How Shell staff connived with police to extort N3m from me — Travel Agent
September 30, 2019 seemed like a normal business day for Dayo Ayoade, Managing Director of Travel Deals Limited, Lagos, until he discovered that Guaranty Trust Bank Plc had placed a lien on his bank account. On approaching the bank, he was arrested and detained at the Area F Police Station, Lagos State without any charge for a period of five days, placed in the cell amongst hardened criminals and handcuffed to the hospital bed like a common criminal and later transferred to Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Enquiries from his family about his whereabouts revealed that a certain Joseph Ezekwugo, Technology Manager at Shell Petroleum, Port Harcourt, ordered his arrest, alleging that he was duped by Ayoade and should be remanded in police custody until he pays the sum of N3.4 million.
Ayoade said: “The whole drama started on July 22, 2019 when one Ayanniyi Babatunde Daniel of Range Travels came to my office to make enquiries about my discount tables for sub agents and expressed his willingness to do business with me. He told me to do travel reservations for Mr. Joseph Ezekwugo from Lagos to Winnipeg on Lufthansa, Ottawa to Winnipeg for his son on West Jet, Lagos to London return for Jenmi Nikky Omolola on British Airways and Oke Oluwale Abayomi on Ethiopian Airline. The reservations were made and immediately forwarded to Mr. Ayanniyi Babatunde via WhatsApp. I gave him my GTBank account number before he left the office to enable him make payment once his client gives his approval.
“Later that evening, an unregistered number called me and introduced himself as Joseph Ezekwugo from Port Harcourt and wanted to know if he’s speaking with the MD of Travel Deals Limited, I answered in affirmation and he told me his agent (Ayaniyi Babatunde) gave him my number and account. I called Ayaniyi Babatunde and notified him of the call from Mr. Ezekwugo Joseph and he confirmed to me that he gave him my details. Shortly after that I got an alert of Seven Hundred Thousand Naira (700,000.00) from Mr. Ezekwugo Joseph. I immediately called the two of them to notify them of the payment and Mr. Ayanniyi told me that more payment will still be made as he (Mr. Ezekwugo) will be traveling with members of his family.
“The following day, on July 23rd, 2019 I received another payment of Five Hundred and Fifty Seven Thousand Two Hundred Naira (N557,200.00). I again notified Mr. Ezekwugo via text message and called Mr. Ayanniyi to let me know the tickets to be issued as I will not be responsible for any increase in fares and he told me he will liaise with his client get back to me and even confirmed that more payment will still be made.
“About a week after, Mr. Ayanniyi came to my office and asked me to issue ticket as follows:
“(1) British Airways ticket to London for Jenmi Nikky Omolola at a cost of Seven Hundred and Fifty Five Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety Eight Naira (N755,598.00).
“(2) On August 19th, 2019, he was in my office to issue another Ethiopian Airline ticket for Vitalla Golla at a cost Three Hundred and Fifty Three Thousand Six Hundred and Two Naira (N353,602.00).
“Same day, he asked me to issue another ticket for a local flight to Mr. Ezekwugo from Port Harcourt to Lagos but I told him we don’t do local tickets because of the stress involved. He then requested that I send him the balance of One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira (120,000.00) after deducting the Twenty Thousand Naira (20,000.00) I borrowed him to enable him source for Mr. Ezekwugo’s local flight ticket.
“On September 26th, 2019 an unregistered number called me and introduced himself as Inspector Dominic from Port Harcourt. He asked if I know Mr. Joseph Ezekwugo and why I issued him a fake ticket. I told Inspector Dominic that though I don’t know Mr. Joseph Ezekwugo in person but we spoke with twice on phone and I didn’t issue any ticket to him. I further told the Inspector that the two tickets I issued from the payment Mr. Ezekwugo gave me were in favor of Jenmi Nikky Omolola and Vitalla Golla which were on instruction Mr. Ayanniyi Babatunde, his agent and that the balance of his money has since been transferred Mr. Ayanniyi Babatunde. Inspector Dominic later made a snapshot of the purported fake tickets to me and I told him that what he sent to me did not originate from me as they did not even resemble my company’s ticket format.
“Shortly after, I called Mr. Joseph Ezekwugo to intimate him of what Inspector Dominic told me but was surprised when he affirmed it. I questioned why he didn’t notify me when he realized the ticket given to him by his agent were fake, he gave no answer to that and further said my company has been used to defraud him by his agent.
“All attempts to get in touch with Mr. Ayanniyi Babatunde who was the one that came to my office to do all the negotiations proved abortive as he initially refused to pick calls and when he eventually picked, he was so evasive as he kept giving excuses of not been around.
“On September 30th, 2019, I realized my GTBank account was frozen and I had to go to GTbank to enquire why there is a restriction on my account, to my surprise, the bank’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) showed me some documents from the Inspector General’s office effecting my arrest on sight. I followed him to the Police Station hoping that the issue will soon be resolved since I knew I had not committed any fraud.
“We met the DPO who took us to the Area Commander and after so much going back and forth, I was detained and locked up in the cell. Due to my ill health, I was moved from the cell to stay behind the counter overnight. My health got worse the following day and was taken to the hospital (Cottage) on the order of the DPO and was handcuffed to the bed. I was treated for my Asthma ailment and in the cause of the treatment, it was discovered I had developed high blood pressure.
“I was moved to police station again on Thursday morning where I spent the day and night behind the counter before Inspector Dominic finalized his paper work and we proceeded on the trip to Port Harcourt. We were to move by road but had to buy flight tickets for the two police officers that came from Port Harcourt namely Inspector Igwe Dominic and Sergeant Oludare Olamide.
“We got to Port Harcourt same Friday, I wrote my statement with the police and later met one Mr. Chukwukaelo Ogadinma who said he is Mr. Joseph’s Personal Assistant. Mr. Ogadinma insisted that I must pay Three Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N3,500,000.00) before I can be granted bail. It was later discovered that Mr. Chukwukaelo Ogadinma is a staff of Shell and was employed by Mr. Joseph Ezekwugo to further confuse and make believe the allegation against me. To further put fear and intimidation in me as well as extort money, Mr. Ogadinma boasted of how much money he had paid the police to effect my arrest and that the said amount must be paid before my release. All pleas to release me fell on deaf ears.
“Not even my proposal to be responsible for the only Two Million Two Hundred Thousand Naira (2,200,000.00) which was the cost of the fresh ticket Mr. Joseph claimed he bought since he already had the plan to travel and to spend One Million Two hundred and Fifty Seven Thousand Two Hundred (N1,257,200.00) yielded any positive result as his “PA” insisted I have to pay Three Million Naira N(3,000,000.00) final payment or else I should remain in police custody. Already I was locked up in the cell with criminals and couldn’t imagine spending another night there.
“When all pleas fell on his deaf ears, a friend of mine, Jide Akinuli transferred Three Million Naira (3,000,000.00) to Mr. Chukwukaele Ogadinma and upon receipt of the payment, which he confirmed via online banking, he asked the Police to release me.
“After all the necessary paper work, I was released on bail later that Friday night.”