Tade Okoye (not real name), a 15-year-old boy, and six other underage boys were arrested by officers of the Lagos Police Command in January and tortured into confessing to crimes they did not commit, FIJ can report.
Tade is one of the numerous children without a home and living on scraps made after daily labour on the streets of Lagos. His father is dead and his mother is another struggling single parent without the resources to look after a growing teenager. Tade’s daily tasks include pushing and hauling goods for sellers of consumer goods.
“In January, he had just finished offloading noodles at a wholesale store and was waiting to get paid when Police held him and said he was under arrest. It was like a nightmare. They hauled him into a waiting van and drove to Area J where he saw six of his friends on the streets,” said The Destiny Trust, a non-governmental organisation that educates, empowers and cares for homeless children and other young people at risk.
“They were accused of stealing a generator worth ₦195,000. Police said they were a notorious gang of robbers who ‘specialise’ in stealing ‘I-better-pass-my-neighbour’ generators in the neighbourhood. They were tortured to the point that false confession began to flow freely.
“They said they had a gun and later admitted they had no gun anywhere but had to confess to whatever police said they did. Police took them to state headquarters to repeat same confession or they kill them.”
March 4, 2022. 22:30hrs.
We got Tade released from prison today. Tade is only 15 years old. His father is dead. He is a homeless child who hustles for daily meals in the market and sleeps at the market at night with some other homeless kids. #aThread
— The Destiny Trust (@TheDestinyTrust) March 5, 2022
None of the boys arrested was older than 17 years at the time of arrest. These officers of the Lagos Police Command decided to employ all possible harsh means to pin a crime on the juveniles. Tade was threatened and tortured by police officers while he was in detention.
The police officers worked hard to make him and those six other children own up to the accusations of being armed robbers terrorising a part of Lagos. After several interrogative sessions with the police, the boys revealed it was all a lie and that they had been made to confess to a crime they did not commit.
“The kids told a senior official at the police command that they confessed to a crime they knew nothing about and that if the police beat them to the point of death, they would still not be able to show any gun because there was none,” The Destiny Trust said.
“This kick-started another round of torture; two of them fainted. Tade and his homeless friends are between the age of 12 and 16 years. They are regular kids taking up the burden of survival.
“They said the worst ‘crime’ they ever committed was accepting food from Dudu when he stole from his mum and declared a feast for his friends on the streets. We’ve known Tade for some months. He was enrolled at our Bridge Learning Centre last October but we didn’t offer him a home. At 15, he is just learning to read and this happened.”
Tade was released on bail on March 4, after getting support from The Destiny Trust and The Justice Project, an initiative of Ecclesia Hills.
“Tade has gained freedom but the road to freedom was too rough. As we rode back home, he showed scars all over his body-the matchet cuts to make them confess to owning a gun, the indelible scars on his arms as his hands were manacled from the back while he was beaten,” The Destiny Trust added.
Police officers had physically assaulted the boy with a machete, leaving cuts on his body. FIJ also learnt that the scar on the arms is from the handcuffs. He was tied to the back with handcuffs while being beating, so handcuffs dug deep into his flesh as he wriggled in pain from being beaten.
Torture – more so the torture of minors – is criminal. Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution provides that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of person. The Anti-torture Act 2017 was also passed to explicitly state the right to freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment as a non-derogable right.
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