Politics

N700m Gold Stolen From Police Officer: Arewa Traders Association Accuses Police Of Torture , Extortion

 

Members of the Arewa Traders Association (ATA) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have accused the police of torturing and extorting their members in the effort to recover multi-million naira gold allegedly stolen from one of its officers.

Reports have it that no fewer than 34 people have been reportedly arrested, including some of the gold merchants operating in Wuse Market, Abuja, as well as many POS operators, among others, over various transactions linked to the alleged gold theft.

It was gathered that the people arrested in the first week of May, 2024, are still in the custody of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), a unit working directly under the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, which carried out the operation.

How trouble started

The group sent a petition to Amnesty International against the IGP, over illegal detention and violation of human rights.

According to the petition written by an anonymous source, dated May 10, 2024, gold worth more than N700 million said to belong to a chief superintendent of police, simply identified as Bukky was allegedly stolen from the residence of the IGP in the first week of May.

CSP Bukky, according to the report, is the Principal Staff Officer 3 to the police boss.

The gold was said to have been bought by one Alhaji Auwal, who had a shop at Wuse Market, Abuja.

The petition read in part: “The stolen gold finds its way to Wuse Market gold dealers and specifically bought by one Alhaji Auwal who is currently at large to evade arrest.

“The Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Abuja, arrested several members of the Gold Dealers Association of Wuse Market and PoS operators that transacted business with Alhaji Auwal the prime suspect.

“A preliminary investigation revealed that the police IRT unit was working directly under the instructions of the IGP, who had subjected all those arrested to untold and inhumane hardship,” all in an effort to recover the stolen gold.

“One of the fundamental rights violations is that of one Alhaji Amin Sarkin Zabarmawan Kebbi”, whose shop attendant in Wuse Market allegedly bought gold worth N3,000,000, and was picked up by the team that raided Wuse Market.

“Aside the arrest of the shop attendant, items in the shop worth over N100,000,000 were carted away by the IRT. They alleged that the Sarkin Zabarmawan Kebbi and his attendant are still being held by the police.

“Another gold attendant in one of the shops in Wuse Market, Nuhu Usman, who also transacted business with Alhaji Auwal, was arrested and eventually molested, traumatised and forcefully paid N11,000,000 for gold he bought at N6,000,000 at N125,000 per gram of 80gram gold on the instructions of PSO 3 (Bukky)”, the petitioners further alleged.

The petitioners also claimed that a bank statement of Nuhu Usman’s Taj Bank showed that the sum of N13,000,000 was withdrawn from his account, said to have been against his wish, by the IRT members.

The petitioners further alleged that the IRT picked another gold dealer called Musa Aliyu from his residence in Rigasa, Kaduna, moved him to Abuja, obtained a detention order from a magistrate’s court in Abuja, and retrieved N9,000,000 from his Jaiz Bank to pay for gold worth only N3,000,000 that he (Musa Aliyu) bought from Alhaji Auwal (now at large).

We’re under siege – Union

Speaking on Sunday about the incident, the Deputy Chairman of the ATA, FCT chapter, Isa Usman, said the police told them that the jewelry was stolen along with some US dollars after a safe where they were kept was carted away from the residence of the IGP’s PSO.

However, the Police Force spokesman, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, had in a statement released on Wednesday, June 12, said the incident took place on April 28, in the residence of a police officer attached to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, located in the Lugbe area of the FCT.

He dismissed the report that the IGP’s residence was robbed.

“We wish to place it on record that the robbery or any burglary or theft never took place in the IGP’s residence nor any of the official facilities of the Nigeria Police Force.

“Those purporting the robbery, burglary or theft to have taken place in the residence of the IG do not know what the residence of the IG looks like, otherwise, they would have known that no robber, burglar or thief can get close to the residence of the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria and current chairman of the Committee of West Africa Chiefs of Police.

Adejobi also said in the statement that: “Despite police warnings to the FCT Gold Dealers Association to avoid purchasing the stolen gold via their joint WhatsApp platform, Alhaji Auwal facilitated its purchase and instructed his associates on how to handle it.

“Further investigations by the Force Intelligence Department revealed that Alhaji Auwal, his sons and other associates are part of a cartel involved in dealing in stolen jewelry. This group has been linked to previous similar cases under police investigations at various formations within the FCT.

“The 26 suspects arrested in connection with the case and many others, who are currently in custody, are being detained legally under a court order and will be charged to court upon conclusion of investigations, contrary to the news making the rounds.

“The Nigeria Police Force remains firmly committed to ensuring justice and upholding the rule of law. All suspects are being treated according to due process,” he stated.

Trader’s reservations

Usman, who apart from being the deputy chairman of the ATA, is also the welfare officer of the gold trader’s association in Wuse Market, said while they were not averse to police operatives doing their job, especially concerning alleged fraud or armed robbery, they nonetheless, decried the police operations in Wuse Market over the alleged theft.

He insisted that the police manhandled their members in the market.

He also claimed that all those arrested are still in police custody without being charged to court, almost one month since the incident.

Also, he alleged that some of those arrested had nothing to do with the alleged theft. “The remaining people are PoS operators who had a transaction linked with the people of any kind, just as numerous others were arrested following their visit to the IRT headquarters in search of their loved ones.

“I happened to be among such categories before being released. I went there to find out about one of the detainees, as his wife was very disturbed about the development, only for the operatives to hold me in their custody throughout the day, challenging me about the mission before they released me later in the evening.

“The operatives have told us that their main target is one Auwal, accused of distributing the stolen jewelry in Wuse Market and selling it out to some of the traders.

“One of them, as they disclosed, is Anas who was the first person to be arrested. He is the son of the Sarkin Zabarmawa. However, the most worrying aspect of the matter is that they went further to arrest his father, who is no longer visiting the market as he is now concentrating on other businesses,” the ATA welfare officer said.

He said the police informed them that they used a tracker to discover that one of the arrested people, Nuhu Usman, had transacted with the main suspect, Auwal, over the suspected item amounting to 88.2 grams.

Some of the traders who spoke to one of our reporters are particularly worried by the treatment meted on the Sarkin Zabarmawa by the police. They said after the arrest of the traditional title holder and his four children, “everything in his shop, worth over N100,000,000 has been taken away by the police.”

They said the traditional title holder, who is the district head of Fagai, Kebbi State, reportedly came to Abuja and went straight to the IRT headquarters to inquire about the arrest of his shop attendant, only for him to also be arrested and detained.

The traders said they learnt on Friday that Auwal, who was said to be at large, was arrested in Adamawa State and that there was a plan to fly him back to Abuja.

Also speaking on the matter, the deputy chairman of the ATA said an injunction granting bail to the suspects was secured at an Abuja High Court on Friday, but the police refused to release the suspects up to closing hours of the day.

Daily Trust 

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