The US-based professor is now accusing police officials of extorting him in an attempt to recover his stolen gadgets in Lagos.
Before his recent trip to Nigeria last December, Moyo Okediji, a US-based professor, had not been to his home country for 30 years. He had sworn to never visit Nigeria when he left in 1992 because of the traumatic experience he had during the military era.
But, Mr Okediji made a U-turn and decided to spend his holidays in Nigeria. However, his latest visit was even more agonising with his ordeal starting at the hands of Nigerian immigration officials and police officers as he journeyed from Ghana by road into Nigeria.
Mr Okediji accused officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at the Seme border with Benin Republic, of stealing $500 from his luggage. As he tried to overcome the Lagos incident, Mr Okediji was attacked and robbed by armed robbers in his hometown of Ile-Ife, Osun State.
The US-based professor has now accused police officers of extorting him in an attempt to recover his stolen gadgets in Lagos.
“The country has fallen much lower since and is now a danger zone,” Mr Okediji said, adding, “Men in uniform of all descriptions—immigration, customs, police, vehicle inspection officers, and others wearing uniforms difficult to define—have all taken over the country and made it difficult for citizens to enjoy, or even just subsist in their own country,” he said.
Mr Okejidi, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, teaches art history at the University of Texas at Austin in the US.
‘Armed robbery on Christmas Day in Ile-Ife’
“Armed bandits attacked me on the morning of Christmas, approximately from midnight to 1:00 a.m.,” Mr Okediji recalled in an article shared with PREMIUM TIMES. “I was inside my chalet in Ile Ife when a man who described himself as a ‘Fulani herdsman,’ trooped in asking for money?”
“I could make out his mode of dressing: a t-shirt on long pants. He wore a round necklace of tiny white beads. I recognized him: he was one of the two escorts that KE, the driver who brought my goods from Accra, gave me to provide security from Lagos to Ile Ife,” Mr Okediji wrote.
He added that as he refused to bring out money, the armed robber made a “menacing move, pointing the tip of the dagger at me, while at the same time wielding the machete as if he was poised to cut off my head in one sweep.”
“I have killed more than one thousand people. Your life means nothing to me. It’s like killing a fly. Beware. I have given you the last warning. One false move and your head is rolling on the floor,” Mr Okediji recalled how he was threatened.
“I’m an old man,” he recalled responding. “If you kill me, you may actually be saving me from the aches and pains of old age. I’m more concerned about your life than mine. You are young and have a long life ahead of you.”
Then, according to Mr Okediji, the armed robber began to search the room. “He checked the top of the table. He found my iPhone and picked it up. The bandit lifted up the mattress and looked underneath it. There were some documents there. He quickly searched the documents. He found no money there. He dumped them on the floor. He turned, frustrated, back to me. The money, now! Don’t tempt me! You are joking with your life.”
At this point, Mr Okediji noted, “He found my wallet, containing about $300, roughly 1000 Ghana cedis, my credit cards, and identification cards. He took the money, squeezing it. The rest of the contents he threw on the floor, in anger. Then he saw my MacBook laptop and grabbed it, tucking it under his armpit.”
“You had better not remove those electronic gadgets,” Mr Okediji recalled saying, advising the armed robber. “They will track you with the electronic tracking numbers if you take them. It’s the surest way to trace you.”
Mr Okediji said the armed robber disregarded the advice and threatened to kill him and burn down his properties.
“He pointed something at me. It was a rosary. He sneered, ‘Say your last prayer!’ But he heard more gunfire and looked nervously at the door. He opened it.”
“Then he turned back. ‘If you try to come after me, I will fire you,’ suggesting that he had a gun. “And I have petrol. I will burn down this entire place, together with you inside it.”
“You should be leaving now,” I advised him again. “They are coming.”
“I will leave your electronic things outside,” the armed robber told Mr Okediji, as he stepped out. “Tell your people to look around the house to retrieve them. Try to come after me, and you are all dead. There are lots of us surrounding the building.”
“I needed to be extremely careful,” Mr Okediji wrote. “A tap of the machete on my head could prove deadly. I didn’t want to be a dead or wounded hero. I froze where I lay on the floor, assuring him that I was non-threatening.
“I planned to remain physically unscathed and keep my stepdaughter and her baby unharmed. I was sorry for the baby. At five months, he was already trying to survive an armed robbery attack. Nigeria was already happening to him as he slept at night in his bed under the warmth of his mother’s breasts,” Mr Okediji narrated.
