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INVESTIGATION

Untold stories of how Naval ratings consistently attack, kill Policemen in Calabar

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By Ibanga Isine

Drawing from interviews with naval and police personnel and witnesses, The NEXT EDITION reconstructs last year’s deadly clash between the two services that left two officers dead.

 

More than a dozen naval patrol Hilux pickups barricaded adjoining streets, isolating the Otop Abasi police station in Calabar, the Cross Rivers State capital on May 30, 2017.

As residents scampered for safety under a barrage of gunfire, one woman, her husband a police officer, crouched on the floor of their police barracks home and pushed her children under the bed.

“It was a war. We could not run away because all the routes were blocked and bullets were flying everywhere,” the woman, agreeing to speak in return for anonymity, said.

“My kids had just returned from the evening class when the shooting started. I pulled all of them under the bed while I lay on the floor praying to God to send help.”

The war wasn’t between the navy and waterways militants, neither was it between the police and daredevil robbers.

It was between the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Police – two critical members of Nigeria’s security services who already have a lot to deal with in the growing number of insurgents and criminal activities across the country.

Naval personnel fired machine guns mounted on a pickup, and marksmen targeted the police station – one of the city’s biggest, with a busy neighbourhood filled with unarmed civilians.

In the end, two police officers laid dead, another severely injured with his eye shot and irreversibly damaged.

The military high command, the navy and the police carried out investigations into the incident but none has released a report and no one has been punished or found guilty of any crime.

Neither the Police nor the Navy has made public the actual details of the incident.

Instead, both services have publicly dismissed the severity of the deadly assault that took lives, injured many and put the lives of hundreds of civilians at risk.

While the state Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, described the crisis as “a minor misunderstanding between junior officers,” the commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship Victory, Salihu Jubril, said the incident only affected a portion of IBB Way (a major road in Calabar) and not the entire city. The duo spoke at separate press conferences shortly after the crisis.

Now, a year later, THE NEXT EDITION, relying on interviews with military and police personnel and witnesses, has reconstructed the events of that day.

A former top cop and serving personnel who were victims said they came under attack for daring to demand that naval officers obey the laws of the land.

“We showed them never to ever mess with us and the message was loud and clear,” a naval rating boasted in a popular joint, The Dome, three weeks after the brutal attack.

The rating told his colleagues who might have been posted to Calabar newly that high calibre weapons were issued and used in “teaching” the police a lesson.

That lesson was taught every resident of the general area of Otop Abasi Police Barracks, which houses the largest concentration of police formations outside the state command headquarters in Diamond Hill.

The “pure water” vendor and his Keke

Witnesses, the police and civil rights activists said the bloody clash started at the Stadium Junction by Ibrahim Babangida Way, shortly after the close of work.

A trader in the area, who pleaded not to be named for safety reasons, told this newspaper that a sachet water vendor triggered the problem when he blocked the traffic with his tricycle, popularly called Keke NAPEP.

“We saw everything that happened. It was a pure water seller who parked his tricycle on the road that started the quarrel,” the witness told The NEXT EDITION.

The witness said the water vendor was talking to someone suspected to be a naval rating when a traffic warden accosted and directed him to move the tricycle away to allow for free flow of traffic.

The tricycle was parked at the beginning of the IBB Way by the Stadium Junction along Calabar Road, one of the busiest highways in the state.

It connects several roads and streets including the road to the Government House, the Governor’s office, state secretariat complex, the Cultural Center, the Calabar Mall, Central Bank of Nigeria and dozens of commercial banks and businesses complexes.

When the water vendor stubbornly ignored appeals to move his tricycle away from the road apparently on the orders of the naval rating, the traffic warden signalled one of his colleagues to effect his arrest.

Just as the tricycle was about being impounded, the naval rating confronted the traffic police and questioned his audacity to seize the Keke.

What started as a minor scuffle between the naval rating, the tricycle operator and the traffic warden soon degenerated into a full-scale confrontation, witnesses said.

The witness said the rating suddenly screamed, “Ahoy! Ahoy!! Ahoy!!!” an ancient rallying cry for sea pirates, now used widely by naval ratings.

“At once, two naval officers on mufti rushed to the scene and without asking questions, started beating the traffic policeman and dragging him on the ground,” a witness who gave his name as Cobham told this newspaper.

“We started locking our shops because we knew there was going to be a major crisis as more and more naval men came out from the barrack to join the fight.

