By Esther Onyegbula
Reaction has begun to trail the death of a 54-year-old woman, Mrs Basirat Akinmushire, in the custody of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, Lagos, following suspicion that she could have been tortured to death during interrogation.
The deceased, a mother of three, was arrested in her home at Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos, by a team of IRT on September 13, following allegation that she was an armourer of a robbery gang.
However, her family claimed that during the arrest, a search was conducted in her apartment but that nothing incriminating was found to ascertain the operatives’ claim.
After the arrest, her family members said they visited the IRT office in Ikeja, to see her but were denied access, only to be informed two weeks later that she was dead.
Coordinator of the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, a network of 46 civil society organisations spread across the country, Mr Okechukwu Nwaguma, who expressed shock over the incident in spite of what he described as Federal Government’s effort to address extra judicial killings in the Police, therefore, called on the Police Service Commission, PSC to wade into the matter with a view to unearthing what transpired during her incarceration at the IRT’s office.
NOPRIN in a petition to Chairman of the Commission, Mr Musliu Smith a retired Inspector-General of Police , said the investigation should be impartial, even as he called on the need for autopsy to be conducted on the corpse to ascertain the actual cause of death.
According to the petition, “ efforts by the lawyer sent by the family to see Mrs Bashirat Akinmushire were also rebuffed by the detaining officers. The family members were shocked to later read reports published in several newspapers on Wednesday 19/09/2018 where the IRT team had claimed that an armed robbery suspect in their custody named her as their armourer who kept their arms for them.
“The family did not get to see their accused family member and they continued to press to see her without success until Friday September 28,2018 when the family lawyer told them that the IRT Coordinator, Phillip, wanted to see them.
On arrival, he announced to them, to their utter shock, that she had died, and further stated that she was not tortured but that other cell inmates said she suddenly could not stand. They were told that they would get further details about her death when the coroner’s report is out.
The family also said that the police asked them to apply through their lawyer for the release of her body. But when the lawyer wrote, the IRT Coordinator further asked them to bring a sworn affidavit saying that they would not go to court after the body is released to them.
The police claimed they had carried out an autopsy but the family did not know when and where this happened.