By Oladipupo Awojobi
I had been receiving some strange calls from Monday 4th November, 2019 with some people telling me they had some jobs for our publication. But something told me it was fake and I didn’t fall for the trick.
This continued all through Thursday 7th November. That day, I was sent to Lekki area of Lagos by my boss, the Publisher of First Weekly Magazine, Mr. Dayo Asaju who was away in London for holiday. I was sent there to get a brief for a story we wanted to do for an estate developer and industrialist.
Suddenly, I got a phone call from my wife, Omolara Awojobi, but I didn’t pick the phone because I had just started taking the brief from the estate developer.
However, an opportunity came, when the man took a break to discuss with someone, I then called my wife on the phone to hear what she had to say.
She told me that someone called her from a courier company (name withheld) that she had some parcels with them. She said she searched through Facebook and saw the name of the person on the Facebook page of the courier company.
Meanwhile, the perceived operative of the courier company had told her that he was going to Alagbado Area and that he would want to deliver my wife’s parcel along with the others he wanted to take down.
I fell for the trick too with a reservation, I wonder why I didn’t link that to the calls I had been receiving. Let me digress a bit. They certainly got my wife’s name on my Facebook page and went to her Facebook page, where they copied her phone number.
I am sure my wife was convinced when they mentioned her name, “Omolara Awojobi” since her name is not in public domain. For someone like me, who is a journalist, I cannot be taken aback when you mention my name, I know you must have seen it in one of my stories or on our website. My wife gave them her shop address and she even assisted them to get the place properly through direction on phone.
Alas, they got there and identified themselves as police officers. They told her they came for me that some people used my name and phone number to buy a car and that the issue had become a police case.
She entered their vehicle and they told her to call me and tell me that she had an accident and that she was in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). She declined and said she would tell me she was arrested by the police.
When her call came in, I quickly picked the phone and she told me in a low tone, “Daddy Peace, come and meet me at Ikeja Police Station. Police said you have a case to answer over some people who used your name and phone number to buy a car.”
With this, I knew I was in trouble and that those who were searching for me, probably over a story had caught up with me.
I picked my phone and called my boss, Mr. Dayo Asaju, who told me to calm down and go and meet them and know what really happened.
I also informed my former editor, Mr. Malik Ibitoye, I called my brothers, some of my pastors in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and my colleagues at the Lagos State House of Assembly Correspondents Association (LAHACA).
Then my boss had called the Publisher of City Pride, Mr. Joshua Uloko, who is a crime correspondent. Joshua told me to meet him at Ikeja under Bridge. From there, we went to Area F Police Station, but when I called my wife she said they were at the Police Command Headquarters in GRA.
We took Keke Marwa down to the place. Then, the journey started. Two police officers, a male and a female, led by the female, who is an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), had been dispatched from the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Headquarters, Area 10, Garki, Abuja for the arrest.
They welcomed me and said it was not about any car matter, but that one Mr. Olumide Aderinokun wrote a petition against our organization over a story we wrote against him late August, 2019.
They then collected my two phones from me and the male officer kept the phones. They asked me if I wrote the story and I said I didn’t know where my boss got it from and that my boss was not around.
Then, I wrote several statements beginning with my name and biography generally. Then the company I work for, my position, salary and all that. At that time, it was getting dark, so my wife had to go and I handed my bag and some money to her.
Later, Mr. Uloko help me to get food as I was fasting being the month of 30 days fasting declared by the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor E.A Adeboye for the members.
I was taken to another office, after that I was handed over to the detention officers at the station as the officers came with a detention order from Abuja.
I was stupefied and I asked the officers what was going on, they said they would be coming back. That was how I was kept at a corridor opposite the police cell till the following morning.
The male officer came by 6:30 am on Friday 8th November and I was able to call my wife that I would be taken to Abuja that day.
The female officer came and we took off to Murtala Mohammed Airport, Local and boarded Azman Air to Abuja at 8am. We got to Abuja at 9am and we took a cab to the FCID, Abuja.
They gave me my phones to call whoever I wanted to call. I called my wife, my boss and my younger brother. When we got into the office, a senior police officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) interrogated me and made me to write more statements.
I was also taken to a senior police officer, I am sure they said he is a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DC), who also interrogated me on the story. But I kept telling them I was not the source and that it was approved for publication by my boss.
At a time, my boss spoke with the DSP on phone and he told him to come down to Nigeria. I eavesdropped them that they were trying to get a remand order from the court to get me detained for the weekend and may be beyond.
All along, my friend who had my wife’s number had connected her to Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times, who interviewed her and did a story about my arrest that set the internet on fire.
People were calling me from all corners after that and I was even tired of taking calls, while I was also apprehensive, but I had prepared for the worse.
However, my boss was making calls and he assured me that everything was under control. He contacted Barrister Kayode Ajulo in Abuja, who sent his boys with bail application. Then a senior police officer came around and the matter started taking another dimension as the officers said I would be released on bail.
Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times came in suddenly and started questioning them about why they had to detain me over a civil matter. They calmed him down and he offered to stand as surety for me, which he eventually did with all the necessary documents and undertaking.
Lest I forget, they said they were charging me for criminal conspiracy and malicious damage to the man’s reputation amongst others.
One of the lawyers of Aderinokun also came around to confirm my arrest shortly before I was released. But, after the calls of my boss, story changed as senior officers intervened and I was left off the hook and made to sign an undertaking that I would be back in Abuja with my boss on Tuesday December 10 as my boss had told the DSP that he would be in Nigeria by 3rd December.
My boss arranged my flight money and I took an Uber Cab to the Abuja Airport from, where I connected the last Arik Air Flight to Lagos and I arrived the airport late.
So, I slept at the airport and I reunited with my family on the morning of Saturday 9th November.
It was a nasty experience that I wouldn’t want repeated, but I was told it is part of the hazards of our job!
Oladipupo Awojobi is the Editor of First Weekly Magazine.
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