“Not long after, one DSP from the nearby Area Command came to the scene and attempted to calm the naval men but they ended up beating him up too.”

Unable to stand the unprovoked beatings by the naval ratings, who at the time had reached seven in number; the DSP held onto one and began to drag him towards his office.

The Akim Area Command is located less than 200 meters away from the Stadium Junction where the fighting started.

As the DSP dragged the rating passed their barrack towards the Area Command, more naval ratings joined but could not disentangle their colleague from the grip of the stout police officer.

It was, however, the violent intervention of a senior naval officer that saved the rating from being dragged right into Akim Police station by the DSP.

Having inquired and was told a naval officer was being dragged to the police station, the senior naval officer was said to have also joined in the struggle to free the rating.

He even tried to push the DSP into the 10 feet-deep drainage along IBB Way as they got close to the police station but the lone police officer would not let go of his captive.

The senior naval officer, however, head-butted the policeman on the mouth and blood gushed out while onlookers shouted for help in vain.

Other policemen watched helplessly while the DSP endured the beatings and head-butts for defiantly insisting on ensuring that one of his assaulters was arrested and made to face the full weight of the law.

After the head-butt, the DSP, who was dripping with blood all over his body, let go of his captive and walked back to his office with his clothes torn.

INVESTIGATION: Untold Stories of How Naval Ratings Consistently Attack, Kill Policemen in CalabarINVESTIGATION: Untold Stories of How Naval Ratings Consistently Attack, Kill Policemen in Calabar

The bombardment of Otop Abasi

 

How the navy declared war on Otop Abasi and its environs

Apart from the rating who boasted that the Navy had sent a strong message to the police not to mess up with its officers and men, observers have questioned why the navy deployed such heavy artillery guns during the crisis.

A member of St. Bernard Catholic Church located inside the Navy Barracks, who witnessed the deployment of troops on the day of the attack, said he saw naval ratings coming out of their barracks machine guns mounted on Toyota Hilux vans to fight the police.

“On that fateful day, I had gone to the church shortly after I closed from work because we were having the Men’s Fellowship Talent Week,” he began.

“I was at the gates to the church and was sharing pleasantries with some of our members when we saw people dragging themselves by the road.

INVESTIGATION: Untold Stories of How Naval Ratings Consistently Attack, Kill Policemen in Calabar

Infographic of Police formations in Otop Abasi

 

“They were going towards the police station. One of those involved in the scuffle wore a military camouflage. They were almost at the police station when suddenly, they retreated.

“We saw them come into the barracks but not long after, some naval ratings emerged with guns and others mounting Toyota Hilux vans fitted with machine guns.

“They attempted to enter the police station but were repelled by the police surveillance team which fired sporadically into the air.

“They retreated to the barracks and sensing what could happen, we ran away from the church that evening.

“I took my family and we drove out of the church premises and other civilian members also fled with their families. We knew the Navy was ready for war with the way their officers were giving commands to their subordinates,” the source said.

According to him, some members who were holed up in the church said it was possible the navy opened their armoury and issued guns to its ratings to fight the police.

 

More witnesses speak

A resident of Barracks Road, who gave her name as Mayen Ita, said the navy blocked all routes to the IBB Avenue and adjourning roads with Toyota Hilux vans mounted with heavy guns.

“I was returning from the Watt Market when I saw naval men with heavy guns mounted on Toyota Hilux vans blocking the Barracks Road and some of their men standing on alert as gunshots rang out of Otop Abasi and Akim Police State,” Mrs. Ita said.

After encircling the police barracks, formations and civilian areas, a detachment of troops supported by heavy guns fired into the area with brutal force.

“It was a war. We could not run away because all the routes were blocked and bullets were flying everywhere,” a police officer’s wife who begged not to be named said.

“My kids had just returned from the evening class when the shooting started. I pulled all of them under the bed while I lay on the floor praying to God to send help.

“I heard when some of the naval men went under the drainage and fired shots into the police station and the barracks.

“I heard when they shot a policeman inside the station and he shouted as he died,” the source recounted with her eyes drenched in tears.

The source said another policeman who was shot during the gunfight was apparently unaware of the crisis and had innocently entered the police station when the gunfire subsided.

According to her, it was a naval marksman stationed across the road from the police station that killed a young policeman called Emmanuel. Those details could not be independently verified.

Apart from the two police officers who lost their lives, another policeman, whose name was given as Ibiang Eteng was shot.

