It appears that officers and men of the Imo state police command are now taking undue advantage of the task force on indian hemp smoking recently inaugurated by the state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to unnecessarily arrest, intimidate and extort money from innocent young persons with dreadlocked hair style in Owerri, Orlu and other parts of the state, accusing them of looking like Indian hemp smokers.
One of such incidents occurred at Works Layout, Owerri, where they arrested three students of the Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri who were walking along the road.
When approached by our reporter who was present at the scene, the police men said there is a law by the Imo State House of Assembly that anybody with dreadlocks should be arrested. They probably did not know that they were talking to a journalist. They insisted on taking the three students to the police station and also threatened to demolish their homes except they were willing to pay N50,000 each for their release or be taken to the police station, from where they will be charged to court for prosecution. Unfortunately, the students could not afford the money and were driven away in a hilux van.
Further investigation reveals that the same team has been consistently arresting innocent young persons with dreadlocks in the area and this has compelled most of them to cut their hair to avoid arrest.
When contacted on the issue, the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Acho Ihim, said he is not aware of such law, stressing that dreadlocks is a style of fashion that is optional to individuals and does not contravene any law.
Similarly, Chairman of the Task Force Committee on indian hemp smoking, Barr. Ijeoma Igboanusi, said there is no such law and wondered why anyone should be creating bad image for the government. She also narrated how men of the Special Armed Robbery Squad (SARS), regularly visit Orlu from Oru West, where they arrest people and extort huge sums of money from them.
She referred to a case where they extorted N300,000 from a suspect and N400,000 from another suspect. She disclosed that her committee has not arrested anybody since they were inaugurated because they have been strictly on sensitization.
When also contacted, the state Commissioner of Police Mr. Chris Ezike, said, “the police has the right to arrest anybody on reasonable suspicion and the suspicion is at the discretion of the police. Besides, a person with dreadlocks may have committed an offence in the past few days hence anybody with dreadlocks stands the risk of arrest for proper identification”.