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20.10.2021 EndSARS Watch SCARS OF #ENDSARS: Trauma, Pains of Detained Protesters’ Relatives

Published 20th Oct, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

According to New Nigeria Network (NNN),  a civil society group, 300 Nigerians are still incarcerated across different states, including Abuja, the nation’s capital, in connection with the nationwide #EndSARS protest that was held in October 2020. In a series of interviews, Gabriel Ogunjobi documents the extent to which the blatant denial of freedom in the last 12 months has shattered relatives of some detainees in Lagos, Oyo, Ondo and Abuja. 

Osuntoyinbo Ariyo walked slowly into the sitting room. His movement commanded attention because of how he dragged his feet. His eyes were soggy; it was either he was about to cry or he had a chronic eye defect. 

“It’s cataract,” the septuagenarian said. “I can only guess the side of the room you are because of your speech; I can’t see you at all. I have cried and cried over the detention of my sons until I lost my sight.”

From the time Sodiq and Afeez were first arrested in November until the early period of their arraignment in February, Osuntoyinbo ran helter-skelter to try to secure their freedom. But now, he no longer can. And, it would be sadder for the old sons to learn that their father had lost his sight because of their predicament.

THEY HID THE POLICE OFFICERS FROM ATTACK. NOW, THEY ARE IN PRISON

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ojoo-father.jpg

Osuntoyinbo lived in a remote bungalow in the Ojoo area of Ibadan, where many houses were clay-mud and susceptible to perennial flooding within the Oyo State capital.

Apart from the dry gourds hung at the doorstep, small rats blessed the sight of visitors as they danced around the rickety chairs while the bigger ones made annoying sounds at a corner in the sitting room. 

It was a modest home. But, as modest as it was, a policeman scampered for safety in the house to escape the wrath of hoodlums who had just vandalised Ojoo Divisional Police Headquarters after hijacking the protest against police brutality on October 20, 2020, in Ibadan.

“Where he hid in the toilet, it was my two sons, Sodiq and Afeez, that fetched him a chair,” said Osuntoyinbo. “He first said he would go into the roof to avoid the wrath of pursuing youths, but I told him that no thug would come into my house and beat up a police officer under my watch.

“So, how is it possible that these people that were under this roof at the same time with the policeman were among those that burnt their station?”

Before invading Sodiq’s house that midnight, the police, accompanied by a soldier, had stopped by at a few houses in the neighbourhood to pick other youths.

“They didn’t even recognise him!” His wife exclaimed. She explained that “they were led to his younger brother’s house by other youths they had arrested. They asked the brother to lead them to our house.

“When they found their way in, it was my husband who shouted the name of his brother before they could figure out that the two were related.”

As the wife struggled with them, they hit her with the gun.

‘I THOUGHT THEY WERE ROBBERS’

Victoria Etim

Victoria Etim, a trader, said she was with her daughter who was expecting her third child when armed men violently entered their rented apartment in Ojoo.

“I stopped my son-in-law from resisting them because we thought they were armed robbers as they introduced themselves as ‘ijoba’ (government),” she recalled. “You cannot disobey armed robbers, so we succumbed, seeing that they had destroyed our window nets.

“That was how they took my son-in-law away. I ran after them naked but they threatened to shoot me. I clearly saw SARS written on the back of the vests they wore.”

Until his arrest, Ademuyiwa Adeshina, Etim’s son-in-law, sold fairly-used wares at the Ojoo area, said Etim, so he was no stranger to the police officers there.

“The day some people burnt their station, Adeshina was just returning from Lagos with his new wares. I was around the market when I sighted him from afar with his luggage. 

“I insisted he shouldn’t join the protest because of the escalating mood at the time, and we both went home that afternoon. The next day, he travelled to Ilorin to sell his new commodities, so he never participated in the protest.”

Since Adeshina was kept in prison in Oyo, with eight others arrested that midnight, Racheal, his lover, has passed out several times. Four days after the husband was arrested, she was put to bed. Later, she relocated with her three children to Ilesha town in Osun State where her husband’s parents reside.

