Metro & Crime

I was illegally detained by SARS operatives for 47 days, victim tells Lagos panel

 

Akeem Nafiu

A victim of alleged police brutality, Okolieagu Obunike, Tuesday narrated how he was illegally detained for 47 days by some operatives of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in 2012 after he was wrongly accused of stealing his employer’s money.
Obunike, a father of five, told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry that the police had equally failed to pay a N10 million damages awarded to him by Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos since 2016.
Narrating his ordeal, Obunike said he was arrested in 2012 by police officers from Ojo Division and handed over to SARS, Ikeja, where he was illegally detained for 47 days without trial for allegedly stealing his employer’s money.
He added that he was tortured by the officers following his refusal to write a statement admitting that he was responsible for the missing funds.
“I had a brutal experience with SARS in 2012, then, I used to work with a company as a manager. I worked with the company for about four years, before I resigned and my boss authenticated my resignation.
“After some days, I was called upon for clarification and from there I was arrested by the Ojo Police Division and they handed me over to Ikeja SARS. I spent 47 days with SARS at Ikeja, one Inspector Sunday (Baba Ijapa) ASP Haruna did all sorts of things.
“My family did not even know I was there and when they eventually got to see me, the officers beat my wife and mother in my presence. The officers took over my house, landed property and other belongings including my Acura Jeep, Volkswagen bus, generator, inverter and phones.
“After the intervention of my lawyer, I was taken to court where I was found not guilty. In 2016, I obtained a favourable ruling, where the judge, Ibrahim Buba, gave a ruling and awarded N10 million in my favour as exemplary damages. Till date, the police are yet to pay the compensation despite all the efforts of my lawyer,” the victim said.
After concluding his evidence, the victim pleaded with the panel to compel the police to obey the court order.
The panel presided over by a retired judge, Justice Doris Okuwobi, later admitted the Federal High Court’s ruling and asked the victim to await further action on the issue in the next seven working days.
Among the three other petitioners scheduled to testify on Tuesday, only two were represented by their lawyers. They were: Olukoya Ogungbeje and Basil Chetal Ejiagwa. The absentee petitioners prayed the court to adopt their petitions as their testimony and the requests were granted by the panel.
The testimony of the third petitioner, Ndukwe Ekekwe, whose spine was broken after allegedly being thrown from a two-storey building, was adjourned to October 30, to allow the Lagos State Commissioner of Police come forward with his response to the allegations by the victim.

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