Mr. Eteng, a sergeant, was neither working with the Akim Divisional Police Headquarters or the Area Command that were directly targeted by the troops.

He was attached to one of the serving judges in Cross River State but lived within the Otop Abasi Barracks which is an extension of Akim division.

A relation of the wounded policeman, who pleaded not to be named, told this newspaper Mr. Eteng had closed from his duty post and decided to go to Marian Market to get some provisions for his family.

Without a prior knowledge of what transpired between the Navy and Police, he was at the IBB Road entrance to the Police station when he heard gunshots and thought it was safe to run into the barracks.

As he made a few steps towards the Police station, a high calibre bullet hit his right eye and he fainted.

But by divine intervention, instead of the bullet going through his skull, it plucked the eyeball and went off.

Today Mr. Eteng is blind in the right eye, although doctors at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital did all they could to alleviate his pains.

The bombardment of Otop Abasi

Insert Picture of Akim Police Station here

The clash between the navy and the police could have been deadlier, given the dense population of the area.

This newspaper found no fewer than 17 strategic police formations are located within Otop Abasi general area.

Apart from the police formations, the Police Officers Wives Association (POWA) has chains of shops, which have been rented out to small business owners.

The area is also littered with makeshift structures popularly referred to as “attachments,” created by officers and men, who do not have regular accommodation within the barrack.

Those who know say approximately, 7,000 persons, consisting of police officers and men as well as their family members, operators of small businesses and a large civilian population, live in and do businesses around Otop Abasi, said to the largest barracks in the state.

Insert Infographic of Police formations located within Otop Abasi general area of Calabar Municipality

The Dog Section, the Works Department, State Armoury and Maintenance Department, Veterinary Department, the Police Hospital, the Police Band Department, Police Communications Maintenance Workshop, the Police Children’s School, the Inspectors’ Mess, the Police Transport Workshop, the Female Police Hostel, the Tailoring Department, the State’s Command Stores, the Bomb Disposal Squad, Calabar Area Command, Akim Division and Otop Abasi Barracks.

Our investigation also showed that the Calabar Area Command where the attack was targeted is the largest in the state, controlling 15 divisions.

Its jurisdiction cuts across seven out of the 18 local government areas of the state.

The divisions are Akim, Airport, Atakpa, Uwanse, Efut, Export Processing Zone, Akamkpa and Odukpani. Others are Odukpani, Biase, Bakassi, Akpabuyo, State Housing, Federal Housing, Biakpan and Akpai Omini.

A senior police officer in the state who pleaded not to be named because he is not empowered to speak on the matter said the Calabar Area Command alone boasts of over 7,000 police officers and men, compared to about 1,500 officers and fighting men of the Nigerian Navy in the entire state.

“If our men are deployed to confront the Navy in a full-scale war, we would run them down. We have more men and machines than they do,” the source said.

Barely a week after the incident, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, warned the police to desist from retaliating the killing of their colleagues.

Mr. Idris who spoke through the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Training and Capacity Development, Emmanuel Inyang, however, condemned the level of damage caused during the crisis.

Mr. Inyang, who was accompanied by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 6, Abubakar Marafa, as well as the Commander of Navy Ship, Victory, Salihu Jibril and Mr. Inuwa, visited Akim Divisional Headquarters and those who were injured during the crisis.

“Over the years, we have maintained a cordial relationship with the military and other security agencies. We should not take the law into our hands because of this minor incident,” the IGP cautioned.

Mr. Idris, who gave the advice while addressing officers and men at the Akim Police station, did not say anything about the officers who were killed during the attack or promise to compensate their families.

However, one year after the incident, neither the police or the military has released the report of investigations they ordered into the crisis.

Attempts to speak with the Force Public Relations Officer, Moshood Jimoh, and his counterpart in the Navy, Ayo Olugbode, failed as they would neither pick calls or reply text messages.

 

  • Culled from NEXT EDITION: https://nextedition.com.ng/2018/08/29/investigation-untold-stories-of-how-naval-ratings-consistently-attack-kill-policemen-in-calabar/
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INVESTIGATION

Publication threats: Billionaire bank debtors​ lobby CBN Gov to save faces​

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  • Our decision meant to avert another banking crisis – DMBs

 

Fresh information reaching The Witness has revealed that some top Nigerian billionaires are currently lobbying the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele to save their heads following threats by chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The Witness reliably gathered from inside sources that since the disclosure of the decision by the bank CEOs, some top moneybags have continued to pressure the apex bank and its head honcho to intervene in the decision of the lender to give them time to clear up their debts.

