A car dealer based in Benue State, who wished to be identified simply as Alhassan, recounted how Anthony Essien Umoette, an officer with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), extorted 40,000 naira from him.
Alhassan told IFJ he was traveling from Akwa to Benue State when the incident happened on October 17, 2022.
“On October 16, I was driving a second-hand vehicle I had just purchased in Onitsha to my base in Benue State when I was stopped by Anthony Essien Umoette and other customs officers along Oji River Road, Old Awka Road, Anambra State,” Alhassan said.
“The vehicle is a Hijet mini truck with all the required customs papers.
“I presented the papers to Umoette, and after checking them, he surprisingly claimed that they were fake. I immediately challenged his claims because I knew my papers were genuine.
“But he insisted the papers were fake, adding that he would only let me on my way if I gave him 50,000 naira. I immediately told him that I didn’t have that kind of money on me.
Alhassan told FIJ that despite several requests, the customs officer not only refused to let him go, but also made him spend a night in an abandoned hotel.
“When all my efforts to convince the officer proved futile, I was forced to pay him 40,000 naira,” the car dealership said.
“I spent the night with the officers and other innocent people whose cars were also stopped at a place not too far from their checkpoint. I begged Umoette all night to release my vehicle, but he didn’t.
“I was made to park my vehicle in the premises of the abandoned Stargate Hotel. All the other victims of the officers’ extortion were made to park their vehicles there as well.
“He clung to his allegation that my papers were fake, and at some point I became helpless. After several hours, he then reduced the amount to N40,000.
“That’s when I called my brother at home and he sent me the money.”
In addition to knowing Umoette’s full name, Alhassan said he was also able to obtain the first names of two officers with him and their states of origin.
“When he reduced the amount for me, he then gave me his account number to transfer the N40,000. I was able to get his full name through that,” Alhassan said.
“His two team colleagues that day were a Mohammed from Niger State and a Buba from Maiduguri, Borno State.
“I knew the states they were from from my interactions with them.”
IFJ has learned that Anambra State, where the incident occurred, is attached to NCS Area C Headquarters.
The IJF made several calls to the phone number made available on the outfit’s website, but they went unanswered. A letter sent to them on Friday had also not received a response at press time.