Isaiah Oladejo was arrested by fully-armed policemen at the Lagos leg of the June 12 protests that were held in many states of the country on Saturday.
FIJ witnessed the exact moment Ugo Nnakwe, the Team Lead of the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) of the Nigeria Police Force, handpicked Oladejo from the midst of journalists covering the demonstration at Ojota and handed him over to other policemen on surveillance.
It was Oladejo’s arrest at about 9:30 am on Saturday that sparked the reaction of the protesters before the police began to shoot tear gas canisters in order to disperse everyone. Protesters fled while the reporters took cover at various places, including a nearby toilet.
DRAGGED INTO A POLICE VAN
READ MORE: ‘You’re Playing with Your Lives’, Police tell Journalists Covering June 12 protests
As the young Nigerian would later say, he was released on the orders of Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police. But it was this same police head who tagged him a “miscreant” when he was questioned by FIJ, a few hours after the tensions had been doused.
READ MORE: Lagos CP Orders Counter-Terrorism Officers to Leave Protesters Alone
“I was dragged into their van,” Oladejo told FIJ. “They beat me with a small stick and even when I begged them to release me, they asked me to stay back, as only the commissioner could order if they should release me or not.
“I later heard that the commissioner ordered them to release the two of us whom they picked. I can say I spent up to 30 minutes at the back of their van.”
Actually, when Nnakwe entered the midst of the journalists to grab Oladejo by the waist, his mission was to warn journalists against covering the protest.
“Please go home. If you love your lives, please leave,” he had told the reporters.
It was then he noticed the boy looking unkempt in his half-unbuttoned long-sleeved shirt.
“This is what I am saying,” the CTU officer said. “Is this boy one of you? He is a miscreant sent here to disrupt everything.”
LAGOS CP: ‘CAN’T YOU SEE HE IS A MISCREANT’?
Nigerians’ rights to protest are safeguarded in sections 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the Constitution, so Oladejo was permitted by law to be at the protest ground to exercise this fundamental human right. But the Lagos policemen including the commissioner didn’t view it from that perspective.
When Adeola Oladipupo, a journalist with FIJ, who had equally been arrested the same Saturday morning, asked the commissioner why Oladejo was initially arrested, the commissioner answered: “He is a miscreant.
“Can’t you see him? He is not one of you and it is the police’s job to ensure that any miscreant doesn’t infiltrate your midst. That was the same way they disrupted #EndSARS protests.”
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Odumosu subsequently turned to Oladejo, thinking he was Hausa, and tried to speak the Hausa language with him. He asked if he worked at the nearby ‘Bolar’ ( local parlance for ‘dump site’) but the teenager replied that he is Yoruba and could not communicate in Hausa.
He later told the commissioner he was a casual worker at nearby construction sites.
“What are you then looking for here? Is this your site?” the police commissioner asked rhetorically before walking past the teenager.
HAD HIS POCKET PICKED IN LAGOS
However, after FIJ’s interview with Oladejo, it became clear his parents were residing in Abuja and he had only travelled into Lagos in February to seek greener pastures after leaving secondary school.
Unfortunately, the friend he was staying with relocated, so he couldn’t host Oladejo any longer.
“I came to Lagos in February to stay with my friend and work,” he said.
“But when I wanted to return to Abuja two days ago, they said Abuja vehicle was no longer available for the night. That was how I slept under the bridge and my phone and money were stolen from me.”
Since Thursday that Oladejo’s phone and transport fare to Abuja were stolen at ‘Ojota underbridge’, he has been stuck in Lagos and has been unable to connect with his family members.
He joined the protest to raise funds so that he could return to the nation’s capital, over 700 kilometres away.
LIKE SARS, LIKE LAGOS CP
Top among the reasons for the nationwide demand for scrapping of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police is their profiling of Nigerian youths.
Until the proscription of the notorious SARS, many Nigerians were unjustly profiled, harassed, brutalised and extorted as internet fraudsters because of their looks.
In a similar manner, Odumosu had assumed Oladejo was a miscreant without acquiring any evidence to corroborate his claim.
Oladejo’s mother spoke with FIJ from Abuja after the protest.
“My son left home to work with his friend in Lagos and I know both of them were going to stay in the house of his friend’s brother,” she said.
“I’m surprised to hear that he was arrested during the Lagos protest. Truly, I had been trying his number since Thursday to warn him not to join the planned protest but his line was unreachable.
“I had no idea he had left his friend’s place neither did I hear about his experience under the Lagos bridge. If you still know where he is, help me tell him to come home. I am not interested in putting my son with any stranger again.”
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