Human Rights Violation Involving a Pastor in Oyigbo, Rivers State
In August 2020, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) received report of human rights violation from a Pastor in Oyigbo, Rivers State. The pastor, Felix Neenaalebari reported that his wife gave birth late evening of June 26, 2020 and he went to withdraw the only N10,000 he had in his GT Bank account the next day being June 27 but the money got trapped in the Point of Sales (P.O.S.) with a decline notice.
He said from then to August when he reported to Advocacy Centre that he had been going to the POS shop after his bank told him that the transaction went through and the money was in the POS man, one Mr. Henry Ebikam’s First Bank account but he refused to release the money to him. YEAC investigated the matter in September 2020 and went to GT Bank with the Pastor to confirm the position of the money and it was confirmed with two printouts. One to show that there was an initial decline and the second printout extracted on the transaction from First Bank by GT Bank showed that the transaction was successful after after less than 2minutes and the money had been with him since June 27, 2020. Armed with these facts, YEAC established contact with the POS operator, sent him all the documents from bank and requested that he refunds the Pastor but he refused that he has not heard from his bank. All subsequent efforts to resolve matter failed till October. On Friday, October 9, 2020, the Pastor reached out to Advocacy Centre again that he had nothing for his that weekend and requested that we push the POS man further to pay him the money. The Executive Director of YEAC, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface then reached out to a man he knew in Oyigbo, a Police Inspector who is on off-duty to assist in civil status and accompany the Pastor to the POS man shop to appeal to him to please refund the pastor. The Inspector was also director by YEAC to report the matter at the Oyigbo Police Station if the man refuses to refund him. On reaching there, they were told by the sales/POS operator girl that the man is not around. He was put on call and he asked them to come to Oyigbo Police station and as they got there, he arrested the Pastor and detained him for demanding for the refund of his N10,000.
This detention came as a surprised and in reaction, the Executive Director of YEAC who was able in Abuja on invitation of the House of Representatives Committee to make presentation released a press statement (find below) on the matter and demanded for his immediate release and for the pastor not to be allowed by the public to sleep at the Police Station that night. The pastor was eventually later released and when YEAC’s Director returned, he filed an official complaint to the Rivers State Commissioner of Police demanding for the arrest and prosecution of the POS operator for human rights violations and unlawful detention. The matter got delayed and abandoned by the Police IPO, one Inspector Promise Dam since October 2020 till 2021 after collecting N10,000 out of the N20,000 he charged before phoning the POS operator, citing the burning of Oyigbo Police Station as excuse. He later from December 2020 to February 2021 said YEAC should not pursue the matter again since the POS operator later refunded the Pastor and arresting and detaining him but YEAC refused, telling him that the focus is not the N10,000 but human rights violation and unlawful detention among others. On his continues refusal to invite the POS operator, YEAC raised a petition against him to the Commissioner of Police in February 2021, reminding the Commissioner to act on the case and that the IPO should transfer both the case file and the money already received to facilitate investigation to another Police Officer but he refused. In March, another such later was raised again. In reaction to one of the letters, the IPO refunded the N10,000 he had collected to YEAC and abandoned the matter. YEAC’s Director kept on being on the Police and IPO to transfer the case to another IPO as it is not a matter to be swept under the carpet. This process continued from March till September 30 when the Director went to the Rivers State Criminal Intelligent and Investigation Department (SCIID) and the IPO brought the matter to the attention of a senior officer with a view of handing over as we have requested but the senior officer after listening to the case directed that the POS man, Henry Ebikam is phoned in his presence and invited to the Station to see him on Monday, October 4. We turned up and the summary of resolution was that we both the Pastor and YEAC should let the matter to go and the POS man should apologize and it ended so.
The Executive Director of YEAC, Fyneface Dumnamene was not satisfied with this Police ‘judgement’ based on the offence committed and all what transpired within the period including challenge from the POS he had arrested the Pastor and that if the Director of YEAC is angry over it that he can invite the Inspector General of Police. With this dissatisfaction and as a matter of human right violation and unlawful detention that was earlier also reported to the Action Group of Free Civic Space (AGFCS) in Nigeria (https://closingspaces.org/) which Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) is a member, the Police ‘judgement’ was on October 5, 2021 passed on to the leadership for consideration, acceptance or rejection and for the POS man to be sued.