Aside from this development affecting their businesses, bank debtors are more uncomfortable with the idea of making their names public, especially at a trying time like this. They are deeply afraid that the policy may throw them out of business, especially for those of them who need foreign exchange to operate.

Chronic debtors, analysts say, are those debtors who are unwilling to repay their loans to the banks.

The decision which the DMB’s are ready to implement to the letter, is aimed at forestalling the growing amount of non-performing loans NPLs, in the books of financial institutions to avert another banking crisis in the country.

Recall, CEOs of DMBs across the country recently agreed to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The bankers made this known after a meeting held to discuss how some debtors have been allegedly using law enforcement agencies to harass and criminalize bank CEOs.

In a statement, the group said the affected debtors are not ready to repay their loans. The group spoke in Lagos after reviewing what it called the “harassment and criminalization of banks’ CEOs by law enforcement agencies.” It noted that chronic bank debtors were now in the habit of enlisting law enforcement agencies including police, judiciary and state security to harass and criminalize bank CEOs, saying this was unacceptable. “Notably, these loan defaulters are known to have abused court processes as well as using social media to propagate their smear campaign against the banks,” the group said.

A communique issued following the meeting noted that these activities by the law enforcement agencies and the bank debt defaulters were capable of adversely affecting the banking system vis-à-vis the CEOs’ reputation amongst international banks, destroy the economy, and called for these to be checked and managed.

In order to tackle what they see as an emerging threat to banking business in Nigeria, the committee outlined a five-step resolution of actions that banks would need to take. The resolutions and planned actions were arrived at after members discussed and considered different options for dealing with the issue.

Specifically, the banks’ CEOs said there was an urgent need for all banks to cooperate and collaborate to identify and ex-communicate chronic debt defaulters, noting that this goes beyond “publishing names of such defaulters in national media (which is inevitable), but involves all banks speaking with ‘one voice’ and sharing information about those entities, and refusing to do further business with them until they settle their obligations.”

To avoid the kind of crisis that rocked the banking sector 10 years ago, the CEOs urged all agencies and stakeholders to step up and help fight the inherent menace of chronic loan defaulters.

According to the CEOs, the banking industry is the backbone of the Nigerian economy, therefore, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders – regulators, police, judiciary, corporate organizations and media to help save it from activities of delinquent debtors.

Besides, the group resolved that all cases of defaults would be presented and passed through the Bankers’ Committee Ethics Committee just as it intends to work with legal councils and come up with ways and strategies to manage related cases effectively without disrupting businesses and the system.

In a recent publication, Access Bank had threatened to publish the names of customers refusing to settle their debts in national dailies.

In a statement, the bank had said it is acting in line with a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“All Access Bank Plc (including former Diamond Bank Plc) debtors are directed to pay up their past due obligations in order to avoid punitive actions being taken against them,” the bank said.

The statement added, “Please note that we shall publish our debtors’ names in newspapers in two weeks.

“Similarly, in the event that these obligations are not fulfilled, we shall take such further actions against such delinquent individuals and companies as we may consider necessary and shall relentlessly pursue full recovery of all our debts.”

While experts appear to condemn the act of borrowing and refusing to repay the loans, they are more afraid of the bad implication it could have on the macro economy.

Managing director/CEO at BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, in a chat with newsmen believes that since the CBN has autonomy it can take decisions in the best interest of the economy.

He, however, said the idea was good for the banks, but advised that caution should be applied in order to publish only names of those who actually owe.

”The autonomy of the Central Bank should have instrument autonomy which implies that the Central Bank should have unhindered freedom to decide on how best to achieve its mandate without any dictation from any quarters. If the Bankers’ Committee which the CBN chairs decides to publish the names of debtors, so be it.

“We just hope that in embarking on this name-and-shame approach, due care is exercised so that the names of actual debtors are published.

”We had an experience during the immediate past administration when a deluge of rebuttals and retractions followed an attempt to embark on similar exercise. We must avoid such embarrassments this time around.

“If names are to be published, due care must be exercised to ensure the names of only those culpable are published. It is embarrassing and unfair otherwise considering the potential damage to reputation such a move will occasion. It is not good for the creditors for their names to so published as most of these recalcitrant debtors are the juggernauts in our midst; the movers and shakers; the financiers of electoral campaigns who often think that because of their access to the powers that be they remain beyond the law.