“But this was just the beginning of my ordeal, which continued until I fled to Ghana a week later,” the American professor said.
Encounter with police
After the robbery incident, Mr Okediji said he was advised to go to the Ikoyi police station because they had computer-savvy experts and they were the best unit to track the bandits that attacked him.
“A connection led me to the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police there, who instructed his Personal Assistant (PA) to assist me in arresting the suspects. The PA instructed a subordinate office to take me to a kiosk, where they assisted me in writing a petition to the Nigeria Police to assist me in tracking my electronic gadgets and apprehend the bandits.
“They also took a handwritten narrative of the attack as evidence. The officers on duty filed these documents. The ASP of the unit, after carefully listening to my story, and reading the petition, gave me the number of the officer assigned to track and arrest the bandits,” Mr Okediji said.
The academic was assured that the culprits would be arrested the following day, once he discussed with the officer assigned to the case.
“The officer whose number they gave me asked for one hundred thousand Naira,” Mr Okediji said. “I appealed to him to reduce the amount, but he replied with a simple ‘No.’
“He gave me a First Bank account number 3046721216, belonging to one Aborishade Sunday Emmanuel, to which he asked me to transfer the one hundred thousand Naira. I hesitated. One hundred thousand Naira was a lot of money,”
“Those who accompanied me to the police station said I should go ahead and transfer the money so that we could quickly get the suspects arrested. I transferred one hundred thousand Naira into the First Bank account belonging to Aborishade,” Mr Okediji said.
Thereafter, the US academic began to ask questions concerning the man he sent money to: “Was he a real police officer or a private operator? If he wasn’t a real police officer, why did the ASP of Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos, provide me his number to arrest the bandits? What was the nature of this marriage between the Nigeria Police and this fellow?”
Mr Okediji said he wanted to find out the answers to these questions and also have definite evidence of his interaction with this fellow.
He said he received a call from the same person. This time, he was told that the suspects had been tracked to Ore in Ondo State, and Abeokuta in Ogun State.
But, Mr Okediji was asked to pay seven hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N750,000) to arrest only one of the suspects.
“I decided that at that point that I had enough justification to record my conversation with this fellow that the Nigeria Police directed me to call. I felt that it was important to have a record of the conversation for future reference. Not only was it wrong to pay a police officer to do his job, but the demanded gratification was on the high side,” Mr Okediji said.
“Besides, I felt that from that moment onward, it was necessary to have every interaction recorded, for my safety. I suddenly felt that my life was in danger, and I was dealing with an intersection of the underworld rackets of bandits, and a corp of trusted police officers in a nefarious marriage of public extortion,” he added.
The conversation continued over the phone with Mr Okediji requesting the amount be reduced from N750,000 but he was told that the money would cover tracking, transportation, feeding, and even accommodation to the location.
Mr Okediji refused to make the payment saying that it’s “wiser to forget about my stolen gadgets, pray for a better 2024, and calculate the loss as part of the deficit of 2023–a year that came with lots of great things, despite the Christmas bandit attack.”
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the police in Lagos to seek clarification on Mr Okediji’s claims and whether an investigation was being conducted. Benjamin Hundeyin, the Lagos Police spokesperson, did not respond to calls and messages sent to him.
Advice to anybody visiting Nigeria
“Nigeria could be a great country to visit, but the time to visit is not now,” Mr Okediji said, telling people to stay away from the country.
“Wait until Nigeria resolves its security complications with robust police, immigration, and customs reform, which is necessary for the country to enjoy its fair share of the tourist market in Africa, as a colourful country with incredible ethnic nations and peerless cultural endowment.
“But if you must come, perhaps for work, research, or other purposes, you must do something urgently: Buy hidden recording gadgets as you negotiate your way through the country. You will find these video and audio records crucial as evidence of your passages through the country, for your own safety and personal integrity.”
Otherwise, it is unwise to go clueless through the terrain and landscape of this international conundrum called Nigeria, he added.
“It is a country blessed with so many creative talents, yet inflicted with innumerable encounters with corruption, injustice, and violence. The country exhibits a gross inability to control its destiny or understand what is in the best interest of its citizenry.
“Yet, it’s the land of my birth. It’s as if one was born by a wicked witch: do you love her or loathe her? That is the dilemma every Nigerian daily faces,” Mr Okediji said.