Sitting quietly on the wooden bench and resting his head on the wall in front of his master’s shop, Monday sure had a lot running through his mind, given the way he suddenly sprang to life when a Punch correspondent said hello.
Two weeks ago, he had a taste of the brutality of the policemen at Pen Cinema police station in Agege area of Lagos State. And up till now, Monday, who runs a shop in Ogba, had been battling to stay alive and strong as the pain inflicted on him by the policemen-turned-attackers had yet to fade away, several days after.
With face swollen, eyes looking red and signs of torment in his shaky voice, it was obvious he must have gone through hell in the hands of the policemen, who invaded Anthony Ojekere and Bishop Hughes streets at about 8:30 pm and unleashed serious terror on everyone they came across.
Monday, who appeared to be in his mid-30s, told acorrespondent that he was thoroughly beaten to the point of death for committing no particular offence. His submission was echoed by his neighbours who said it was by grace that he didn’t lose his life that night, given the way the policemen, about three of them – all in mufti – pounced on him.
Barely audible, he recalled, “It was on Friday night, two weeks ago. That should be October 27. It was around 8:30 pm. We were two in the shop and we were closing the shop already. As we were about locking the doors, three yellow buses suddenly pulled over in front of the shop.
“Immediately, three men jumped down and rushed to where I was standing. My colleague was able to escape, thinking they were thieves, but they dragged me on the floor to the bus and started beating me. I even thought they were armed robbers because everywhere was dark and they all wore black T-shirts.
“When one of them said they were policemen, I was shocked that policemen could be so inhuman. So, I asked what my offence was and then I told them to allow me to close my shop. But that angered them the more. They started beating me again until I could barely see anything. They used everything in sight to beat me. They pushed me into the bus where I met a crowd – people they also picked up at different places. The bus was full already and we had to sit on one another.”
Monday said by the time they got to the Pen Cinema police station that night and everybody was forced down from the bus, they were about 150 to 200.
After detaining them for some time and taking down their names, they were later released to go home around 11 pm, but not without some scars and bitter experiences. Some, like Monday, lost their phones and others lost other valuable items. It was such a terrible time for most of them.
Whether in the past or recent times, there have been series of reports and allegations of brutality and maltreatment levelled against policemen attached to the Pen Cinema police station.
The already bad impression people seem to have about the police station was further exacerbated in 2012 when the serving divisional police officer at that time, CSP Femi Fabunmi, killed a protester, Ademola Aderintola Daramola, during the protest in Lagos against the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.
Apart from the manslaughter charge, the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere also found the DPO guilty of shooting three other persons – Alimi Abubakar, Egbujor Samuel and Chizorba Odoh, during the protest, thereby causing them grievous bodily harm.
He was arraigned by the state government on a seven-count charge bordering on murder, attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm. Thus, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015, a decision that was upheld by the Appeal Court in December 2016.
Fabunmi, who was a Chief Superintendent of Police, has been dismissed from the police force and he’s currently serving his term.
But according to some Lagos residents and some persons who live around the police station, not much seemed to have changed about the police station. Our correspondent gathered from some people around the station that victimisation of innocent Nigerians is a regular occurrence in the station and that anyone brought into the station could only be set free by luck.
Across the length and breadth of the police station, including some motorists who ply the road regularly, they said police authorities in the state needed to monitor policemen in the station closely.
To some of the victims of the “violent” raid that night, the ranking of the Nigeria Police Force as the worst police organisation globally could not have come at a better time
The World Internal Security and Police Index International gave a pass mark to Singapore, Finland and Denmark as the first, second and third best respectively, noting that of all the 127 countries that were assessed, Nigeria police was the worst.
The report partly read, “There are 219 police officers for every 100,000 Nigerians, well below both the index median of 300, and the Sub-Saharan Africa region average of 268. This limits the capacity of the force to measure up to its law and mandate.
“In terms of process, legitimacy and outcomes, the story is not different; which makes the Force fall short of the required standards.”
Meanwhile, still on the same night when Monday was nearly killed for committing no offence – at least he wasn’t confronted with any throughout his travails in the hands of the policemen, some other victims of the raid also shared their “unpalatable” experiences with Saturday PUNCH.
One of them, who preferred to be identified as Ola, told our correspondent that the way he was beaten that night marked the worst experience of his life and that since then, he had not been able to sleep well because his body still ached.
He explained that he was on his way from work when he quickly delivered some drugs to his ailing dad and stopped to buy noodles from a mallam (aboki) on Bishop Hughes Street at Ogba. He said he had barely placed his order when the policemen suddenly stormed the shop and arrested all of them, leaving one person behind.
He said, “I left my dad’s house around 8 pm so the drama happened around 8:30 pm. I was on a call when I entered the shop, but shortly after, I saw that people started running. Before we knew what was happening, we saw that three big yellow buses suddenly pulled over in front of the shop. They didn’t come in their van and they were not in uniform, neither did they introduce themselves. It was later we knew they were policemen.
“They told everyone to go on the bus. They said we were under arrest. So, I was still telling the person I was talking to on the phone that we would talk later when one of them gave me a slap in the face for “making calls.” He said I was reporting them. That was how they started beating me. All of them pounced on me. They even wanted to collect my phone but I was able to resist.
