The Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of SARS and other related matters today listed 6 petitions, for hearing.
Of the six, only two could be heard. In the first petition of Canaan Chukwuezi, the counsel to the Nigerian Police, Joseph Eboseremen told the panel that this was the second time the case was being called but the petitioner was absent just as he was the first time.
The counsel asked the panel to strike out the petition for a lack of diligent prosecution.
The counsel to the panel, Jonathan Ogunsanya, however, pleaded that the petitioner is given the very last opportunity to appear and present his case.
The Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi granted the request. She adjourned till the 20th of Jan. and ordered that hearing notices be sent out to the petitioner. She also said that failure to appear at the next sitting will be detrimental to the petitioner’s case.
In the second petition of Francis Ossajokweh, the petitioner was available and he promptly took the stand to narrate his petition.
Led by his counsel, S.O Are, Francis, a driver with Flour Mills (who lives in Satellite Town, Lagos) told the panel what happened on the 15th of Aug 2020.
“At about 4 pm, I was arrested and taken to Olosan police station, Mushin in respect of a car I bought from one Mr Afeez Asogba. At about 4.30 pm, I was taken to the orderly room and asked questions about how I got the car. Even before my explanations, I was being beaten by one officer, Mr Taiwo,” he said.
“Later CSP Arogba came and asked how I got the car. After explaining he asked Mr Taiwo to handcuff me and then told me to produce the gun I used in robbing the owners of the car.
“He handcuffed and beat me to the extent that my bone dislocated. I kept insisting that I had proof that I bought the car and I asked them to investigate. Instead, he said he will beat me till blood comes out from me and later he threw me and my mechanic, Mr Gbenga in the cell.
“I have receipts, photocopies particulars of the car and photocopies of the bank transfer I did for the purchase of the car.”
The petitioner was then allowed to identify same and his counsel asked to be allowed to tender them as exhibits
There were no objections from the other parties on the request for the exhibits to be admitted in evidence and the panel admitted same.
The Exhibits said to be of a green Toyota Yaris car was admitted in evidence.
“Do you have anything to show the torture you endured in the SARS detention,” his lawyer asked.
Petitioner: Yes! I have photos. I seek to tender the same as evidence.
The panel admitted three photographs of the petitioner with bandages as evidence.
In continuation, the petitioner said “On 16th Aug, I was transferred to SARs Ikeja and taken to OC SARS office with my mechanic. I explained. He acted professionally and told me to let them know who I bought the car from. I told him and he asked that I be detained while the investigation commenced.
“I was bailed the next day after my family paid N255,000 cash which included N45,000 for mobilization which my IPO collected and another N15,000 which he said was his own personal money. I paid thru Mr Chukuma Nwanna who stood for my bail.
“After my release from SARS, I went to seek for medical attention and my brother called me from abroad to say he saw a publication online portraying me as a criminal and hoodlum. He also said I should check Punch Newspaper of 17th Aug and I saw the story. I asked myself how did this come about and I remembered that my pictures were taken at Olosan Mushin police station by the DCO and when I asked why? He said the DPO asked him to snap our photos and send to him.”
A copy of the Newspaper was tendered in evidence and admitted as exhibit by the panel.
The Petitioner says the story has gone viral and he lost so many things and went through the pain because of it as he was shown to the world as a criminal.
When asked by his lawyer what he wants the panel to do for him. The petitioner lists the following:
(1) I want an apology letter from the police to me.
(2) I want it also published on the same Punch Newspaper
(3) I also want monetary compensation because I’ve gone through a lot. Friends ran away after seeing this story
(4) Disciplinary action against CSP Arogba so this would serve as a deterrent to other policemen
(5) I want justice.
Counsel to the police, Joseph Eboseremen under cross-examination asked: How did you meet with Mr Afeez Asogba?
Answer: I met him on 28th May 2000 through Mr Balogun a friend I had known for about 7months before that day. I never met Afiz before that day. I met him in his workshop. He is a car mechanic and not a car dealer.
Police Counsel: Are you lettered? Yes.
As at the time you bought the car, did you go through the car particulars? Yes!
The particulars of the car didn’t show Afeez Asogba as the owner of the car? Yes!
Did you enquire about the name of the owner you saw on the particulars? I asked him and the answer was that he bought it from an army officer and when he told me that, I asked Mr Balogun how well do you know Afeez. He said he knows him well and that I could trust the information that he bought it from a soldier and based on that I asked for a receipt in Afeez name and that, Mr Balogun would stand as a witness. So I collected a receipt and a change of car document from Afeez.
