A 66-year-old concessionaire to Lagos State Government on abandoned vehicles, Ganiyu Adewale Atere, has disclosed how his encounter with operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit of the Nigeria Police left him with multiple fractures and spine injury.
Atere told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution on Saturday that, as a result of Police brutality, he could no longer walk for more than two hours without looking for where to sit in order to have a rest.
The judicial panel was set up by the Lagos State Government to examine allegations of brutality and high handedness by the defunct SARS.
“What I found surprising was that they didn’t even tell me my offence,” he said.
At its resumed sitting in Lekki at the weekend, the panel, headed by retired Chief Justice of Lagos State, Justice Doris Okuwobi, listened to the petition involving Osidipe Olumide Sunday Vs the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
In the said petition, the Managing Director of Olata Ventures Limited requested compensation of N10m from the government for the trauma he went through in the last 13 years.
He also prayed the judicial panel to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Narrating his plight, Atere explained that as a licensed concessionaire, his main job was to take abandoned vehicles off the Lagos roads.
“That was the concession agreement that we signed. The state government has a law that stipulates that once your vehicles are pasted with removal warning stickers, the owners stand the risk of losing them as well as facing prosecution.
“Most times, we sell off carcasses of these abandoned vehicles as scraps. But we can only effect this after we might have duly informed the Police authorities in such areas,” he said.
Police Theatre of Death
On May 7, 2008, the Olata MD recalled that some of his workers were working on the remains of a burnt tanker in Owutu area of Ikorodu, Lagos State, when they stumbled on what looked like a locally-made gun almost burnt beyond recognition.
According to him, the company’s policy mandated that any time a staff came across strange-looking objects or firearm, the matter should immediately be reported at the nearest Police station.
However, his workers encountered resistance from some street urchins who forcibly asked them to surrender the suspected weapon. The situation attracted the attention of a team of plain-clothes Police operatives attached to SARS.
The matter was taken to Owutu Police Station where a case file was opened for further investigation.
Atere told the panel that when the matter was later transferred to the office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Ikeja.
“So, I sent my general manager to follow up the case and secure the bail of my staff.
“Rather than attend to him, the investigating Police officer ignored him and insisted on seeing the managing director of the company. He threatened that the arrested workers would be prosecuted as suspected armed robbers if I failed to turn up.
“I went to the station in the company of my wife and the general manager. On getting there, the policemen held me by the hand and asked me to come with them to the back of the building. I followed them casually, thinking he wanted to discuss something with me in private.
“Before I knew what was happening, I had found myself in a strange-looking place which was disclosed as their torture room. I later got to understand why they call the room a ‘Theatre of Death,’” he said.
The elderly man told the audience that he was bundled into the strange room and tied up.
“Both my hands and legs were tied together behind me like a crocodile. It was then that they lifted my body, hung it on a giant cross bar and kept torturing me. At my old age, I shouldn’t be made to pass through such a harrowing experience.
“At that point, I saw my life flash before me. I urinated repeatedly on my body and almost passed out. Even though it was obvious that I was in severe pain, the FSARS operatives just didn’t care,” he said.
One of his staff who had earlier been brutalised at the same place alerted his wife at the station. The Police operatives had told Atere’s wife that her husband had been taken to the State Criminal Investigative Department at Panti in Yaba.
“She immediately ran to petition the office of the former Commissioner of Police, Marvel Akpoyibo. I was eventually released from the theatre of death after 35 minutes of torture. I could barely walk.
Hospital bill of N869,700
“The man the commissioner directed to look into my case, one Mr. Chinedu (also from FSARS) in the company of some other officers, carried me by the shoulders and drove me to a hospital. When we got to the health facility, Kelu Specialist Hospital in Lekki, I was placed in intensive care because of my critical condition.
“They [FSARS] pleaded with me, promised to pay my hospital bill and vowed that the operatives who tortured me would be brought to book. They visited me one or two more times before they disappeared,” Atere told the panel.
he narrated that, out of the hospital bill of N869,700, the Police only paid N150,000 and were never seen again.
He subsequently underwent several tests, including X-rays.
“I was told that I had fractures in some parts of my body and some challenges with my spine. I stayed at the hospital for about 28 days before I was discharged.
“As a result of the traumatic experience, my health condition has deteriorated. Today, I could barely walk for two hours without holding on to something or sitting down.
“I cannot even sit properly without experiencing sharp pains sometimes,” he stated
During his cross examination, the Nigerian Police counsel, Cyril Ejiofor, asked if Atere was sure of his allegation of torture.
“Do you know what it means to tie somebody up like a crocodile?” Atere fired back in anger.
The case was subsequently adjourned to March 5, 2021.
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