Yussuf Aminu, a 35-year-old cyclist, was wrongfully detained, first by officers attached to Okoko Police Station, Lagos, and then by officers of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in 2019. He would not regain freedom until he had spent two years and three months in prison.
On April 14, 2019, Aminu, a native of Igbaja, Kwara State, was looking to pick up passengers in Lagos where he had lived for nine years, but police officers soon accosted him.
“I dropped the first set of passengers I picked at First Gate, Iyana Iba, Lagos,” he told FIJ. “After I had dropped them, some police officers accosted me.”
The officers told him his passengers were robbers. “I only rendered a service to them; I don’t know them,” Aminu responded.
Surprisingly, the policemen instructed him to step down from his motorcycle. He protested, but they overpowered him.
“They started hitting my joints with their rods before whisking me away,” he said.
At midnight, SARS officers from Igando came to Okoko Police Station and Aminu was handed over to them. He thought everything would not take less than a week as he was confident he had not committed any crime. But he soon knew he was going to be jailed for flimsy reasons.
His jail term was prolonged because his family could not afford the bribe the SARS officers wanted.
A N50,000 bribe offered by the family was considered an embarrassment to the disbanded SARS officers.
“The officers told my family the N50,000 offer could land me in Ogba prison.”
Aminu also said that stipends meant to cover his feeding were squandered by the officers. He would later be charged for armed robbery at Court 20, Ogba Magistrate Court, on November 3, 2019.
On January 27, 2021, Aminu’s case was fully taken over by Lawyers Without Border, a Nigerian human rights foundation. Aminu was re-arraigned and granted bail on September 21, 2021, on the grounds that his case had been in court for over two years. He was eventually freed on October 14, 2021.
Life for Aminu has been difficult since his liberation from jail. His motorcycle, the only means of survival, was taken away by the police. “I now manage with the token I earn at a nearby bakery,” he told FIJ.
Adekunle Ajisebutu, the Lagos State police spokesman, did not answer FIJ’s calls. At press time, he had not responded a text message sent to him.
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