A 37-year-old driver, Elijah Shokoya, accused of involuntary manslaughter alleged in court on Monday that police officers assaulted him to obtain his statement.
Shokoya was accused of causing the death of one Mr Olawale Akinmade, an officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) on Jan. 26, on the Ikorodu Expressway, Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Shokoya made the allegations of torture at an Ikeja High Court during a trial-within-trial to determine whether the police obtained his statement under duress.
Led in evidence by Mrs Abiodun Kolawole, his counsel, Shokoya testified in Yoruba Language.
He said that he gave the police his statement in the morning of Jan. 27 a day after he was apprehended, but it was under duress.
“My statement was obtained in the morning around 7.10 a.m. I was taken to a room outside and I was asked to write.
“I told the police officers that I could neither read nor write English language. The police officers said I was lying and they slapped me and the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) started writing something.
“I did not understand what she was writing. The other police officer used a stick to hit me on the hand and while the IPO was writing, he was beating me.
“When she finished writing, she asked me to sign what she wrote and I told her I did not understand what she wrote and I refused to sign it.
“She hit me and the other police officer beat me with a stick and I asked them to give me a cell phone to so that I could speak to a lawyer and to my people.
“I wanted to speak to a lawyer so that my lawyer could interpret what was written down so that I could sign it.
“She slapped me again and the other male police officer with her was hitting me with a stick. When I realised the beating was too much, I took the pen from her and signed the statement,’’ Shokoya said.
Under cross-examination by Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), Shokoya said he is a native of Ogun State and that he attended Oworonshoki Primary School, Lagos.
“I still feel pain on my left arm from the beating. I informed my lawyer about the assault. There was no LASTMA officer present when my statement was taken,’’ he said.
Earlier, a policewoman, ASP Mercy Ibok, narrated to the court how she obtained the driver’s statement. She described herself as a traffic officer serving at the Alapere Police Station.
Led in evidence by the DPP, ASP Ibok said that after Shokoya was brought to the police station for the alleged manslaughter of the LASTMA officer, she was cordial and friendly towards him.
She said that her superior officer was in the office alongside two LASTMA officers when the defendant’s statement was taken.
“The office is an open office that contained five chairs and a table. The atmosphere was very calm. I conversed with him in English Language.
“The defendant asked me to write his statement and he went through it before signing it. The allegation that he was coerced into giving a statement is false. I did not beat him,’’ she said.
While being cross-examined by the defence counsel, Ibok said that Shokoya never informed her that he did not understand English Language and that a lawyer was not present when his statement was taken.
On why she did not indicate the time the statement was taken according to standard police procedure, Ibok said that she had just received the bad news of Akinmade’s death when she was taking the statement.
“I did not indicate the time of the statement because I was in a state of shock and when I heard the bad news, I took him to the cell.
“I did not write the content of the statement as a result of bias,’’ she said.
The DPP alleges that the defendant mowed down Akinmade with his Opel Car with registration number AAA 74 GG.
The offence contravenes and is punishable under the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2015.
Presiding Justice Oyindamola Ogala adjourned the case to Dec.12 for adoption of written addresses in the trial-within-trial.