Mrs. Motolani Samson was sitting on a chair, worriedly watching her sleeping daughter, Adaeze, when our reporter got to her house on October 10. Just as our reporter was completing her interview with Motolani, Adaeze’s eyes fluttered open.
The 21-year-old 400 Level, English Language major student, looked pale and weak. She was still recuperating after her attack by policemen from Meiran Police Station, Lagos State. Adaeze stared sleepily before finally focusing on the reporter. Motolani told the story of how Adaeze, her only child, narrowly escaped from the valley of the shadow of death. According to her, on October 3, a policeman generally called ‘Pastor,’ attacked Adaeze and repeatedly banged her head on an iron burglaryproof until she collapsed and lost consciousness.
After Adaeze lost consciousness, the policeman, simply bent down, collected her phone and walked away, leaving her unconscious on the fold tiles floor. According to Motolani, that Adaeze is alive today is nothing short of a miracle.
She said: “It was God that saved my daughter. She’s our only Child. If she had died, what would I have done? At what age? The man that rushed her to hospital was a total stranger. The doctor told him to take my daughter away, that she was dead. If not that Maryam, her colleague, raised the alarm, Adaeze would have died on that floor.
“She repeatedly convulsed and when she finally opened her eyes, she just stared into space, with tears streaming down her face. It was God that saved my daughter. Everyone that called me in our community to commiserate had had an encounter with the police over their demands to surrender phones. And these things happened to their children. This must stop! These men must be brought to book. The DPO has been supportive, she even gave us N10, 000 to help with the medical bill and she had been pleading on behalf of her men.
She has been visiting Adaeze.” The attack on Adaeze happened on October 3. Just over a couple of weeks later, Nigerians in different parts of the world, with hashtag #EndSARS, were protesting and demanding the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protest was against police extortion, torture, unlawful arrests, harassment, unlawful detention and extrajudicial killings.
People in Meiran, who witnessed and heard about the attack on Adaeze, said it was a litmus test, which proved that the police, not just SARS, needed to be reformed. One would have expected the members of the police personnel to lay low in their human rights violation even as the protests rocked the nation.
But the attack on Adaeze, underscore the belief that many of them just do not care and can’t change. Recalling the incident of that fateful day, Motolani said Adaeze left hoto her beauty salon, where she was an apprentice, learning how to make pedicure and manicure.
She decided to take the vocation following the long strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Adaeze and her colleague, Maryam, were at the saloon about 9am, when they heard an altercation.
The saloon is close to Meiran Police Station. Adaeze was inside the saloon cleaning, while Maryam was outside, washing the towel when they heard the noise. She stepped out to ascertain what was going on. Motolani said: “Adaeze told me she saw some policemen harassing a lady, asking her to surrender her handbag to them. But the lady refused, asking them why. That resulted in a heated argument and the policemen repeatedly slapped the girl. Just as Adaeze was urging Maryam to enter the shop because she feared the situation could escalate, a man approached her. He was in a mufti and wore bathroom slippers. “He didn’t introduce himself. He just walked up to her and ordered her to surrender her phone to him.
She asked who he was and why he wanted her phone. Instead of answering such a simple question, the man grabbed her blouse and pulled, resulting in her breasts popping out in the public glare. She ran into the saloon and the man followed her.” The saloon has an inner office, where clients wash their hair.
The policeman chased her into the first office and followed her into the inner office. When Adaeze got there, there was nowhere to run to anymore. The policeman, blinded with rage, grabbed her head and slammed it against the iron burglaryproof of the inner office door. Adaeze, speaking weakly, took the narration from her mother. She recalled: “Everything is still blurry. He kept hitting my head against the burglary-proof.
I remembered that I kept shouting and asking what he wanted with my phone. He didn’t introduce himself and never presented any identification. I even thought that he wanted to rape me. The last thing I remembered before losing consciousness was falling down. “I couldn’t remember what happened after that. But before I fainted, some armed policemen, who were in uniform, came into the saloon. They addressed him as ‘Pastor,’ and urged him to make sure he collected my phone.
It was because of the policemen that I realised that he is a policeman. As he repeatedly hit my head on the iron door, I grew weaker, everything became white and I fainted. I heard Maryam screaming. “I heard that after I was rushed to the hospital, the DPO went to our saloon, to ask Maryam to give her the password to unlock my phone. She told them that she didn’t know my password. They then dropped the phone.” Asked if she was video recording the policemen when they were harassing a lady for her handbag, she said no.
She added: “I didn’t snap or video record anything. The place where they were harassing the lady was far from our saloon.” Maryam told our reporter that Adaeze was no longer breathing by the time they got to the hospital. The doctor said that we brought a dead body to her hospital. She said we should take Adaeze and leave, but the cyclist begged, asking her to first try her best.
