Mnena Ato, the owner of Star Shawarma in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State, has narrated how she was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over N1,600.
The incident happened after an operative of the EFCC purchase an item of N1,500 from her shop.
Ato who was arrested alongside her accountant and sales boy, noted that the EFCC officer decided to pay for her purchase via bank transfer.
She transferred N1,600 to the company’s account instead of N1,500, but the company did not receive the alert for the transaction early enough.
“All along they were expecting a transfer of 1.5k and not 1.6k. It looks the customer was familiar with the person who did the delivery and the person who made it. And so they kept reminding her about the transaction.
“The customer called the accountant two days ago that she made the transfer and they are saying they have not seen the money? The accountant said he will verify. Meanwhile, the product was delivered on that 9th April.
“Meanwhile, my accountant had brought to my notice that a customer has been calling on 1.6k transfer. I told them to call Stanbic IBTC, our bankers to confirm. Stanbic said there was no transaction. We decided to check our Access Bank account and Access confirmed the transaction. I was briefed and I said we needed to call the customer and apologize.
“The accountant was jittery that he has been threatened of arrest and I opted to call myself. I called the customer with my number. She did not pick. The accountant called immediately and she picked. I collected the phone and pleaded with her that there was a mix up of 1.5k and 1.6k and I apologized for the error. But she insisted that the accountant must report to EFCC office. I asked her why and she said I had no right to ask why the accountant would have to report to their office and that when they come for us we will know.
“I said okay, we have apologized and don’t know what else to do. Barely 10 minutes later I saw over 10 armed men in a bus. I was seated there. None of them spoke to me. They only said they were shutting down the place. At that point, I told them that we are learned persons and should act as such. They came without saying good afternoon, which I think is not the proper thing to do. At that point, they identified themselves. When I asked for warrant of arrest one of the officers asked me why dare I asked for warrant of arrest? But I thought it was the right thing to do when going for arrest.
“So, we left for EFCC office. This was about 3pm to 3:30pm; we were taken straight to the Zonal head office; myself, my manager and another staff. The zonal head asked for explanation. My manager first spoke, then I spoke because the other staff was not in the know when I called to apologize.
“In the course of my explanation, I told him (the Zonal head) that we were afraid of reporting to their office because we were threatened. He then asked if I was trying to insinuate that she (the customer) is trying to use her office to intimidate us? He went on that I was stupid if I am thinking in that line and it was an insult to the EFCC. He repeated same thing and said I should be detained for that. He said what we did was very bad: That we embarrassed their staff by calling her to claim we hadn’t got an alert which is very bad to her image. There and then, I apologized again, that I was deeply sorry if my explanation angered him.
“They asked me to write my statement but I pleaded to be allowed time to write because I couldn’t write my statement immediately; I was shivering and they gave me 30 minutes. I was able to write my statement, after the 30 minutes, after my manager had written his, the third person did not write because he was not in the know of anything. The manager and the third person were later released. I was detained and later released at about 9:30pm or 10:00pm and asked to return the next day (Thursday, 7th May) at 10am, which I did with the manager.”
“I told them that yesterday I did not have access to my phone (after the arrest) and my people because I went home late; I had severe Migraines and went to bed. This morning I wake up late and rushed there without phone. So it couldn’t have been me posting things on social media.
“They seized my phone yesterday and I had to wear bathroom slippers and was kept in one cockroach-infested room even with my asthmatic condition.”
“All along, we kept talking about a customer’s transaction. I didn’t know if it was a guy or a lady until I called to apologize.”
“I feel so very bad, more so, that I have never had any criminal case against me; no not attempted fraud,” she said while speaking to Benue state activist, Ukan Kurugh.
Speaking on the development, Johnson Babalola, the Zonal Head of the EFCC in Benue State, noted that Ato and her employees were invited when an officer of the EFCC who went to the shop to show evidence of online payment she made for a purchase was almost beaten up.
“They intended to beat her up when she went to the shop to show evidence of the payment she made, but she managed to get through to the office.
“The officer was seriously harassed and that was why we invited Ato and her employees to come and she came and explained what happened; and after that, she was asked to go,” Babalola said.
Princess Ada is a Senior Content Creator and Head of Field Reporters at Naija Buzz News. She is a graduate of The Federal Polytechnic Nasarawa, Nasarawa State, where she studied Accounting before joining the media industry. She’s well experienced in Nigeria’s online media space. Ada previously worked as the Head of Business Operations at 1Push.Ng. She is a proud Igbo from Enugu State, South-East Nigeria.