The Imo State Police Command on Tuesday, paraded six operatives of operation “search and flush” at the command headquarters in Owerri.
The suspects were nabbed in connection to extorting different unsuspecting Imo civilians of their money in the tone of millions at different locations in the state.
Ten victims of the search and flush team who were present at the parade said they were labeled Yahoo boys and forced to pay five million naira at gunpoint when the police arrived and rescued them.
“We were in transit when the police stopped us and started searching us. They said we were yahoo boys but when they searched our phones, they did not find any incriminating thing in them. Yet they still force us to pay money. This is the height of cruelty and wickedness,” one of the victims was quoted to have said.
Briefing newsmen at the command, the state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Barde, said three of the arrested officers are operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), two Civil Defence officers, and one police officer.
Barde said the erring officers will be properly investigated and sanctioned accordingly, describing the act of extortion at gunpoint as armed robbery.
He regretted the rate of extortion, harassment, and intimidation of innocent citizens by the various security agencies in the state especially operatives of Operation Search and flush.
Operation Search and Flush, according to him, is a joint task security force established by the state government, which comprises the police, NDLEA, Civil Defence, and so on.
He further warned officers of the police and other security agencies whose stock in trade is to taint the image of the Nigerian Police Force by engaging in sharp practices including extortion, bribery, kidnapping, and others, to turn new leaves or be caught in the act and face the music.
He gave the names of the suspects as Kelechi Chijioke, male, aged 30, an operative of NDLEA, David Nwaji, male of NDLEA, Nwaka Ikechukwu, male of NDLEA, Obijiaku Israel who is a civil defence officer, Omodi Timothy, male, aged 33, same civil defence and inspector Odidika Augustine, male, aged 37.
One of the suspects, a civil defense officer, David Nwaji, during an interview with journalists, denied collecting money from their victim, insisting that he had never gone beyond doing his routine job of searching for illicit drugs from the public.
But in a counterclaim, a victim by the name of Obiji-Pat Chidera disclosed that he was extorted of one million naira and was later made to pay another nine hundred and fifty thousand naira by the search and flush officers.
Twenty android phones, handbags, and cash obtained from their victims were some of the items recovered from the victims.