•Victims, relations speak on alleged shoddy investigations, collusion by police officers
•There are different layers of supervision – Frank Mba, Force HQ spokesman
By Esther Onyegbula
The pains and frustrations Mr. Iwuagwu Remigus has had to go through, in his bid to get justice for his teenage daughter, who was allegedly abducted, raped and forced to procure unlawful abortion which resulted to complications, including excessive bleeding which nearly took her, are heart rendering.
Recounting how the police allegedly connived with the man accused of abducting, raping, impregnating and illegally procuring abortion for his teenage daughter, Remigus said, “After I reported to the FESTAC Divisional Police, Lagos that one Mr. Sochi Oba allegedly abducted and raped my daughter, the police sent an invitation to the suspect at his residence in Amuwo Odofin, but he refused to honour the invitation. “Attempts to arrest him have also been futile as Sochi Oba absconded from his apartment and only sneaks in occasionally at odd hours to his residence.”
According to Iwuagwu, a lawyer has been appearing on behalf of Sochi Oba at the police station and has been promising to produce his client but has, till date, failed to produce him.
“Following apparent lack of diligence on the part of the IPOs at FESTAC Police Station and Gender Unit to arrest the suspect, I paid someone to keep a close watch at his residence and discovered that he had started removing his household properties in a suspected bid to pack out of the house and evade arrest”, the complainant said.
He also claimed to have alerted FESTAC Police Station, hoping they could lay ambush and arrest him.
“But when, on Saturday, March 23, 2019, I received information that someone came with a truck to evacuate Sochi Oba’s remaining properties, I called an officer at FESTAC Police Station, identified as Inspector Kate, who claimed she was not in the office and could not attend to my request. Later I called the police at Ago Police Station and two officers promptly responded and arrested the man and two others along with the truck containing the properties to FESTAC Police Station.
“To my surprise, Inspector Kate, who claimed she was not in the office, was actually in the office.
“It is obvious that the OC Gender and the DPO FESTAC were aware of this matter but they weren’t showing interest or ready to use this opportunity to track the suspect.
“Meanwhile, Sochi Oba has been calling me with different numbers, threatening and pressuring me to withdraw the matter from the police otherwise I will go down with my daughter.
“He is also boasting that I cannot get him as he is ‘Odogwu’, Igbo word close to ‘invincible’. Anytime I try to call him back on the numbers, they’re no longer reachable.
“I have been receiving threats from unknown people calling me with hidden numbers and threatening that if l do not drop the case against Sochi, either me or my daughter will be down”.
Across the nooks and crannies of the country, the issue of police brutality, shoddy investigations, human rights violations and the activities of rogue law enforcement agents has continued unabated.
Whereas different types of human rights violations and abuses are peculiar to some states or geopolitical zones, others are widespread and occur in virtually every state of the federation.
For instance, whereas raid of public places and indiscriminate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent people by rogue police officers are peculiar to every state, raid of streets and other public places, indiscriminate arrest, unlawful detention for the purpose of extortion by rogue police officers/sometimes frame-up and charge leading to false imprisonment are rampant in Lagos.
Lack of diligent investigation of complaints of gender-based violations, extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses is also an issue of concern.
Most of the time, law enforcement officers act like they are above the law, threatening individuals who refuse to do their bidding or conniving with a party to a dispute to torment the other.
Like in the case of the teenage daughter of Remigus, the police are yet to make headways in the investigation of a 15-year-old girl, who was allegedly gang-raped on January 24, 2019 by suspected residents, including Doku Ojo, Olawale Ojo and two others, somewhere in Gberige, Ikorodu, Lagos.
According to the father of the victim, after he reported the case at Ijede Divisional Police Headquarters, some police officers went to arrest the suspects but members of their families put up fierce resistance, assaulted a policeman and injured his son who went with them while the suspects fled.
He went on, “We wrote a petition to then-Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgar, who ordered that the case be transferred to the Gender Unit of the state police headquarters for proper and professional investigation and prosecution. Till date, the suspects who gang-raped my daughter and videoed the act are walking freely”.
Tales of shoddy investigation by police officers abound.
The investigation into the murder of Adekunle Tade, a Lagos Uber driver, whose corpse was found at the Lagos lagoon, five days after he went missing, remains inconclusive till date.
According to Olutola Tade, the elder brother of the deceased, “38-year-old Tade was attacked by armed men, who forcefully snatched his car. Tade went to his boss, the vehicle owner, Mrs. Andry Nwokedi, to report the incident and he didn’t return until five days later when his dead body was found at the lagoon in Lekki, Lagos State”.
Accusing the police of handling the investigation poorly, Olutola said police investigated but the level of investigation needs to be thorough. “Within two days after the incident, the police concluded that my brother jumped into the lagoon. They asked us to get the footage of the crime scene; I called all the people I knew. The CCTV at the crime scene, Lekki Link Bridge, which was believed to be functional on the day of the incident, suddenly stopped working. How convenient! We paid for autopsy, paid for mobilisation for every move the police officers investigating the cases needed to do. It is the police responsibility to conduct investigation into cases, especially murder cases. Our family deserves closure which is why we need them to conduct thorough investigation”.
Narrating how the police beat him up recently, another victim, Peter Onyegbule, said, on February 21, 2019, he was invited to Igando Police Station, Lagos State over a complaint by his landlord alleging that he was not paying electricity bill.
