28 August 2008

Cameroon: Massive Police Extortion/Fraud Uncovered

Police in Kumba have uncovered a network of police officers noted for fraud, arbitrary arrests and detentions, seizure and confiscation of receipts for money and extortion from Nigerian citizens seeking for resident permits.

In a litany of complaints written and signed by one Philip Njaru, Executive Director of Friends of the Press Network, the duping skills of police officials of the Special Branch Police Station, Central Police Station and the Third Police District all in Kumba, are laid bare.

The complaints are addressed to the Delegate General for National Security with copies dispatched to the Minister of Justice, Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms, NCHRF; Nigeria Consul General in Buea, the Commissioner of Central Police Station Kumba and so on.

In one of the complaints, one Tim Ateh, police officer and Chief of Identification Post at the Central Police Station, and Inspector Edward Kungo Yeba are accused of allegedly extorting money from Mrs. Bridget Okechukwu.

When Mrs. Okechukwu was arrested last May 18, and detained for three days at the Mile I Police Station, the complaint states, the extortion tactics of Tim and Kungo were reportedly exposed.

While under detention, Tim reportedly received FCFA 45,000 from her as part payment to process a residence permit in addition to FCFA 2500 as cell fees, but instead issued a receipt for FCFA 35,000.

Mrs. Okechukwu said she equally lost business items worth FCFA 25,000 while in detention.

Inspector Kungo, acknowledged receipt of FCFA 80,000 from Mrs. Okechukwu for the processing of a residence permit but the complaint states that he (Kungo) failed to channel the money to the competent service.

"All her efforts have been frustrated by Kungo who has refused to transfer the FCFA 80,000 to the authorities responsible for the processing of application for residence permits," the complaint further notes.

Kungo is also accused of receiving FCFA 80,000 from one Mrs. Cecilia Meserewa Ekoma Chukwebueze to process a residence permit and instead issued a receipt for FCFA 60,000 upon her release from detention.

Another complaint against Inspector Kungo dated June 18, 2008, also reveals the abuse of power by the police officer that ended up in the arrest, detention and extortion of money from one Sunday Okafor Kalu, a Nigerian resident in Kumba.

It is stated that Kungo arrested Kalu on January 15, 2008 and when the victim presented a receipt indicating FCFA 120,000 being fee already paid and awaiting the issuance of a residence permit, the police officer reportedly disqualified it as fraudulent.

Kalu had reportedly paid the money on April 13, 2007 at the Police Station Centre SW 31 and was issued a receipt No 1066561885 signed by one Police Commissioner Henry N. Nkengasong.

But independent sources The Post contacted said Commissioner Nkengasong of the Immi-Emigration Office Buea has never worked in Kumba thus, giving credence to allegations that Nkengasong's signature was counterfeited on the receipt to dupe Kalu.

Under detention, Kalu was once more forced to effect an advanced payment of FCFA 90,000 to the Special Branch Police Station. Upon release, he was requested to report and complete the sum of FCFA 30,000 on March 30, 2008 which was a Sunday.

But Immigration officers once more arrested Kalu on April 1, 2008 at 6:30 am. When he presented the receipt indicating the deposit of FCFA 90,000, the immigration officials refused to recognise it.

He was, therefore, compelled to pay FCFA 60,000 to the officials but instead a receipt of only FCFA 40,000 was reportedly issued, the letter of complaint states.Meanwhile Kalu's wife, Livina Kalu, who was also arrested alongside her husband, was forced to cough FCFA 25,000 to be released on bail while her husband was, according to the complaint, under duress, forced to pay FCFA 20,000 as cell fee for his wife.

Livina had on November 6, 2007, paid an advance of FCFA 50,000 for a residence permit to police officer Jean Claude Kovotseu of the Special Branch.Calling for the extorted sums to be reimbursed to Kalu, Njaru said "if the allegations are true, then severe judicial and administrative sanctions be meted out on the perpetrators."

More Fraud

Other controversial residence permit receipts carrying the name and signature of Commissioner Nkengasong are those of Mary Anne Eberechi with receipt No 1066561702, SW 31, with full payments of FCFA 120,000 and Divine Chidiebere Eluwa with receipt No 1066561824, SW 31.

In yet another complaint, Mrs. Rosita Echita, had effected an advance payment of FCFA 100,000 for a residence permit to Commissioner Luke Mbeny Khen of the Special Branch on February 2, 2008.

But when she showed up with FCFA 20,000 to complete payment, the receipt for the first deposit of FCFA 100,000 was instead confiscated and a certificate of loss No 0016/ADP/PS/112/P3 issued and signed by one Commissioner Jacques Nimpa, who refused to collect the remaining FCFA 20,000.

All attempts to contact Nimpa and the investigating officers of the Special Police Service on phone, failed as all calls fell in the answering machine.When The Post contacted some officials at the Delegation for National Security in Yaounde, August 19, they spoke on condition of anonymity.

They said that the disturbing situation in Kumba is already under investigation ordered by the Delegate General and headed by the special police service in Buea.The Post gathered that all the police officers entangled in the scandal have accepted to pay back the sums they extorted.

One of the officials added that serious disciplinary sanctions including outright dismissal from the police force, suspension and prosecution, hovers on the heads of the perpetrators.

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