The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and 17 other human rights groups have petitioned the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, to probe a Delta State-based human rights activist, Harrison Gwamnishu, over millions of Naira fraud allegation.
Gwamnishu, whom the petitioners described as a self-acclaimed human rights activist and the Director General of BehindG Bars Human Rights Foundation, was accused of defrauding an Indonesia-based Nigerian businessman, Nnaji Franklin Ifeanyi, of N6million in pretence to help him recover his land in Owerri, Imo State.
The petitioners explained that on July 15, 2022, Nnaji contacted Gwamnishu on his Instagram page and requested assistance to recover some land he bought from someone in Owerri which the seller appeared to have resold to another buyer.
Gwamnishu promised Nnaji that he would help him recover the land and demanded the sum of N2 million for his services, which Nnaji accepted and on the instruction of Gwamnishu, Nnaji made an advance payment of N1.5 million and later paid the N500,000 which Gwamnishu said was for police mobilisation.
After some weeks, Gwamnishu told Nnaji that the petition to the police was ready and he then sent one Tony Ibobo to Owerri to follow up on the case but asked Nnaji not to reveal to Tony the amount he (Nnaji) paid him for the work.
Surprisingly, immediately Tony arrived at Owerri, he demanded money for mobilisation, hotel and other things from Nnaji but he (Nnaji) made it clear to Tony that he didn't know him and asked him to contact Gwamnishu for any money he needed for the work because he had paid for everything.
According to the petition, Nnaji made several attempts to reach Gwamnishu on the phone to find out why Tony was still demanding another money from him after he had fully paid the amount he demanded but his attempts failed as Gwamnishu was no longer answering his calls.
Due to pressure from Tony, Nnaji made another N500,000 to Tony to enable him accomplish his task in Owerri which was to follow up on the petition Gwamnishu said he filed, with hope that when he was able to reach Gwamnishu, he would refund him (Nnaji).
After Tony's efforts to recover the land from the seller failed, he advised Nnaji to rather go for the recovery of the money he paid for the land and eventually, Tony got the police in Owerri to arrest the land seller who agreed at the police station to refund all the money totaling N15million.
The land seller started refunding the money through the police and made an initial refund of N2 million and another N3 million, making a total of N5 million, but out of the N5 million, Tony transferred only N4.2 million to Nnaji and when he asked why, Tony explained that the police took 10% amounting to N500,000 while he himself took another N300,000 which made Nnaji to raise objections.
Meanwhile, he was still unable to reach Gwamnishu on the phone. He sent a text message to Gwamnishu informing him about the new development, and for the first time in over a month after he sent Tony to Owerri, Gwamnishu replied and asked Nnaji to return the money to the land seller saying they should pay all the N15 million at once.
He then asked Nnaji to send the N4.2 million already recovered to him to return to the seller and promised that he would file a court action against the land seller to recover the whole money at once.
Nnaji paid the N4.2 million into an Access bank account with the account name, Chidera Access Bank which Gwamnishu provided, and a few days after receiving the money, Gwamnishu went to Owerri with a lawyer and claimed to have filed a suit but no further progress was made and Nnaji asked him to return all the money he paid to him and allow the land seller to continue with the installmental refund of the money.
But Gwamnishu claimed that he had returned the money to the police through Tony to be returned to the land seller, but Nnaji said that "Tony was mad when I asked him such question. Tony didnt even know I returned the money to Harrison", adding that Tony had been calling Gwamnishu to ask him why he lied with his name but he had refused to answer his calls till date.
After several calls made to Gwamnishu were not answered, Nnaji sent him a message on his Facebook page demanding his money and he immediately blocked Nnaji on Facebook, and later sent a message to him on WhatsApp asking him to stop threatening him and that he needed to change strategy by withdrawing the case from court for Nnaji to get back his money but when Nnaji asked him if he deposited his money with the court, he gave no answer.
Nnaji then contacted the lawyer whom Gwamnishu said he engaged to file the case in Owerri, for the recovery of the land money in whole and instructed the lawyer to withdraw the case, but the lawyer expressed shock to hear that Gwamnishu asked Nnaji to send the recovered money to him for whatsoever reason.
The lawyer however withdrew the case from court, but Gwamnishu refused to return Nnajis money; instead he dared him to do whatever he wished to do.
The petitioners said that Gwamnishu had been persistent in "this objectionable behaviour having been habitually involved in this type of criminal activity of obtaining money from people under the false pretense of offering them human rights assistance.
"We had privately confronted him with the details of the allegation as received and requested and given him time to respond and possibly refund the money which in our assessment, based on the undisputed allegations, we believe he obtained fraudulently from his latest victim under false pretense. But instead of making amends, he dared the victim to do what he likes."
The petitioners said that in a letter dated April 27, 2023, they requested him to refund the money if he has no justification not to do so, and informed him of their determination to stand against fraud, deceit and all forms of inappropriate behavior unbecoming of human rights advocates.
"We gave him one week from the date of the letter which elapsed on Thursday, May 4, 2023 to refund the total money he had so far obtained from the victim in the pretense to assist him recover his land which has turned into a distasteful story.
"It is based on the accused persons failure to comply after the deadline, that we are compelled to write to inform and request the IGP to order an investigation into Mr. Harrison Gwamnishu's criminal conduct."
When contacted for comments, one Tracy Mcwary, who responded on behalf of Gwamnishu told SaharaReporters that Gwamnishu claimed that the N4.2 million was not paid to him but to someone who worked with him.
Mcwary, who identified herself as the Chief Executive Officer of Miss Amnesty Nigeria, however said that Gwamnishu agreed to refund the money on June 30, 2023.
However, Mcwary said that Nnaji and the human rights groups who petitioned Gwamnishu to the Inspector General of Police should withdraw the petition if he really wanted his money back unless if he only wanted to tarnish Gwamnishu's image, questioning of "what benefit will it be for him if after tarnishing Gwamnishu's image, he did not get his money back?"