“I was crying because I was scared and feared the worst. I did a video of Adaeze’s unconscious self at the hospital and sent it to our boss, who then forwarded it to Adaeze’s mother. Both of them later rushed down to the hospital.” Motolani explained that when she received the message and saw her daughter’s unmoving body in the video, fear gripped her heart.
She said: “When I got to the hospital, the doctor told me that when Adaeze was brought in, she was already turning stiff, had no pulse and was foaming. The doctor said that she had spent too many minutes on the floor. He battled to save her from that 9am till 11am. When she was not getting satisfactory response, her madam’s husband went to the Meiran Police Station and brought the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and three policemen to the hospital. “The DPO asked if we were sure that Adaeze was attacked, that there were no marks on her body to show that she was beaten.
I was shocked at such a statement. Did she want to see blood before she believes that my daughter was brutalised and almost died?” Motolani said that because there was no response from Adaeze, the hospital referred them to a general hospital. When the police personnel wanted to leave, Motolani refused. She insisted that they should go with her and move Adaeze to the Orile Agege General Hospital. She made that demand knowing that the hospital might ask for a police report before attending to her daughter. She said: “The policemen used their vehicle and took us to the general hospital.
The hospital staff attended to us and started treatment. My daughter regained consciousness the following day. We took her to Radiology Consultants Limited, located at surulere. She had a head CT-Scan to see if there was an internal injury. She’s now complaining of her eyes. She can see us, but can’t see anything written. We have taken her to an eye clinic, where she was given drugs and eye drop.
We were given a date for another appointment.” Motolani had told the DPO to report the erring policemen, so that they would be dealt with, so as to serve as a deterrence to others. “The DPO should not continue to beg or cover up for them. If they are allowed to go free, they would do worse things in future,” said Motolani. Adaeze’s uncle, Wale Olaitan, based in Melbourne, Australia, urged the Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to investigate the policemen and ensure that they are brought to book for attempting to kill Adaeze.
Olaitan, said: “On October 3, six lawless men of Nigeria Police Force from Meiran Police Station, Lagos, physically assaulted her for nothing other than reckless, unprofessional, and poor judgement of criminals masquerading as police officers. It was distressing listening to her traumatic experience in the hands of people that are mandated by law to protect her.
“While she was unconscious on the floor, the policemen took her phone and left the shop. No assistance in whatever shape or form was rendered. However, since the ugly incident happened, Ada had convulsed a few times, cannot walk without being supported by her mother or other family members, cannot see an image beyond some metres, and still in shock from the traumatic experience.”
When contacted on the telephone, the DPO of Meiran Police station, Toyosi Shokunbi, explained that Adaeze told her that she was pushed by her policemen, while her officers denied, saying that they only asked for her telephone after they discovered she was video recording them while they were working.
Shokunbi said: “This is what both parties told me, and I don’t know who or what to believe, especially since I was not there. We met with the lady, took her to the hospital, and we took care of the hospital bills. We sympathized with her and she told us her story, which my officers denied. I met with her mother, brother and my officers and I also went out to ask a few people but they told me it was not true.
“I don’t know what warranted the issue of coma because there was no issue of such. What happened was that the lady was taking video of them and they collected her phone. That was what they told me. The same phone was returned to her the same day.
I still asked after her yesterday, November 25, and they said she is doing fine. So, I don’t know if there is any issue that degenerated before then or after then. I and my officers went to the hospital, we went to the place she is working but I don’t know if for security reasons, they didn’t want to disclose her whereabouts and I can’t force them, but we went there.” Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Action Centre (RULAAC), Okechukwu Nwanguma, while reacting to the incident, said: “This is just another evidence of the many instances of rogue and lawless behaviour among police officers, not just SARS. No law empowers the police to stop or accost anybody and demand to search his or her phone unless there is a complaint or report directly linking the phone to any specific crime.
“It amounts to harassment, an invasion and intrusion into the privacy of the person being so harassed. It is worrying that in spite of repeated warnings by senior police officers, many operatives on the streets continue to exceed the limits of their powers, violating citizens’ rights. Police officers are always looking for opportunities to extort money from citizens going about their legitimate businesses. This predatory behaviour must be stopped. Perpetrators must be punished to deter others.”
However, a medical doctor, Tare Kendaboh, explained the symptoms Adaeze is exhibiting as that of “Blood clot in the brain or clot in the brain blocking either the artery or vein, due to the strong force, which could have resulted in high electrical frequency in the brain. It also depends on the area of the brain.
“If it’s in the back of the head, she won’t be able to write, hold an object or to have fine movement of things. The convulsion is caused by the high brain wave frequency due to the head injury. If the frontal lobe of the brain is damaged, she may not be able to reason well or her IQ will drop. She should quickly go for an EEG and CT scan.”