The family of a Nigerian man called Daniel Christopher of Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has made accusations against the police.
The family is accusing the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command of arraigning and remanding their son in prison custody on an attempted robbery charge because they could not pay a N250,000 bail fee.
Daniel's family, who spoke to SaharaReporters on Wednesday, lamented that their son had been in prison custody for 13 months without trial after he was detained in a dinghy police cell for 34 days for what they described as "a prank gone wrong."
They accused the police of torturing Daniel in the cell.
Daniel's sister, Igwe Blessing, told SaharaReporters that trouble started when he went out to shoot a prank video in preparation for D9ja Spirit Talent Hunt at a Point of Sale (PoS) centre at MOT Junction, Epe, on August 3, 2021. Unfortunately, POS attendant took him for a thief and raised the alarm, accusing him of attempting to rob her.
This led to a mob attack despite showing evidence that he was shooting a prank video.
Blessing noted that after assaulting Daniel, he was taken to the police station, where he was tortured. She added that all efforts made by her brother to prove his innocence were rebuffed, as the policemen refused to watch the recorded video of the prank.
"They instead on transferring him to the office of the defunct notorious police anti-robbery squad (SARS) in Ikeja after the family could not pay N250,000 demanded his bail," she said.
Daniel's fiancée, Semilla Iribhogbe, who corroborated Blessing’s statement, said that while at the disbanded SARS, Daniel was detained for 34 days under physical and mental torture, adding he was later allegedly forced to sign a confessional statement, admitting he wanted to rob the POS shop.
Iribhogbe alleged that after signing the 'confessional statement', the police IPO asked him to call his family to bring N250,000 for his bail otherwise he would be arraigned in court for attempted robbery.
In an appeal for help made to SaharaReporters, Daniel narrated his ordeal at the hands of police operatives at the infamous premises where the defunct notorious police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) used in Lagos, describing it as hell.
The 27-year-old artist narrated: "We were getting ready for a talent hunt (D9jaspirit Talent Hunt) that was supposed to kick off by September with a management team comprising a media manager one Mr Debo and myself, then sponsor one Mr John.
"Me and my media manager agreed on getting contents on standby before the talent hunt would kick off as that was supposed to give us ground on our pages while on the show.
"I was to get some contents and forward them to the media manager for editing. I came up with a one-man stunt robbery prank video. Every character that fit into the skit was to get a N50,000 reward for appearance.
"With an A9 bug camera which at the time was perfect for 1080 mobile resolution. I also had on me an iPhone 12pro, 500g hard disk, 64 gig flash drive, N50,000 cash, a small Nokia phone and a wooden toy gun I carved myself for the prank which was flexible; it can be broken into two and also stick back.
"It was on August 3, I set out for my first shot. My first shot was at a POS centre. I went to the POS centre and the lady there allowed me in. Then I introduced myself as an artist with my camera set in front of my face cap.
"Then I went on to ask about her experience on the job and her biggest challenge working as a POS agent. She even told me how one of her colleagues lost money to a fake alert and was forced to pay with her salary.
"I asked these questions to know how to compensate her afterwards. Then I went on with the main script.
"Hey, give me your bag or I shoot you, then she flared up and ran outside. Then I started shouting that it was a prank. I broke the wooden gun into two to show her it was a fake gun but she wouldn’t stop, she grabbed my shirt and held on.
"Her shouts attracted a crowd who rushed to the scene from different angles. I tried to explain to them but the beating was too much, I was beaten into a coma. I kept shouting that it was a prank and that I was an artist. I tried to explain that it was supposed to be an entry video for my application to D9ja Spirit Talent Hunt."
Daniel noted that all his pleas and explanations were not taken as the crowd insisted that he was lying, and that “musicians don't do this kind of thing".
He continued, "I was able to get them to take me to a police station nearby. When we got there, I tried to get the cops to recover my items which the POS attendant and some other members of the crowd had snatched from me.
"Unfortunately, the policemen didn't even want to hear me as the first thing they did was beat me up and tie me with a cable. They flogged me with a machete.
"Later that day, they asked me to call one of my family members or friends to come and bail me with the sum of N250,000. Without my phone and with the mental torture I had suffered, I couldn't think of any number offhand. Then I begged them to take me to Rehearsal Studio in Lekki where I went with my media manager to shoot a viral video earlier that week but they refused.
"I found my 64gig flash drive which was the only thing I held close to my hand even when the mob were beating me. The cops took it from me.
"Three days later, I was in detention and could not provide the N250,000; that was on the 6th of August. The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) instructed his men to transfer me to SARS in Ikeja.
"In the evening, I was transferred to Ikeja, where they started torturing me all over again. I was isolated and tortured every day for 34 days. They forced me to sign a statement they wrote under intense torture after spending 34 days in isolation with no communication with my family and friends; no food, no water and no bath. Then I was taken to court and was remanded in Kirikiri prison on the 9th of September 2021.”
"It was in prison that I was able to use the welfare platform to finally reach my management and family members," he explained.
Meanwhile, his fiancée lamented that for the 13 months Daniel spent in detention, it was adjournment upon adjournment without trial.
Iribhogbe further lamented that a lawyer, one Mr Chijike Jiakponna they engaged to defend Daniel made things worse for them.
She said, "Jiakponna asked me to pay him N800,000 to defend him but immediately after we paid him N450,000, he vanished. He has never shown up in court, not even once. When Daniel asked for a refund, he started manufacturing different arguments. Now we have no money to engage legal services as Jiakponna has refused to refund the N450,000 paid to him."
She appealed for Nigerians’ intervention, adding that her fiancée has never committed a crime either in Lagos or any other state.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Jiakponna were unsuccessful as he did not answer his calls or reply to a text message sent to his mobile line.