By Onozure Dania
Lagos- A victim of the disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS), Okoli Agu Abunike, at the on going #EndSARS protests Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS, related abuses and the Lekki Tollgate killings, yesterday told the panel how he was brutalised and his properties were sold by SARS.
The petition marked LASG/JPI/01/2020,
Okoli Agu Abunike, against Federal Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS), was the first case heard by the nine member panel, chaired by justice Doris Okuwobi(Rtd).
Abunike, who was led in evidence by his counsel T.Olalekan Gazali, told the panel how he was beaten and paraded at Alaba International market by SARS operatives after his ex-boss accused him of theft.
” They stripped and paraded me at Alaba International Market,as a thief they took me round everywhere, while I was being beaten, my head was broken, and I lost a lot of blood, I sustained so many injuries and I still have scars on my body” he said.
The petitioner a father of five, who said he currently earn a living by running errands for people, said he worked with a company for four and a half years, and had stated that he wanted to resign and his ex- boss authenticated his resignation.
He said “after some days I was called to come to the office for some clarification and I when I got there, my boss did not show up but I was forcefully arrested by SARS operatives and was taken to Ojo police station.”
” I was taken to Ikeja SARS, from Ojo police station, I spent 47 days at Ikeja SARS, they extracted two of my tooth, from my mouth, when they turned me up side down”.
The petitioner who said the incident occurred in 2012, stated that when he asked SARS what happened, he was told that his boss said something happened.
Abunike testified that while he was at SARS Ikeja, they broke his head, adding that one Inspector Sunday popularly called baba Ijapa and Assistant commissioner of Police ACP Haruna, beat up his mother and wife when they came to SARS, to look for him.
He said ” My family did not know where I was, so later when my mother and my wife came, they beat them in their office in my presence”.
“The SARS took all my properties, my house, they sold my cars, they collected my two black berry phones, Samsung iPad, log of wood, generator and sold my land.
” I was told by SARS to confess and my former boss said that I must produce the missing goods and if I don’t, I will die there,I just said my boss is not God and I never confessed to committing any crime.”
Abunike said that he was eventually released from SARS custody and filed a fundamental human rights suit against SARS at the Federal High Court Lagos.
He sated that Justice Ibrahim Buba gave a ruling in his favour ordering SARS to pay him N10million as damages.
Abunike however said that efforts to get the N10million compensation awarded by the court has been futile, since 2016, after he got the judgment.
“Garnishee proceedings were instituted and the banks said that they do not have any SARS account.
“After the judgment, I went to clear the bush in my land and the person that SARS sold my land to, said I wanted to threaten his life and he took me to Magistrate court and that suit was dismissed,” he said.
“My belongings have not been given back to me. The only thing we have gotten back through legal processes is my landed property documents through a judgment issued by Justice Okiki-Olu Igile in Badagry.
Abunike said that he also sued the person inhabiting his property at the High Court for recovery of his property and also got judgment in his favour.
He noted that he has not been found guilty of any crime by the justice system and that he is yet to receive his N10million court ordered compensation.
“I want this honourable panel to compel the police to do what the court said they should do.
“I am tired of suffering, running around and struggling to pay school fees,” he said.
The panel adjourned the hearing of Abunike’s petition until November 3, 2020, to give their findings.
The judicial panel of inquiry could not hear the petition of wheelchair bound Mr Ndukwe Ekekwe m due to the absence of the accused former SARS officer ASP Haruna. The hearing of his petition was adjourned until to November 3, 2020.
Also the petitions of Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje and Mr Basil Ejiagwa could not be heard due to the absence of the petitioner at the panel. The hearing of their petition was adjourned until November 6, 2020.
Earlier, two youths representative of the #EndSARS protests, Rinu Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi, were yesterday sworn in as youth members of the Lagos Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and the Lekki Tollgate killings.
The duo’s membership of the panel followed their nomination by youths in an online voting.
They took their oath of office alongside the Zonal Coordinator(South-West Zone) – National Human Rights Commission, Mr Lucas Koyejo.
Movement Nigeria, a coalition of protest groups, announced their selection in a statement.
Oduala, a brand strategist and an advocate for social justice, has been at the forefront of the agitation.
Temitope, an administrator and transformational leader, has been advocating for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
The nine-member panel was set up by the state government on October 15 following the crisis perpetrated by hijackers of the #EndSARS protests.
It was scheduled to begin full sitting yesterday (Monday), but could not do so because Oduala and Majekodunmi had yet to be sworn in.
Other panelists are Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa,
Mrs Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Citizen’s Rights and Ms Patience Udoh, a representative of the civil society groups and Mr Segun Awosanya (segalink) a human rights activist.
The panel is to sit from 10am to 4pm for six months. The designated sitting days are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Lagos Court of Arbitration, No 1A, Remi Oluwode Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
The representatives are tasked with listening to the submissions of survivors, interrogating the accused personnel, determining the veracity of all claims, recommending punishments for the guilty and appropriate compensation for the victims.
Sittings will take place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm at the Lagos Court of Arbitration – 1A, Remi Olowude Street, Maruwa Roundabout, Lekki – Epe Expressway, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.