Goodluck Oviekeme’s life ended on September 23, a day after he was snatched from his bed by police officers attached to Operation Puff Adder in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, at about 3am.
Moments after he and seven others in Biogbolo Epie community were cuffed and locked up in a cell housing 59 people, 27-year-old Oviekeme waited for his turn to be hanged.
His hands and legs would be cuffed and used to hold him to an iron bar, while his head and bruised body would dangle underneath. This is as Ben Karibo, one of those arrested with Oviekeme, remembered.
After crying and shouting for help while being tortured, Oviekeme fainted and was brought out for fresh air by his captors who had earlier dismissed his unconsciousness as an attempt to deceive.
He passed out two more times, failing to wake the second time until he was declared dead at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa, where he had been rushed to by the police.
“They raided our community in the early hours of Wednesday. The police just entered my parlour and brought a handcuff,” Karibo told FIJ. “They did not tell me why they were arresting me. They just handcuffed me and dragged me out in front of my wife and child. When they took me to their van, I saw seven other people, including Goodluck.
“Then Chris, the officer-in-charge, used the bottom of his AK-47 rifle to hit me on the head. They started beating us and saying we had cut the hand of a police officer and stole his rifle.”
Karibo told FIJ that some of the 58 people in the small cell with him had sustained gunshot injuries but got no care. He said the police took him, Oviekeme and one Solomon Osain out of the cell to be hanged in the manner that led to Oviekeme’s unconsciousness.
“Solomon was shouting, ‘I do not know anything o’. Then the place was quiet. An officer came to check on Oviekeme, then remarked, ‘It is like this one is dead’. Then they brought him down and saw he was still breathing,” he told FIJ.
Osain was the first to be hanged and beaten with a belt while on the bar. Karibo went next, while Oviekeme was the last to suffer the fate. Both Osain and Oviekeme fainted after being subjected to this treatment, but Oviekeme’s was fatal.
Gabriel Esegi, the secretary of Biogbolo Epie community, told FIJ that he was out to turn off his generator set when police officers accosted him and slapped his left ear before dragging him into their vehicle to spend four days behind bars with seven others.
He said Echeng Echeng, the Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa, was present when the arrests were made.
Esegi told FIJ that he witnessed Oviekeme faint three times in the cell, but the police acted nonchalantly, waving it off as a false alarm. He said it was on Friday that he learnt that Oviekeme was dead, as Barnabas, the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in charge of his case, had earlier told inmates that he was responding to treatment.
“On Friday, I overheard a policeman complaining over the walkie talkie that youths blocked roads in the community because one of their own died in custody. The officer said, ‘They’re mad. It’s good for a policeman to die, but their person should not die’. If they like, let them come. We will kill more’. That was when I knew that Oviekeme was dead,” Esegi told FIJ.
When FIJ contacted Asinmi Butswat, the state Police Public Relations Officer, for comment, he said the men were arrested for attacking a police patrol team and injuring Ugbotor Sunday, an inspector, before carting away his rifle.
On Oviekeme’s death, he said, “They are going to conduct an autopsy, and its outcome will be made public. The only thing I know is that he was running a high temperature and was rushed to the hospital where he gave up. The attention of the officers was drawn to the fact that he fainted and he was rushed to the hospital.”
When he was asked why the accused were not charged to court 48 hours after their arrest prescribed by law, he said the rule does not apply to all cases.
Oviekeme’s body remains in the hospital, as the result of the autopsy is awaited. All other arrested suspects were released on bail on Sunday.
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