BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Four Victims of alleged atrocities committed by men of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have testified before the Lagos Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of SARS related abuses.
The petitioners are: Emmanuel Ajomafuwe, Mrs Silifat Adeyemo, Hannah Olugbodi, Mrs. Hannah Olugbodi, Marc Chidebere Nwadi and Omeli Humphrey all gave emotional testimonies before the eight-member panel presided over by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi.
The first petitioner, Emmanuel Akomafuwe narrated how he and his girlfriend (Adaugo) were stopped by SARS operatives around 7pm on April 13, 2019.
Akomafuwe said when he sought to know why they were stopped, an argument ensued and he was shot in the head by a police officer, who he later came to know as Inspector Dan Ojo.
He also claimed that the police Inspector also shot his girlfriend, Adaugo in the stomach and leg.
The petitioner said after the shooting, the police officers, six of them, took to their heels and left them at the scene to die.
Akomafuwe is however lucky that he’s still alive but sad that his girlfriend later died in the hospital.
He stated, “The news of the incident was published in the newspapers and after this the commissioner of police promised to pay my hospital bills but this did not happen and the police never returned to visit.
“I did scans on my skull and brain at Reddington, and also checked in Dubai. My sanity hasn’t been the same since the incident and I still can’t sleep without pills. But the officers involved are living their lives. Some of them were arrested but they have been released. None of them have been punished”.
The petitioner says he wants the panel to remind the Nigerian Police Force of his case and ensure that Inspector Dan Ojo is arrested and punished. He also wants the police to fulfill its promises and pay his hospital bills.
The Police counsel however asked for more time to enable them review the petition.
They say they’ve only just become aware of the case and many officers are said to be involved, so there’s a need for time to track them.
The panel adjourned the petition to Dec 11th 2020 for the cross examination of the petitioner.
The second petitioner was Mrs Silifat Adeyemo, who told the panel that husband , an official of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Rotimi Adeyemo, was killed by a policeman at Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos in November 2018.
The widow, who was in tears all through her testimony, said her husband was at his duty post at Iyana Ipaja roundabout on November 28, 2018, when he was killed in cold blood by an official of the disbanded police Special Anti- Robbery Squad, Olakunle Olonade.
Mrs. Adeyemo, “At 10pm that day, my sister in-law came to my house and told me my husband was involved in an accident. I thought we were going to the hospital but instead, we went to my family house, that was when I was told that my husband was dead.”
The petitioner pointed out that her husband was a very popular man in the area so after he was killed, boys in the area gathered to beat up the SARS official involved, the official she learnt was later rescued by the police. She however says no punishment to the SARS officer can bring her husband back.
When asked what she wants the panel to do for her, she says that her husband left her with three children, including a set of twins, aged parents, she wants the panel to help with her children’s education.
However, during cross examination, the counsel to the police, Joseph Eboseremen, says that the SARS official involved was not just beaten up by boys and officials of Lastma, he was also lynched to death.
The counsel also asked if she did not receive a N10m compensation from the Lagos State Government. The petitioner agreed that she did but says the compensation is not from the Police.
When the counsel tried to suggest that this was the compensation agreed on and the petitioner is not entitled to more, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi asked him to bring proof of this and adjourned further proceedings till Dec 11.
The third petitioner, Mrs. Hannah Olugbodi, a hairstylist who now walks with the aid of crutches, told the Judicial Panel how a stray bullet fired by SARS operatives on June 6, 2018 almost caused her leg.
Olugbodi claimed that on the day, she got some money from her husband to go and buy pepper to make dinner but as she got to the market she heard gunshots.
She said, “I was hit by a stray bullet and I remember passing out, I woke up in a car at LUTH. I was in so much pain.”
The doctor told her that saving the leg is 50/50, and that she could be amputated.
She said four surgeries were recommended. “The first was to put a metal in the leg, the second was to cut parts of the bone which the bullet had cut to fragments, because it wouldn’t survive. The 3rd surgery was a skin graft.
She’s also testified that she’s not been able to work, feed her children or perform basic chores and that her husband has had to sell his land to pay for her treatments.
The petitioner had a lot of hospital bills and documents in support of her case. She also has photos of her injuries detailing every stage of her surgeries.
According to her, she wrote letters to the Lagos State Government and the Ministry of Justice seeking assistance and redress but got no response.
The panel admits the letters in evidence as exhibits.
The witness says she requires further plastic surgery so her legs can be “balanced”.
Under cross examination by counsel to the police, Joseph Eboseremen, she admitted that she did not write any letter to the Commissioner of Police. The counsel also asks if she has any of the pellets extracted from her leg at LUTH to which she replied, “the bullet scattered my bone”
And even though she says she has no ballistic report, she was emphatic that the gin shots came from a SARS official.
At the prompting of the police counsel, her husband, Oluwaseun Olugbodi is called to also testify
He says he heard the gunshots and watched the scene from his balcony. Neighbors then came to tell him his wife had been shot.
He recounted how they went round different hospitals, from the igbobi Hospital, to the military hospital before they were accepted at LUTH where he was told that his wife’s leg would be amputated if he didn’t provide money for her treatment on time. He said he then ran around family and friends trying to raise money.
On how he knew that it was SARS who shot his wife, the witness said he was told by some hotel staff that the SARS officials came to a nearby hotel where a group of boys were watching football.
SARS suspected that these were yahoo boys and when they resisted arrest, the SARS officials shot into the air.
“It was one of those bullets that hit my wife”.
He says the DPO later confirmed it was Gbagada SARS.
When the police counsel asks if he has any evidence to show that there was any shooting on the day in question, he says no.
The case has been adjourned to the 8th of Dec
Marc Chidebere Nwadi, the fourth petitioner told the panel that he spent six years behind bars after SARS operatives arrested him in 1999 shortly after he arrived Lagos from his home town.
He said was to stay with his brother who lives in the Egbeda area of the state but when he got there, he was told his brother no longer lived there and he could not reach him on phone.
Nwadi said, on the second day, on his way to Ojuelegba via Oshodi to meet an uncle who could help, he was arrested by some policemen from Idimu Police Station.
The petitioner alleged that a man, who said he’s the IPO asked him and others arrested to pay N100,000 for bail.
“I showed them my bus ticket, telling them that I just arrived in Lagos. The man tore the ticket, kicked me in the stomach and pushed me back into the cell, saying he’ll send him to “heaven”, meaning death.
“By June, a month later, I was told to bring N10,000 or I’ll be taken to SARS. Since I don’t have money I was taken to SARS Ikeja by one Enyeama.
“In July I was taken to a nearby court, charged with armed robbery, then sent to Kirikiri Medium Prison.
“After three years in prison, I developed partial blindness and deafness from the slaps I received.
“An NYSC guy, Mr. Eric, serving in the prison helped contact my family and connect me to a missionary, at this time I was mostly blind. He was finally released in 2004 with the help of the Catholic Church,” Nwadi said.
The fifth petitioner was Omeli Humphrey, who said his petitioning against Police brutality and illegal detention was caused by First Bank Nigeria.
Humphrey claimed that he was a staff of Santi Management Consultants from 1 December 2010 and was later posted to the Institutional Banking branch of First Bank Iganmu Branch.