‘How Immigration officers tortured, extorted from me at Oron border’

The Oron border post between Nigeria and Cameroon. INSET is Nzelu

A Nigerian businessman, Chidi Nzelu has accused officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Oron border of dehumanizing and extorting from him.Nzelu, a native of Ojoto in Anambra State, said he was stripped, beaten and made to call his relatives to send N100, 000 or be killed.
According to him, tortured on February 20 and accused of defrauding one Deyong Bruno, whom he claimed to have assisted on February 12, while returning to the country from Cameroon.Nzelu said he innocently assisted Bruno, who claimed to be a Cameroonian and was in Nigeria for the first time, not knowing the man was a mole within a gang of ‘rogue’ officials that specialised in extortion.
Narrating his ordeal, the victim said: “I market pharmaceutical products and usually neighbouring African countries for my business. As I write this, I cannot walk. I am still in so much pain as a result of the dehumanising treatment the Immigration officer at Oron, Cross River State meted to me.“On February 12, I was returning to Nigeria after a business trip to Cameroon. I boarded a boat from Edinau in Cameroon to Oron and in the boat; I met a man who extended courtesies.
“He introduced himself as Deyong Bruno and we got talking. He told me he was coming to Nigeria for the first time and that he wanted to do a survey on a bakery he planned to open in the country. I told him I knew nothing about bakery.
“After about two hours, we arrived Oron. I stepped out of the boat and went for my immigration clearance. When I was done and was about to leave the office, the said Bruno approached me and pleaded that I should help him beg the immigration people to give him some consideration because he didn’t have the required documents.“I joined him and begged the NIS officials and they gave him some discount on the amount he was to pay. They collected N3, 000 from him.
“As I was about to leave again, Bruno approached me and asked my next destination. I told him I was to go to Onitsha but since it was late, I will sleep. over at Uyo and continue my trip the next day. It was about 7pm.“The next thing, this man said he wanted to go and see Uyo. I innocently allowed him to follow me. I did not know he had evil intentions. I was just being nice to a foreigner in Nigeria.”Continuing, the victim said he boarded same taxi with Bruno to Uyo and they lodged at the same hotel.He said: “We stayed in different rooms. While I was checking out the next morning, the man came to me again and said he would be returning to Cameroon to go and prepare himself and then come back with the machines for the bakery.
“Then, he begged me for money that he was short of transport and I gave him N5, 000 and left him. So, I was returning to Cameroon on February 20 through the same route when a group of persons including Bruno accosted me after I had undergone immigration procedures and boarded a boat.
“The man, who had claimed to be a Cameroonian some days back, pointed at me and I was asked to disembark the boat. They took me.l into their office, asked if I knew the man and I said yes. I also explained how I knew him.“The next thing, they said the man told them he gave me CFA420, 000 (N276, 000) to buy goods for him and that he has not seen me since then.

“Before I could utter a word, the officers started beating me. My experience is unimaginable. As they were beating me, I told them I was innocent of the allegation but they refused to listen.“They tortured me to admit that I collected CFA420, 000 from the man. They used tear gas on me and said if I don’t comply, they will kill me and throw my corpse into the water for sharks to feast on. I begged them to hand me over to the police, whose office was next to theirs but they refused.

“They asked how much I had on me and I told them it was only N31, 000. They kept beating me. I. was bleeding but they did not stop. They asked me how much was in my account; I told them there was no money in it. When the torture became unbearable, I negotiated to give them N100, 000.“They gave me my phone which they had seized earlier and said I should call my family members to pay in the money to my account. I called my wife and told her it was an emergency and that she should look for the money and send it. I told her I was in danger.

“She called friends and relatives and finally raised the money which she sent to my account. Immediately I received credit alert, the Immigration officers took my ATM card and went to the bank themselves. They withdrew the money and the returned to their office and forced me to sign a paper that Bruno gave me N100, 000 not CFA420, 000 anymore and that I have given him the money back.

“After signing, they now asked me to go. I could not walk nor sit down. I am using this opportunity to appeal to human rights defenders and other stakeholders to intervene in this matter. I want justice against that cabal that dealt ruthlessly with me.“I believe they have been doing things like these to other innocent Nigerians without being caught.”Contacted, spokesman for the NIS, James Sunday, an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration (ACI) said he was unaware of the incident. A copy of the victim’s petition and pictures were however forwarded to him on WhatsApp for his comment, which was not gotten as of press time.

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