“When I entered the bus, it was filled to the brim. In that bus, we wouldn’t be less than 50 because people already sat on one another’s laps. And that was the situation in the other buses.”
As if that was not enough, Ola said they started picking people on the street as they drove towards the station.
“From Bishop Hughes Street, they entered Anthony Ojekere Street, where they arrested Monday and some others. The way they beat Monday, all the pain I was feeling disappeared. It was as if they meant to kill him. I had to look away because I couldn’t bear it. No, that guy is lucky to be alive today. They went to the other side of his shop and carried someone that was lying down on a bench, maybe due to the heat inside the house. They carried him like a dead man and he was wearing only boxer shorts.
“A couple that was walking on the road were accosted and thrown into the bus. They stopped a tricycle on Oba Ogunji Road close to their station and packed everyone in it into the buses. That was how they picked many other people. I tried to call my brother but unknowingly, I called my dad and I didn’t know one of them was watching me.
“He started finding his way to where I was and he was saying he would kill me. He said he would show me hell when we got to the station. I’m sure my dad heard that because I had not dropped the call and that was how he knew that I was being taken to the police station. For that call, the policeman beat me mercilessly.”
On getting to the station, he said they were all locked up in the cell and others had to stay in the passage.
By the time Ola’s brother and his ailing dad got to the station, some other relatives had also arrived, pleading for the release of their relatives.
Ola’s brother, who joined the conversation, said, “When the pleas and protest became too loud for them, they used tear gas, which landed my dad at the Ifako General Hospital. The DCO came out and saw my dad on the floor, saying they should carry him away. I know how much we paid to take care of him that night. Some persons called their lawyers and some people they knew. A woman who was visually impaired was also there to seek her son’s release.
“If police can’t protect us, why can’t they leave us alone, because if it were to be armed robbers, they suddenly wouldn’t have fuel and if they did, they would come after the robbers had left? They would give all manner of excuses, and if you make a report, they demand money. I mean is this a country?”
Ola said when the situation became heated, they were all released to go home at about 11 pm. “Even though I didn’t pay them, the trauma was too much and they must have thought they would make some money from us because I found out that after we were released, they picked up another set of people,” he added.
“I blame myself for waiting to buy the food that night; I could have cooked in my house but I felt it was too late to start cooking. They used to say police is our friend but they are our real enemy. I could neither sleep nor eat that night. I’m tired of this country.”
While policemen attribute all their raids to investigation, findings by Saturday PUNCH had revealed that a number of the raids were meant to exploit, extort and harass innocent members of the public.
A recent report by Saturday PUNCH, published on August 19, 2017, detailed how some policemen have turned raids to intimidation techniques and money-making ventures, as well as extorting and abducting at will while leaving low-profile and high-profile cases unsolved.
The owner of the noodles shop where Ola was arrested escaped being arrested, but he told our correspondent that it wasn’t the first time policemen would invade the area and arrest people indiscriminately. He said they did the same thing about two months ago and that till date, no reason had been adduced for the harassment.
“It was just as if they used us to do exercise. They didn’t arrest me but they promised to come back,” he said, adding that they took the phone of one his workers, which they had yet to return till date.
“My phone is still with them,” the owner of the phone said, adding, “When I went back for my phone, they said the person with it was not around. Since then, the number has not been available. My boss also went there, but they threatened to deal with him.”
Another victim of the raid, who introduced himself as Daniel, said, “They came suddenly and started beating people. We would be up to 200 when they took us to the station that night. We had to sit on ourselves in the bus. They packed us like fish in a sardine. Some of them were armed while some were not. Nigeria policemen are wicked.”
When asked if they noted the name or force number of any of the policemen, they said they could not as the policemen all wore mufti. They were also too distressed to pick the number plate of any of the buses.
The brutality of some policemen seems regular as the passing of each day. The experience of a newlywed couple in the hands of policemen attached to the Maitama police division in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, a few weeks ago was yet another sad tale of policemen’s inhumanity to the people they were paid to protect.
Two policemen were engaged in a fight in the public when one of them cocked his gun and started shooting sporadically. In the process, one of the bullets hit the left leg of the husband who, in company with his wife and a friend, was leaving the premises. One of the policemen was named Akpabio Daniel, while the couple had only been married for two months.
As of today, the leg had been amputated, while the man had been confined to the hospital bed, still writhing in pains. Even though the DPO of Maitama police station where the policemen are attached to, gave N150,000 to the family for treatment, the wife of the victim said they had spent over N1.6m on hospital bills.
As of today, the FCT Police PRO, Anjuguri Manzah, said the policeman who fired the shot had been arrested and that investigation had been ongoing since then. Nothing had been said about the shooter or what the police would do for the victim, who has lost his leg.
When contacted about the raid at Ogba, the Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos State, Olarinde Famous-Cole, said the police carry out raids from time to time based on complaints and intelligence reports, but that their men had been warned not to harass innocent persons in the process.
He said the DPO of the station pointed out to him that a lot of complaints, bordering on armed robbery, were received from the residents in the area raided by the policemen from the station.
“He confirmed that they raided those black spots and that since that raid, they had not received any such negative report again. He said there was no form of assault and that among the men arrested were screened, some were released while some were further interrogated.”