Customers and workers at the Lakers Lounge Hotel and Bar, Ikorodu, Lagos State, have accused officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of subjecting them to torture during a raid on the facility.
The workers were attending to customers at the club when the armed officials invaded the premises around 11.30 pm on Friday, June 3.
The officials, who were said to have presented no warrant, also allegedly removed the closed-circuit television in the course of the operation.
They allegedly ordered customers and workers to lie on the floor and beat up those who protested against the raid
A customer, Oladapo Ogunyinka, said the EFCC officials seized peoples’ phones, adding that he had yet to recover his seized property.
He said, “I left Ikeja with two guests to have fun at the club. We were upstairs when the EFCC operatives invaded the premises with guns and sticks. One of them, Olumide, approached our direction with a gun, seized my iPhone PRO Max 13 and Samsung Galaxy A22 valued at N900,000 and ordered us to go down.
“When we got down, the operatives told us to lie down flat. Immediately, the official that seized my phone started doing a video record. The officials went to the hotel attached to the club, broke the doors and brought lodgers outside. There was a particular couple that came out; the man was wearing only boxers, and the lady, a pair of pants and a bra.
“There was a lady that started convulsing due to the shock of the incident and one of the officers still beat her with a stick and said she was pretending. They treated people like animals; if I am lying, they have the CCTV footage with them, and they should play it.
“They tied us in pairs of two; I explained to one of the operatives that I was a realtor that just came to the club to have fun and he informed the officer that led the operation from Ibadan, Chris Odofin, and I was untied. But they did not release my phones.”
Ogunyinka said the operatives instructed him to visit the EFCC office at Ibadan, Oyo State, to ask for one Momoh to claim his phones, adding that despite visiting the office, he had yet to retrieve his property.
“I had nothing incriminating on my phones, so I visited their office and asked for Momoh, who took me to where the seized phones were kept, but I didn’t see my phones. I became angry and started shouting and luckily, I was able to identify the person that seized my phone and Momoh also saw the officer.
“So, their boss had to intervene and told Momoh to call the office. Their boss, who is a woman, gave them 72 hours to produce my phones, but to date, they have yet to produce them. It is surprising that I gave my phones to an EFCC official and he stole my phones instead of tendering them as exhibits.
“The incident was a nightmare. They harassed customers and workers at the club and didn’t even interview most people. I explained everything to their boss in Ibadan and she was just apologising,” he added.
The Human Resources Manager at the club, Ajoke Quadri, said the EFCC officials presented no warrant, adding that business activities at the club had been paralysed after the raid.
She said, “The EFCC officials destroyed the club’s property; they burst into my office and the safe where I keep staff documents. They also destroyed the camera room, took all the DVR and hard drive and cut the wires connecting the CCTV.
“We also have a hotel attached to the club. They took the master card from our receptionist, and went to the hotel’s rooms and the rooms where the master card wasn’t letting them gain entry, they broke down the doors, raised the beds up and brought out lodgers.
“About 105 people work with us; but those operatives harassed my staff, including Gloria Nwankwo, and one of my supervisors, among others on duty. We had to rush the supervisor to a hospital as he could not hear properly after the attack.
“They also burst into my boss’ office, took away three tablets used to punch in sales; they took two phones we used for receiving company transfer alerts. All staff and customers’ phones were taken; most of my staff had to go to Ibadan to retrieve their phones.
“I had to also go to Ibadan to retrieve some of our property. It was when I got to Ibadan that I was able to assist some of the people, including a nurse that was arrested at De Butler’s club but had no money to return to Lagos.”
Officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency recently raided the club and allegedly brutalised customers and damaged some property.
CCTV installed on the club premises revealed as the NDLEA operatives ordered customers to raise their hands while they searched their pockets, bags and purses one after the other.
As seen in the video clip, customers, who resisted the search, were beaten and forcefully dragged from the club during the raid.
In 2019, men of the Anti-Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command also invaded the club and seized from its customers and workers valuables and cash running into several millions of naira.
The management of the club had sought redress over the incident as the Lagos State Police Command arrested 13 of the 19 police operatives for professional misconduct.
Counsel for the club, Femi Martins, lamented the constant raids on the club by security agents, noting that some rivals were trying to perpetrate unfair actions to run the club out of business.
A rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said a lot of victims had been wrongly arrested and stigmatised in the guise of searching for Internet fraudsters, adding that those whose rights were violated should seek redress in court.
He said, “EFCC in recent times has become arbitrary in the way its operatives go about the discharge of their functions. There have been several allegations about the highhandedness of the commission in handling cases regarding cybercrime.
“In their attempt to go after the so-called Yahoo boys, they continuously violate the rights of innocent people. It is expected that before such an operation takes place, a proper search warrant would have been obtained to enable the commission to have legal access to the private property of citizens whether it is built for business or residential purposes.
“And a search warrant has to be targeted at a specific property and individual. Before a search warrant is issued under the administration of the criminal justice act, there has to be reasonable suspicion.
“In a situation where they just invade premises and pick people indiscriminately, and begin to scout for evidence implicating the people that they have arrested, it is not a lawful way of enforcing the law.”
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, had in a statement said the commission arrested 140 suspects in separate sting operations at popular hotels, including Lakers Lounge Hotel and Bar and De Butlers, following credible intelligence on their involvement in internet-related fraud.
“Items recovered from the suspects include exotic cars, electronic devices, laptop computers and mobile phones. The suspects will be charged to court as soon as the investigations are concluded,” the statement said.
Contacted for a follow-up reaction, Uwujaren said, “There is nothing to add to the statement that we issued.”