Okey Sampson, Aba
The Abia State Commissioner of Police Etim Ene Okon said his command is poised to smoke criminals out of their holes. In this interview, he spoke about the arrests of some Ponzi scheme scammers who fleeced residents of the commercial city of Aba several millions of naira last year and their resurgence. He also spoke about kidnapping in the state, particularly in Aba and how police have carried the fight to their doorsteps.
Last year, police in Abia arrested and paraded some persons in Aba for their alleged involvement in the Ponzi scamming, what’s the situation of the matter?
When I assumed duty here, I was made to understand that the former Commissioner of Police set up a committee to handle the case of Ponzzi scammers. A lot of people were arrested and investigation carried out by the panel. The panel concluded investigation and at the end of the day, the people could not come to terms with those they collected various sums of money and they were duly charged to court and as I am speaking to you, they were remanded in Afara Prison, Umuahia. As far as those groups of people are concerned, about 20 of them, they are in Afara Prison on remand.
We gathered that the phoney ‘business’ has resurfaced in earnest in Aba, what’s your command doing about that?
This is strange to me for now, I have not received the report yet; if they have started again, then we have to get back to the trenches and get them arrested. If they don’t have any papers from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to operate as financial institutions, it means they are doing illegal business, and then we have to arrest and prosecute them accordingly.
What about those who patronise them?
Well, Nigerians, we like quick money. I can only advise Nigerians not to patronise them, they are scammers; they will come and tell you to bring so, so amount of money, in a week’s time, I will give you double of what you deposited. The public should be weary of such things; where will they get the money to double what you deposited in a week to give to you? The public should ask themselves questions before going into such things. Are they into printing and minting as to double the money and give to you within one week? Such moves by them are suspicious and the public should alert the police because we know that they are scammers.
Outside advising the public on the inherent danger in patronising these people, are there no other steps police could take to stop people from taking this risk?
We cannot go and force anybody not to patronise them; our own is just to let the public know the illegality in the whole thing. It is left for, those Nigerians that feel they like quick and cheap money, they don’t want to work hard for the money, if we advise and enlighten them that these are scammers and they don’t want to listen to us, well there is nothing we can do. If they carry their money and put in there, lose the money, that will be up to them. Having said that, if we arrest perpetrators, we will try them in court, but we cannot go after a man that carries his money and gives to them.
Cases of kidnapping appear to be on the decline in the state in the past weeks, what’s the magic wand?
The magic is change of strategy. You know the kidnappers monitor the police, they monitor what the police are doing and we monitor them equally and we change our strategy. The new strategy I brought paid off for us, that within the first three weeks of June, we were able to arrest not less than 22 kidnappers and we recovered the arms and in some cases, the vehicles they were using for operations. We recovered Highland Toyota, Sienna Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and the notorious white bus they were using at that point in time, we recovered it also. So, when they saw the vigour we used in pursuing them, taking the fight to them, I think it dawned on them that Abia is no longer safe for them. That is why within the period aforementioned, there was no case of kidnapping in the state. In all honesty, we are very proactive now, we had to carry the fight to them and there is no going back.
What happened to their victims; were they rescued?
Yes, we rescued some victims; like in Owerrinta, we rescued the two victims that they kidnapped. In Uratta, we rescued a victim that was kidnapped. The man went to buy fuel in a filling station, the kidnappers entered and we had a distress call and we moved in swiftly, rescued the man. Police shot one of the kidnappers on the head and he died instantly while we pursued the rest and arrested one. Within the period, a lawyer was kidnapped at Abayi, on intelligence, we traced where the kidnappers kept him and he was rescued. We have rescued seven kidnapped victims within the past three weeks and we are not relenting.