ENDSARS: Hope rises for victims of police brutality in Ogun
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FOR OVER 26 years, the family of Ayamolowo has been pursuing justice over an alleged killing of Prince Adekeye Nelson Ayamolowo by officers of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The family had in several years petitioned the Nigeria Police Force, but all their efforts were futile because there was no positive response from the security agency before the family turned to the EndSars panel for justice.
Narrating the bitter experience the family had with the police to The ICIR, a son to the late victim, Okikiola Ayamolowo, said his father had an encounter with an officer of the Nigerian Police Force at Ijebu-Ode area of Ogun state while on his way from a visit to his mum.
Okikiola also explained that the police officer reportedly shot his father in the head, which eventually led to his death.
“While my dad, Prince Adekeye Nelson Ayamolowo was on his way back from his hometown where he had gone to visit his mum, he encountered the NPF around Ijebu Ode area, for reasons only known to the wicked and corrupt police officer, he shot my dad in the head and my dad died on the spot.
“The police officer in question ran back to the police station, abandoned his rifle and later went to the police barracks and absconded with his family, while he left another family in tears and despair.”
Okikiola, who said he was barely five years of age when the incident happened, said the family has been struggling to get justice for his deceased father for the past 26 years.
“We have been chasing and crying for justice over 26 years without any closure. Our pursuit for justice is why I and my family have approached the Ogun state judicial panel in the hopes that we may get justice and closure.
“I was barely 5 years old when the incident happened, older members of my family had reached out to the Nigeria police force at the time of the incident but the NPF was not forthcoming as you would expect a reputable organisation to,” he said.
Speaking on what the family lost financially, Okikiola said, “the financial loss is unquantifiable, starting with the destiny of a young man being cut short. He had a successful and thriving business at the time. Who knows if he would have grown to be in the financial class of Dangote and the likes today.”
He added that the untimely death of his father turned his mother, a poor widow to someone shouldering the responsibilities of four children.
“The wicked actions of the police officer also forced my mother to become a single mother to care for four children on her own. Toiling day and night to pay school fees, provide food and maintain a household.”
The story of Ayamolowo is not isolated; it reflect the experience many Nigerians go through in the hands of the security operatives. Many have been illegally arrested, detained and some even killed without getting justice.
One of such cases is that of Olaoluwa Bolarinwa. Narrating his experience, Bayo Adeshina said his brother, Bolarinwa alongside his nephew Oreoluwa Abiona, were arrested by policemen on 29th March 2020, but while Oreoluwa was released after paying the sum of N10,000, Olaoluwa was reportedly shuffled among various stations and eventually announced dead.
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“I was on my way to Mokola Police Station Ibadan when I was informed that he (Olaoluwa) has been moved to Ayobo Police Station in Lagos State, I went to the police station to inquire about Olaolu, there I was told they do not have such name in their incident book, then a police officer later advised me to go to Mokola Police Station and ask of him.
“On getting to Mokola Police Station, I got to know he was taken to Obada Police Station in Ogun state and I saw the name of the police officer that arrested him, he was called “Ijoba System.” The following week, I went to Obada, but I didn’t find him there.
Adeshina said the policeman later told him he was using the boy to track some criminals.
“I got the number of Ijoba System from Oreoluwa the deceased’s brother and I called him to ask of Olaolu, he acknowledged that he knew Olaolu and that he didn’t have an offence against him but he is using Olaolu to track some people and as soon as he gets them, Olaolu will be released.”
He said the family learnt from different police sources that Olaoluwa had been moved to Obalende police station, then later Abuja. They were later told that Olaoluwa was an armed robber and had died in custody days after the arrest.
Adesina, who argued that there was no way Olaoluwa could have been involved in the robbery, added that the deceased was not even taken to court before he was convicted and pronounced an armed robber. He said more baffling was that the commander and her men refused to release Olaoluwa’s remains for proper burial.
He narrated: “They called my brother an armed robber even without taking him to court. Nigerians should stand up and fight for us. My brother’s death is a case of extrajudicial killing. He was murdered!
“My brother was not a thief and neither was he an armed robber. My brother was a community leader in his community and everyone knew him.”
My wife’s concubine paid SARS operatives to torture me
A middle-aged man, Muraimo Akintunde also narrated how he was thoroughly tortured by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Operatives.
Akintunde said he was arrested by SARS operatives on June 14, 2020, with the help of one Mr Seun Akinwande, who had him reported and also paid the SARS operatives to have him tortured.
The victim disclosed that Seun Akinwande was his wife’s boyfriend and they have had altercations on the phone over Akinwande lusting after his wife.
He said, “The SARS operatives took me to their station at Magbon from Ayetoro where I live and they tortured me, they said I was a cultist and demanded where I kept my gun and where my gangs were, and also proceeded to search my house and found nothing”.
