A father of five and resident of Okokomaiko, Okoli Agwu Abunike has told the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses in Lagos State that he was detained for 48 days by two officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) while his properties were sold.
Okoli in the first hearing with petition number LASG/JPI/01/2020 which lasted for about one hour and twenty minutes said Inspector Sunday and ASP Haruna allegedly arrested him, detained and tortured him on the orders of his boss who had accused him of fraud.
He further said impoverished and dehumanized him as he now runs all kinds of errands in order to feed his family.
Okoli said: “I worked for a company for four and a half years as a manager. After my resignation, my boss invited me for the authentication of my resignation. When I got there, my boss had me arrested by police officers from Ojo police station.
“I was later taken to Ikeja police command where I was manhandled and brutalized by Inspector Sunday popularly known as Baba Ijapa and ASP Haruna. I was labelled a fraudster and was beaten, severely injured, dehumanized and dragged all around Alaba International Market. I was also taken to my church and disgraced before the congregation for an offence I knew nothing about.
“On the instruction of my boss, I was detained for 48 days and a bucket filled with cement was strapped at my back. I had bruise all over my body and two of my teeth were removed. The officers beat my wife and mother and they threatened to kill me if I did not confess to embezzling my company’s fund.
“They took all my property. They seized my house and sold my car to make up for the money they said I had embezzled. My boss also threatened to kill me if I did not pay back all the money I stole. The case was taken before Hon Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court and he awarded a damage of N10m against the police. But between 2016 and 2020, I have not seen anything. They have not complied with the judgment.
They sold my land and car. In fact, the person the land was sold to dragged me before a Magistrate Court in Badagry and the Magistrate remanded me in Kpotopiri prison for three days for my inability to meet up with N50,000 fine. I want to appeal to this honourable panel to compel the police to honour the judgment of the court and return all my property or pay the damage because I have lost everything that I now live in running errands for people to feed my family.”
Tribune Online reports that four cases of police brutality were mentioned before the panel on Tuesday but two of the petitioners were absent while Head of the panel, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi requested for the appearance of Lagos state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu to proceed with the fourth case.
Following the absence of petitioners at the inaugural hearing of the panel, Doris Okuwobi adjourned sitting to Friday, October 30 at 10 am.
In her opening remarks, Okuwobi lamented the overcrowded nature of the hall while stressing that entry for the proceeding will be on a first-come, first-serve basis so as not to breach COVID-19 protocol.
Lagos State Attorney General, Moyo Onigbanjo who was at the inquiry panel to observe the inaugural sitting assured the Panel and Lagosians of the full cooperation of the state government.
He said: “I want to assure the Panel of the full cooperation of the Lagos State government. I also want to appeal for the cooperation of the police, victims and Lagosians. All hands must be on deck to unravel the circumstances behind the happening inn the state in the past weeks. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that justice is served to victims of police and SARS brutality and at the end of he day, whatever decision the Panel take will be in the interest of justice.”
Other cases mentioned include LASG/JPI/02/2020 by Ndukwue Ekekwue who had his spinal cord broken by a SARS operative. His case was adjourned to November 3 while petition number LASG/JPI/03/2020 by Olukoya Ogungbeje and LASG/JPI/05/2020 by Bassey Ejigua were adjourned to November 6, 2020.