“The fact that I went there with my lawyer didn’t stop the officers from beating me up by policemen at the station. In fact, one ASP Lola at the station walked out my lawyer, saying she wasn’t the one invited. It took the intervention of the Executive Director of NOPRIN, Okechukwu Nwagunma, before I was later released”, he narrated.
Residents who have encountered Lagos State Police Command Anti-Cultism Unit say they left with horrible stories.
While the dust raised by the arrest of one Yinka Badmus in December 2018 by this unit over his hair style (dreadlocks) was yet to fully settle, one Ikenna Emmanuel was allegedly arrested at Fagba area of Lagos by some officers from the unit on February 27, 2019 while coming back from Computer Village.
Emmanuel’s story: “I was in the company of my teenage cousin and we were returning from Computer Village where we had gone to repair a phone. Some policemen arrested me and chased my cousin away at Fagba Bus Stop. They took me to the Anti-Cultism Station at Charly Boy Bus Stop, Gbagada where the officers there demanded for N60, 000 as bail money.
“Later they collected N5, 000 and hurriedly released me when some journalist friends called the state Police PRO and the Commander of the Anti-Cultism Unit.”
For freelance journalist, Odera Okapu, who claimed to have been attacked and beaten by policemen attached to Sagotedo Ajah, it was really an ugly experience.
Okapu narrated, “My cousin and I had stayed back in the office to charge our phones because there was no power supply, so we were going home late. We wanted to board a commercial bus at the bus stop when a white bus stopped. But as we wanted to board the bus, we noticed that all the occupants were males, so we stepped back.
“Immediately, the men jumped out and ordered us to enter the bus but we resisted. Our resistance earned us hot slaps and beatings. Initially we thought they were kidnappers as they were wearing plain clothes.
“They handcuffed us and forced us into the bus shouting ‘make we see how you go escape’. They handcuffed my wrist to that of my cousin.
“While in the bus, I called my mummy and told her what was happening.
The policeman sitting beside me slapped me. My mother asked to speak to any of the officers. One of them collected the phone and he said ‘na you be the madam wey send them hustle’?
“While they were taking us to the station, I remembered l have a police officer’s number who I called and explained to him what had happened. He spoke with one of the officers and later they unlocked the handcuff and released us in the middle of the night”.
Police can’t arrest Atan-Ota land grabbers
The situation is not entirely different in Atan-Ota, Ogun State where the police in the area have been accused of looking the other way while land grabbers, otherwise known as Omo-Onile and led by an Igbo man, have been terrorising residents and taking over their properties at will.
The land grabbers, said to be operating from Ile-Ise area of Kajola in Atan-Ota, it was learnt, are believed to be working for a native who has no claim to land in the area but using his connection as a former police officer to dispossess fellow natives and those who legitimately bought land in Atan-Ota.
“Besides, you cannot buy land in Kajola area of Atan-Ota today and the Igbo man led land grabbers will not make outrageous from you. The latest outrageous demand is the N4m they asked from a woman who bought a piece of land to plant apple. The woman refused to meet the land grabbers request only for them to destroy the plantation. She reported the matter to the Divisional Police Station in Atan-Ota but up till now nothing has been done by way of arrest not to talk of prosecution thus giving the impression that the police are giving cover to the land grabbers in the area”, a resident familiar with the story said.
“What happens now in Atan-Ota is reign of impunity by land grabbers because nobody reports their activities to the police anymore as it is believed that even when you do, nothing happens. And the risk is that when the land grabbers know that you have reported them, the best thing is to relocate from the area because your life is no longer safe”.
Dabbling into civil matters
The Anti-kidnapping Unit of the police is also accused of unprofessional conduct as they allegedly dabble into civil matters such as landlord and tenant matters.
One of such stories is that of a pastor who was said to have had a dispute with his landlady who had sold the property while his tenancy was still subsisting and wanted to use the police to force him out without refunding his outstanding rent.
The landlady, in connivance with the police, allegedly cooked up claims of threat to life against the pastor when, in fact, there was no such thing.
Recall that one of the first steps that Imohimi Edgal took upon assumption of office as CP Lagos was to remove the OC in charge of the Anti-kidnapping Unit for the unlawful detention and intimidation of a woman allegedly framed-up by her boss with stealing and the extortion and sexual abuse of her sisters who came to visit her in detention.
Condemning police brutality, shoddy investigations and human rights violations, Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator of Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, said the reasons police officers engage in corruption, abuse and misconduct include neglect and poor working conditions.
Nwanguma said, “Officers injured or killed on duty are abandoned. Others see that they have no hope of being taken care of and that their families will also be abandoned to suffer if they die on duty. “So they do what they can to help themselves in the immediate and will not put in their best. When distress calls are made, they don’t want to put their lives at risk for a system that will not care for them or their families. Reforms have not changed the inherited colonial culture of violence and corruption. People join the police with the motive to make money. “They don’t see the police as a career path. Due to lack of funds for operations, officers resort to extortion to generate funds. Senior officers send out junior officers to make money; targets are set and returns are expected. All these explain why public complaints and internal disciplinary systems don’t function effectively because offenders are shielded by the system except in few cases when pressure comes from certain quarters and people are sacrificed just to put up a show that the police don’t condone crime and corruption.
“The National Assembly should pass the pending Police Reform Bill to provide a legal framework to drive police reform. The bill addresses many of the problems highlighted. The federal executive should work with the National Assembly to ensure the quick passage of the bill before the end of the current legislative calendar. Civil society and media should lead the push for the passage of the bill. The President should assent to the bill when passed as evidence of genuine commitment to police reform”.