“They tortured me till the point I was bleeding from the left side of my face and my left leg till I was going in and out of consciousness.
Akinwande said the SARS operatives wrote a statement for him and forced his thumbprint on the statement.
“The SARS Operatives demanded 300,000 naira bail which my sister and wife later negotiated to N100,000, they released me not after they insisted I write an undertaking that I would not harm Mr Seun Akinwande, which I did.
“I thought I was going to die because I was bleeding seriously for a crime I did not know of.”
Victims put hope on Judicial Panel of Investigation
Despite despondency expressed towards the Nigerian judicial system, the recent composition of the judicial panel of investigation across the country, particularly the Ogun State judicial panel chaired by retired Justice Solomon Olugbemi has raised the hope of many victims of police brutality in the state.
Those who have had bitter experiences with the men of the Nigeria Police force in the past, who spoke with The ICIR expressed satisfaction over the composition of the panel.
Okikiola said he is optimistic that the panel will be able to give the family the justice they deserve.
He added, “I appreciate what the panel represents and the platform it has given the likes of myself, my family and other victims out there to have a voice and at the least, express our frustrations. However, there is nothing compared to having actual justice and closure.
“Justice is not just about financial compensation which is also a must to soothe a tiny part of the pains and agony caused by the NPF. Justice in this matter also involves the NPF doing their job which is to fight and deter crime by bringing the culprits to face the law. In our case, bringing my dad’s murderer to pay for his actions.”
Adesina expressed optimism that the panel would produce justice because of the way it was composed.
Over 2,500 petitions submitted across the country
While the hearings of petitions across the country are moving at a slow pace, The ICIR findings revealed that over 2,500 petitions have been submitted to the panels.
Data obtained from the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) revealed that the following number of petitions submitted across the country: FCT – 250 petitions, Rivers State – 188 petitions, Anambra State – 310 petitions, Edo State – 164 petitions, Lagos State – 230 petitions, Imo State – 110 petitions, Abia State – 87 petitions, Akwa Ibom State – 159 petitions, Ekiti State – 81 petitions, Plateau State – 58 petitions, Cross River State – 61 petitions, Ogun State – 105 petitions, Oyo State – 50 petitions, Enugu State – 75 petitions, Benue State – 51 petitions, Ondo State – 44 petitions, Osun State – 32 petitions, Bayelsa State – 40 petitions, Kwara State – 24 petitions, Nasarawa State – 36 petitions, Delta State – 78 petitions, Ebonyi State – 37 petitions, Taraba State – 28 petitions, Adamawa State – 14 petitions, Gombe State – 15 petitions, Bauchi State – 10 petitions, Kaduna State – 29 petitions.
We will pursue the matters to a logical conclusion – Counsel
One of the counsels for the victims, Taiwo Olawanle from Falana & Falana Chambers, said the matters would be pursued to a logical conclusion.
Olawanle stressed that there is a need to end the impunity of some of the security forces by ensuring they get punished for offenses they committed.
His words, “As for us in Falana & Falana Chambers, we are interested in following the matters to a logical conclusion. We need to end the impunity of our security forces, get the operatives involved punished according to the dictates of the relevant laws and get the families of the victims compensated.”
He added that getting justice for the people would relieve them of the pains they have suffered.
“This would go a long way to relieve the relations of the victims and also serve as deterrence to the future occurrence of such extrajudicial killings by the Police.”
We will get justice for the victims – Panel
Meanwhile, one of the members of the judicial panel in Ogun State, Olayinka Folarin has disclosed that the panel is concerned about getting justice for the victims. Folarin explained that the panel would be making their recommendations after listening to the two parties involved.
He, however, noted that the essence of the panel is to ensure the victims get justice, stressing that the recommendation of the panel would ensure justice for the victim.
He said, “We have been hearing petitions and at the end of the day, we will make our recommendation which undoubtedly will aim to get justice for the victims. The essence of the panel is to achieve justice for the victim.
“Our first report will come in very soon. It will analyse cases that have been concluded because we don’t just conclude a case in a day. We have to give a fair hearing to everybody; we hear from the petitioner and the respondents before we form our opinion and then make our recommendations. Definitely, there shall be justice.”
We are not disturbing the panel from getting justice for victims – Police
The Ogun State police command says it has been been trying its best in ensuring the petitioners get justice at the panel. Abimbola Oyeyemi, the Ogun State Police Command Public Relations Officer, who spoke to The ICIR said the command has been producing the accused police at the panel.
“We are not in anyway preventing the petitioners from getting justice at the panel and that’s why we have been answering the panel’s summon.”
“I have personally appeared before the panel before,” says Oyeyemi.
When asked if the police officers indeed perpetrated and guilty of the crimes the petitioners accused them of, Oyeyemi said it is left for the panel to determine who is guilty of any crime or not.