”This is a last resort desperate measure meant to stem the wind of distress overtaking the banks leading to a harvest of bank failures. It is good for the banks generally as it has the effect of sanitizing the banks to restore them to sound health to continue to provide banking services, sustain the going concern and continue to return dividends to their many shareholders and stakeholders,” he concluded.

It would be recalled that the immediate-past CBN governor, now Emir Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had published names of those indebted to some of the banks that failed the second phase of the apex bank’s stress test in 2009.

Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON had in 2013 called a governorship candidate in one of the South-south states of Nigeria a chronic debtor for his unwillingness to liquidate his debt to some banks.

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INVESTIGATION

Homeowners accuse CMB Building Company, its CEO Mbagwu of fraud, petition EFCC

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The residents of Pearl Garden Estate and Pearl Nuga Park Estate located at Sangotedo in Lekki/Ajah area of Lagos State have petitioned against the CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Ltd to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraudulent mortgage of some of their homes to secure unapproved bank loans.

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred representatives of CMB, a building and maintenance firm owned by Kelechukwu Mbagwu from maintaining the homes at Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The separate petitions dated May 28, 2019 and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, were signed by Mr Patrick Olowokere, the President of Pearl Nuga Estate and Reverend Adesola Adebawo, President of Pearl Garden Estate respectively.

According to the petitioners, CMB obtained a mortgage from Wema Bank Plc using the affected homes at Pearl Nuga Estate as collateral without the knowledge or consent of the affected homeowners.

Image: Repossessed property at Pearl Gardens Estate from fraudulently-obtained bank loan

“The affected homeowners, namely; Bridget Eko, Osagie Aimiehnoho Jude, Mr Akinola Alabi, Mrs Oluwadara Alabi, Nosakhare Igbinobi and Amos Gaga, paid CMB for those houses to be built and had taken possession of their houses from CMB at different times.

“CMB and Mr Mbagwu fraudulently withheld the title deeds of the houses from the affected homeowners as it withheld those of several other homeowners within the estate,” they alleged in a petition duly acknowledged and signed by the EFCC, copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

However, the bank has begun a recovery of the six houses within the estate following the failure of CMB, the property developer, to repay the loan, according to the petitioners.

Similarly, Pearl Garden Estate also accused CMB of using the homes of four of their members — Mr and Mrs Michael Bassey, Mr Oyeleke Jegede, Mr Larry Amaraibi and one Mr Felix — who had already paid in full to allegedly obtain a N10 million loan from Diamond Bank (now Access Bank).

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred staff or representatives of CMB from Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The petitioners said, “We have no other choice but to believe that other houses of our members and homeowners within the estates may be the subject of similar fraudulent mortgages.’’

Another resident, Mr A. Akeredolu, said: “Some of us have waited endlessly for the commencement of the ‘fictitious’ Pearl Royale Scheme, Pearl Garden Extension and Pearl Nuga Park.

“We paid for these in full since 2010 but have yet to be shown the location of our purchases, let alone the allocations.

“We know projects fail, but they have yet to make any official statement or promise of refund. These people are so bold and fearless, one wonders who is backing them!”

All efforts by our reporter to reach Mr. Mbagwu for his angle to the allegations proved futile as calls and text messages placed to his mobile line were not responded to as at press time.

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INVESTIGATION

Presidential panel probes Delta Senator, Peter Nwaoboshi over corruption allegations

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Senator Peter Nwaoboshi is in hot soup as the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has referred him to the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Etsu Umar, for prosecution.

In its letter signed on behalf of the chairman of the panel, Okoi Obono-Obla, by Dr. Celsus Ukpong, urged the DPP to prosecute the senator on charges bordering on his failure to declare his assets before the panel in violation of section 3(i)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004.

The letter stated that the violation was punishable by the same provision of the Act.

It stated that it had forwarded draft charges to the DPP.

Accompanying the letter dated June 7, 2019, and received by the DPP office on June 10, 2019, were documents contained in the case file forwarded to the Ministry of Justice.

The letter read, “I am directed to you above-named case file for further action.

“The above suspect is under investigation before us for possession of suspicious assets far and beyond his legitimate earnings.

“He has refused to declare his assets before the panel after lawful demand by the special presidential investigation panel.

“This refusal is contrary to and punishable under section 3(i)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004. It shall be appreciated if a charge is brought against him for his offence pending the conclusion of the investigation.”

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