Advocacy Centre waits to hear from the AGFCS.
Below are selected publications and statements on the matter.
PRESS RELEASE: ADVOCACY CENTRE’S VOLUNTEER IS DETAINED AT OYIGBO POLICE STATION FOR DEMANDING THE REFUND OF HIS MONEY TRAPPED IN POS OUTLET SINCE JUNE 2020
This is to inform the human rights community, the media and general public that a member of Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre’s (YEAC) “ONE MILLION YOUTH VOLUNTEERS NETWORK OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND PROMOTERS IN THE NIGER DELTA”, Pastor Felix Neenaalebari based in Oyigbo with his wife and less than 3months old baby has been detained this afternoon at Oyigbo Police Station for demanding the refund of his N10,000 trapped in POS since June 2020 despite our efforts.
THE ISSUE: Pastor Felix reported to ADVOCACY CENTRE in August that few hours after his wife gave birth to his first born in June that he went to POS outlet around the area to withdraw the only N10,000 he had in the account to pay some bills. However, the POS trapped his money that it was not successful but was debited and the money did not reverse till date.
He started going to the shop to demand for the money till August but the POS owner, one Mr. Henry Ebikam: 0706703 0405 refused to refund him that the money is not in his account that he should contact his bank. Pastor Felix contacted his bank and they said the money is in the POS Operator’s Account. The Executive Director of Advocacy Centre, Fyneface Dumnamene early September went with him to his bank, GTBank Aba Road, Port Harcourt and they confirmed with a print out, signed by GTBank that the money is with the POS Operator in a First Bank account. ADVOCACY CENTRE established contact with the POS Operator to address the issue but he refused till date.
This morning of Friday, October 9, Pastor Felix lamented to ADVOCACY CENTRE that he has nothing to feed his family and new baby with this weekend and requested that we further push Mr. POS Operator to get him the N10,000.
ADVOCACY CENTRE called the POS Operator over 5times but he refused to take the calls because he knows our number and worries from us over the Months to pay Pastor Felix. We dropped messages on WhatsApp for him and decided to report the matter to Oyigbo Police Station for the issue to be addressed as the man was already alleging that we were harassing him.
As the Police got there, Mr. POS Operator was called from his shop by his sales girl that Police was there to arrest him over the matter and he called his Police cohort, One Inspector Anikwe Chigbogu (Jewel): 08028847122 at the same Oyigbo Police Station.
As Pastor Felix returned with the Police officer that went with him, POS Operator Police cohort decided to detain Pastor Felix despite our calls in; presence of the Police Officer sent by Advocacy Centre to accompany Pastor Felix to resolve the matter and directive of the Oyigbo Police Station DPO to release Pastor Felix.
As an organization fighting to stop all forms of human rights violations and abuses in society including intimidation of the poor by the rich like this, we will follow this matter to its logical conclusion within the armpits of the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
However we call on all lovers of human rights, the media and lovers of justice to join in calling Mr. POS Operator and Inspector Anikwe of Oyigbo Police Station and demand the immediate release of Pastor Felix to join his wife and little baby this weekend.
The Executive Director of ADVOCACY CENTRE who had also called the Rivers State Police PRO, Nnamdi Omoni and reported this injustice to him will also still do more to get justice for Mr. Felix and have Mr. POS Operator to not only refund Pastor Felix but also refund all expenses incurred in the process of recovering the Pastor’s N10,000 as soon as he he is available in Rivers State.
Pastor Felix MUST not sleep in Oyigbo Police Station through the weekend in addition to his money in the pocket of the oppressor and POS Operator.
FYNEFACE DUMNAMENE FYNEFACE,
Environmental Justice Activist, Human Rights Defender and Executive Director, Advocacy Centre.
NOTICE THAT THE MATTER WAS HOLDING SHARED ON YEAC’S WHATSAPP GROUP ON OCTOBER 4, 2021
This is to update us that ADVOCACY CENTRE has a date with the Oyigbo P.O.S Man that arrested and detained pastor Felix on Friday, October 9, 2020 at the State CID by 10AM this morning.
Pastor Felix’s wife gave birth late evening of June 26, 2020 and he went to with the only N10,000 he had in his account to pay the bills of his wife and new baby but the money was trapped in the POS. All efforts for him to recover the money from June to October, 2020 even when his bank said the money was in the POS man’s account failed. Efforts to collect the money on October 9, 2020 also failed with the man arresting him in his shop and detained him at Oyigbo Police Station through his Police accomplice.
