The Nigerian Army authorities at Ngwa Road Military Base in Ohanku, Aba, Abia State, have returned the money forcefully collected from a disk jockey team by a soldier attached to the base, Mayowa Adeniyi.
The military also gave one of the victims, Ifeanyi Ogba, N10,000 for the treatment of injuries he sustained in the hands of Adeniyi and his colleagues.
But a rights activist, Okechukwu Nwaguma, who petitioned the National Human Rights Commission on the incident, described the development as a ploy to shield the soldiers from appropriate sanctions.
Saturday PUNCH had reported that Adeniyi’s phone – Gionee A1 – got missing shortly after he arrived at his duty post at Grand Lotte World Hotels on Ehi Road, Aba, on May 26, 2018.
The DJs, including Ifeanyi’s twin brother, Ogbonna, were at the hotel to perform for a colleague who was celebrating his birthday.
Adebiyi accused the five DJs and two others, who he met on the hotel premises of stealing the phone and took them to Cameroon Barracks Police Station, where they were detained without being allowed to write statements.
As the Divisional Police Officer of the station released them the following day, the soldiers in two Hilux vans drove in and took them to their base.
Ifeanyi said the soldiers stripped and beat them with planks and later ordered them to contribute N93,000 to buy a new phone for Adeniyi before they were released.
While they all denied stealing the phone, Adeniyi said he had “a strong belief” that it was stolen by one of them.
Our correspondent learnt that a senior officer at the military base invited Ifeanyi and Ogbonna after Saturday PUNCH’s publication and returned a sum of N66,000 the DJs contributed.
Ifeanyi told our correspondent on Friday that the officer also gave him N10,000 for the expenses he incurred while treating the injuries he sustained during the torture.
“My twin brother and I were invited to the military base on Monday. The army paid us N66,000 which the five of us contributed. They also gave me N10,000 for medical treatment. They asked me to write an undertaking that we have been paid back. They also promised to reach out to the two other men and pay them. My three other colleagues are at school. I have informed them about the development. When they come back from school over the weekend, we will talk about the next line of action because we suffered a lot. We had been paid for some events that were to be held on the day (Sunday) the soldiers took us to their base. They did not release us until in the evening when we could not attend the events again.”
Meanwhile, the National Coordinator, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, Nwaguma, said the refund was an attempt by the army to close the case without bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The rights activist also called out the NHRC for not acting promptly on the petition, urging the commission to intervene in getting justice for the victims.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, promised to contact the military base on the matter and get back to our correspondent with comments. He, however, had yet to respond as of press time.