The Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up by the Lagos State Government to look into cases of human rights abuse by men of the recently-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, opened hearing on Tuesday, October 27, 2020, with four cases.
First was the case of one Mr Okoliagu Abunike, a father of five, who narrated to the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel how he was in 2012 arrested by policemen from Ojo Police Station at the instance of his boss, who accused him of embezzling company’s funds.
According to him, the Ojo Police Station, after beating and humiliating him by tearing his clothes and parading him round Alaba market, handed him over to SARS, which detained him at Ikeja for 47 days without being taken to court.
He said men of SARS, including one Inspector Sunday, alias Baba Ijapa; and one ASP Haruna, tortured him so much so that two of his teeth were extracted.
Abunike said, “I still have some of the scars all over my body. My family didn’t know where I was. When they eventually knew and my mother and wife came to SARS office in Ikeja, they started beating my mother and wife in my presence.
“While I was in detention, they took over my house, they sold all my properties, including my Acura jeep, 17KVA generator, my inverter, my three blackberry phones and my land.”
He said after spending 47 days in SARS cell, he was hurriedly charged before a magistrates’ court after a lawyer hired by his family wrote a petition.
Abunike said on getting out of detention he filed a fundamental rights suit and Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos in 2016 awarded N10m damages in his favour against the police and his former boss.
Abunike, however, said four years after the judgment, all efforts to enforce it and claim the money had proved abortive.
He urged the panel to compel SARS to comply with the N10m judgment or return his seized properties to him.
“How can somebody have judgment since 2016 and till date he is still walking around, getting nothing, no compliance whatsoever? That was why I told my lawyer that since there is a judicial panel in Lagos now, I should come here so see whether they have the capacity to enforce the court judgment.”
Asked whether the magistrate court found him guilty of any crime, Abunike answered in the negative.
The panel admitted a copy of Justice Buba’s N10m judgment as an exhibit and said its decision would be made know in seven days.
The second case was that of one Ndukwe Ekekwere, who was brought to the hearing in a wheel chair by his mother.
Though his case could not be heard by the panel on the grounds that the SARS operative, who is the accused in the case was absent, Ekekwere told our correspondent that he became paralysed and was confined to a wheelchair after he was pushed off a two-storey building in 2008 by men of SARS.
While adjourning the case till November 2, 2020, Justice Okuwobi said though she noted the difficulty in bringing the man in the wheel chair to the hearing venue, it was necessary for the panel to give the accused SARS operative an opportunity for fair hearing in the interest of Justice.
Two other cases were called but they could not go on as well as the complainants were absent.