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An alleged victim of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Okolieagu Obunike painted a gory picture of how he was tortured and incarcerated without being charged at the commencement of the Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS-related abuses in Lagos, yesterday.
The father of five claimeds he he lost money, property to and spent 47 day in detention and was forced to confess to a crime he did not commit.
He told the nine-man panel headed by Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd) that his travail began when he was detained in 2012 at SARS officein Ikeja over a false allegation of theft levelled against him by his former employer.
The incident happened in 2012. I worked with a company for four and a half years, I had stated that I wanted to resign and my then boss authenticated my resignation. After some days, I was called to come to the office for some clarification and was promptly arrested, first, by police at the Ojo Police Station and taken to SARS.
Abunike said he was physically manhandled by the SARS personnel while trying to force him to confess to an offence he did not commit.
I was beaten, stripped and paraded by SARS around the Alaba International Market as a thief, my head was broken and lost a lot of blood. I sustained so many injuries and I still have the scars. I spent about 47 days with SARS; I was tortured and hung upside down. SARS officers extracted two teeth from my mouth during the torture.
‘I remember the names of two of the SARS officers – Insp. Sunday alias Baba Ijapa and ASP Haruna. When my mother and wife came to see me, the SARS people started beating my wife and my mother. One day, my mother visited and she told me that everything is gone.
‘They took all my property – My house, phones, cars, generator, everything. 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 told the panel that he was eventually released from SARS custody, and he subsequently filed a violation of Fundamental Human Rights suit against SARS at the Federal High Court Lagos.
According to him, Justice Ibrahim Buba gave a ruling in his favour ordering SARS to pay him N10 million as damages. He, however, said efforts to get the had been futile.
Garnishee proceedings were instituted and the banks said that they do not have any SARS account. 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.
‘The person they sold the property to said i threatened his life and he took me to a Magistrate court and that suit was dismissed.’
He said 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 had not been found guilty of any crime by the justice system, and he was yet to receive his N10 million 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.
After listening to him, the panel adjourned the hearing of Abunike’s petition until November 3 to give their findings.
The judicial panel of inquiry could not hear the petition of wheelchair bound Mr. Ndukwe Ekekwem due to the absence of the accused former
During proceedings, two youth representatives, Ms Rinu Oduala and Mr Temitope Majekodunmi and Mr Lucas Koyejo, zonal coordinator (South-West Zone), National Human Rights Commission, were sworn in as members of the judicial panel of inquiry.
Meanwhile, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has read riot act to hoodlums in the state, said the state we no longer tolerated any act of arson and unlawful activities.
Sanwo-Olu made the vow when he visited Fagba, Iju-Ishaga, Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area, to assess level of destructions aftermath of the recent tribal clash in the area.
The area was recently engulfed in tribal clash between Hausa and Yoruba communities which was reported to have claimed lives and properties.