YEAC after receiving official report and intervention that failed raised a petition against the POS man to the Commissioner of Police in October 2020.
The IPO did not take the matter seriously and recommended that we let the matter go since the man later refunded the pastor after arresting him but we insisted that the matter was not about the money (N10,000) but Human Rights Violation. On his insistence and abandonment of the matter, we raised two letters for reminder to Commissioner of police demanding that the IPO transfers the case file and the money we have paid to facilitate investigation to another IPO since he is not ready and willing to handle the matter.
It was in the process of following up with those letters and case since January to last week Thursday that a superior Police Officer directed that the POS man is phoned in our presence and invited to be present at the State CID this morning and for YEAC to come with the Pastor.
This case is not about the money but human rights violations for keeping someone’s money trapped in your POS for three months in your account and when the person comes to ask for the money, you arrested and detained him and then someone would say let the POS man just go because he had refunded the N10,000 when YEAC had spent over three times that amount trying to resolve the issue and defend the rights of the affected citizen.
Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) will continue doing everything within its resources and government approved mandate and objectives to defend the rights of all the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that report cases to us and in which we see merit and the need to resolve and/or approach both the Police and the Court for those ones that we could not handle like this particular one.
We will keep you posted.
Thank you for all your supports and continuous defense of human rights. We appreciate all of you working with us and members of the One Million Youth Volunteers Network of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters in the Niger Delta
Yours in Service,
Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface,
Executive Director, YEAC., October 4, 2021
UPDATES AFTER MEETING WITH POLICE: POLICE ‘JUDGEMENT’ ON OCTOBER 4, 2021
The meeting held and the POS man turned up late by past 11AM with some persons, one of which accompanied him into the senior officer’s office for interrogation. He was asked what happened and he explained his part. The areas of his lies were noted when the Pastor and myself spoke, some of which were that the money was not reversed to his account and that he was waiting on his bank to do so, that he gave transport to Pastor Felix after his release, etc.
I presented his own statement of account from First Bank on the transaction printed for us in September 2020 by GT Bank (surprisingly that GTBank could extract a transaction statement of another bank) as prove that after an initial decline, the money arrived the POS man account same June 27, 2020 within 1minute 20seconds. Therefore, his refusal to refund Felix from June to October and then arrested him when he came to ask for the money was not necessary.
After all said and done, I was happy at the point that the senior officer directed that we leave the office and that the IPO should charge the matter to court.
However, we were later called back to the office and the senior officer intervened in the matter, cautioning the POS man and requesting that both the Pastor and YEAC should let the matter go and forgive. The POS man apologized for his actions and we were asked to please, let the matter go.
While the POS man who is even a boy less than 30years of age from my observation rendered the apology and we left the office after final words by the senior officer and others present, frankly speaking my mind was not clear and still bitter that the case didn’t get further to court for redress because I know what transpired in the whole process and gravity of the matter. The reason is that as a person, I hate when someone deliberately harms me or does something bad to me and tells me “sorry” and walks away scot-free. If the action for which the apology is rendered was by mistake or error, I will understand and accept the apology happily but that of the POS man was not as he used his Police accomplice (like Hush Puppy and Abba Kyari) to violate someone’s rights and he is given opportunity to say “sorry” and he walks back home scot-free instead of having him appear in court and answer questions for his actions to serve as deterrent to others. Even the Police officer that I sent to accompany Pastor Felix in plan cloths as a civilian to help me resolve the issue before the arrest was effected on Felix was called into the station but before then, we were done as we couldn’t speak with him earlier. He said if he were there or had the opportunity to speak that the POS man would have gone to correctional facility but urged us to let go as the Police had pleaded with him.
I wonder how the way this matter ended would serve as a lesson for others or even deterrent to him. I am not just happy and would need some advise from those who can give as well as your thoughts on this matter for a next time on better ways of seeking and ensuring justice for issues of this nature among others.
We left the POS man and his team at the State CID. We understand that whether he likes it or not, his invitation constitutes an arrest and he has to sort himself out.
Thank you for your solidarity and supports. The typos in the first and/or this message is regretted.
Executive Director, YEAC.