I tried calling the no of the allocation on the car papers just to be double sure but it didn’t connect.
Police Counsel: There was no document showing that Afeez bought the car from an army officer?
Petitioner: No. He didn’t give me any document.
Police Counsel: You were paraded by the police? Yes!
The counsel then asked the petitioner to read the punch publication to the panel. it showed that even though it had the petitioners picture, the suspect was referred to as Joseph In the picture. The petitioner’s name is Francis.
The Police Counsel also asked the petitioner how much he bought the car?
Answer: for N320,000.
Did you know the market value of the car? I don’t know. The vehicle was in a bad condition.
Counsel: I suggest to you that the market value was N3.2m. Petitioners counsel objects and Panel disallows the question.
Police Counsel: You said they broke your hand at Olosan police station? Yes!
Which hospital did you attend? I went for traditional means to treat the hand. Meaning you don’t have medical bills to show the panel. No, just the photographs.
But it’s possible to stage manage this?
Petitioner: I don’t know about that.
Counsel: I put it to you that your hand was never broken when you were in the police custody.
They were. My elbow shifted.
At this stage, the police counsel ask for an adjournment to enable him get more facts with which to cross examine the witness.
He said, “One of my witnesses, the DPO has not been served and the other, the IPO is ill and in Ilaje, Ondo State.
The panel ordered that hearing notice be issued on the DPO involved in the matter and adjourned till Feb 2 for continuation of cross examination.
In the third case of Tella Adesanya, the petitioner who is dressed in his official uniform tells the panel that he works with the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services under the Min.of Agriculture.
He declines the offer of free legal services from the Nigerian Bar Association and says he wants to tell his story personally.
He narrates his story: I was driving along LASU/ Ibadan Rd on Sun, June 16, 2018. I was stopped at Igando junction for a check by an officer Insp. Ernest Odion of the Nig Police. He demanded for my car papers and I gave him. After going through it, he demanded for my original drivers licence.
As he was handing it back, two men rolled by on a motor cycle. They were arguing and told the police that my car knocked someone down at Iba. i was taken to Igando police station and Ernest lodged a complaint.
The Divisional Traffic Officer (DTO) said they should seize the keys of my car. After describing the scene of the alleged hit and run, those in Igando said it was not within their jurisdiction and asked that it should be reported at Iba police station.
One Insp Jeremiah came from Iba and took me to Iba police station where he handed me over to the person behind the counter.
After stripping me and keeping me for hours, they then asked me to write a statement. I refused and that’s when I met Roman Supretendent Helen Otitoju, the DTO.
The DPO, CSP Olushakin Gbenga said he would rather not detain him as there was insufficient evidence to warrant it. He ordered the DTO to release me on bail.
The DTO said he won’t release me until she has proof that I didn’t hit anyone. Another woman Sgt Destiny was the IPO.
In the evening, The DTO went and brought 2 men different from those who initially reported. i refused to write a statement and instead demanded to know the scene of the accident and the victim. But that didn’t happen.
I was detained illegally and on the third day, i was taken to the Igando Gen Hospital to see the alleged victim.
I was not tortured but the trauma i went through was much. When we came back, the DTO insisted that I pay for bail and they insisted on collecting N10,000. i was there for 3 days, no case was made against me and I was made to write an undertaking that i would pay the sum of N80K needed for the victims health before my car would be released.
After making payments of N65,000, my car somehow got dented at the police station. It was damaged beyond repairs and they gave no credible reason for the cause of damage. They insisted i should take my car away. i refused.
When they were not forthcoming, i wrote several petitions to Alausa, the Commissioner of Police, the Office of the Public Defender, The National Human Rights Commission ans even to President Buhari seeking justice.
At almost all the institutions i wrote i was asked to pay a bribe. Other institutions simply didnt respond.
Out of desperation, i even wrote to the Ooni of Ife last year when all the institutions failed me. i was waiting for his response when the EndSARs protests happened and that gave me theopportunity to write this panel.
I have documents ans recordings of my conversation with the police to back up my testimony.
The panel adjourned till 20th Jan for the petitioner to submit his documents.
In the fourth petition of Olalekan Faleye, the panel was told that petitioner is out of the state and would be available from the 2nd of Feb to appear.
The 5th petitioner, Adebayo Yinka Austin was available but his petition could not be heard because he elected to use the free legal services of the NBA. Petition was therefore adjourned to Jan 19th for NBA counsel to study his petition so as to offer proper representation.
The 6th petition also failed to go on.