met and left there. They warned me that AC Lawal runs a regime of extortion and illegal detention in the station. And taking a cue from him, my landlord, Mr. Alabi, had boasted to me while in detention about AC Lawal’s illegal order that I would rot in detention until he collected his rent and that he would not pay me any money for my destroyed artworks.”
.The petitioner asked the Inspector General of Police to caution Lawal and protect him from his landlord who had been “threatening to deal with me if I don’t quit his building even though he has not issued me a formal quit notice or paid for my destroyed artworks”.