THREAT TO ‘WASTE’ DETAINEES AWAITING TRIAL

Oyo #EndSARS detainees in court

Other youths arrested during the police midnight raid are Adeshina Ademuyiwa, Ikechukwu Eze, Ikenna Amaechi, Oyewole Olumide, Taoreed Abiodun, Adekunle Moruf, and Rasheed Tiamiyu. They were arraigned before the State High Court in Ibadan on a five-count charge bothering on the murder of three police officers and the vandalisation of the Ojoo station.

They have been remanded at the Abolongo Medium Prison, Oyo, and have equally appeared before the court over 10 times.

Before their last hearing was adjourned on September 24, Felix, one of the police officers who accompanied the detainees to court, expressed anger over the prolonged case of the nine youths.

“He said if he had known their case would be this stressful, he would have wasted them while they were still in their custody,” Etim quoted the policeman to have said.

When FIJ contacted Oyelowo Oyewo, the Oyo State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General over the case, he didn’t answer his calls or respond to the text message sent.

However, Oyewo had told FIJ on September 24 that he was not aware of the case.

DSS DERAILING A YOUNG MAN’S BRIGHT FUTURE

Imoleayo Michael Adeyeun

In a commando style, on November 13, about 20 operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrived at Bassa Phase II area of Abuja, where Imoleayo Michael Adeyeun, a computer programmer, lived with his wife, baby, and aged mother.

Adeyeun was whisked away because of his participation in the Abuja leg of the protest. Before his conditional release after 41 days in detention, Adeyeun’s work tools, including a laptop, were seized, ultimately crippling his iCode Company, a tech start-up he began operating in 2019.

Since the DSS invasion, Adeyeun has lived on the income of Titilope, his wife, because he couldn’t get another job to support the family.

“I have exhausted all my resources on this case,” he told FIJ. “Over two million naira of my savings was used to settle legal services from November 2020 until June 2021 when the Nigerian Bar Association and Amnesty International drafted lawyers to represent me.

“Apart from that, living has been really uneasy for my family because of this. Since my work tools were seized, I could not continue running my private tech company.”

The 2012 graduate of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), added that several prospective employers rejected him after seeing the records of his pending criminal case. “They disengaged from that point, with the recent instance being October 4,” he said.

Adeyeun has appeared before the Gwalada Magistrate Court in Abuja on an almost bi-weekly basis since December. The ‘No Case Submission’ case which his lawyers last filed before the court to strike out the charges against him was again overruled by Aliyu Shafa, the presiding judge.

On December 4, his full trial will now commence. When contacted for comments over the case, Safwan Bello, the prosecutor for the state securities, said:  “I am not the prosecutor for any journalist. I am not under obligation to talk over this matter.”

EVEN A FOREIGNER IS NOT SPARED

Robert Kpanou

Two days after the extrajudicial killing of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza, in Lagos, Robert Kpanou, a Beninese who worked as a tile layer on the Island, was returning to his residence in Badagry when he was stopped by officers attached to Maroko Police Station for a search.

READ ALSO: Beninese Arrested Over #EndSARS Spends 10 Months in Jail

He would later be arrested for being in possession of a roll of sachet milk and four canned sardines allegedly stolen from a nearby supermarket.

Robert later told FIJ that the sachets of milk and sardines were gifts from his co-worker, who has become unreachable since being remanded in Kirikiri Prison.

Alexe Kpanou, Robert’s elder brother, told FIJ he had not set his eyes on him in the last one year. Yet, the victim has not even been arraigned.

Similar to the case of Robert is Sunday Okoro. Okoro, a Lagos commercial driver, was arrested on December 22 for allegedly vandalising Orile Police Station during the October 2020 protest.

Three months into his remandment in Kiriki, the magistrate court in Ogba granted Okoro a temporary bail in March, but his family is yet to meet the conditions.

 Lilian, his wife, has lost a baby as a result of the burden to care for their four children.

“After I lost my baby on February 26, 2021, I was not able to follow up his case for a while until I recovered lately,” she told FIJ. “If I had enough to secure his bail, he would have been out since March.”

‘BASELESS, MALICIOUS CHARGES’

Festus Ogun, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer representing Robert and Okoro, faulted the lack of diligent prosecution by the Nigerian police, which has ultimately kept his clients in prison for more than necessary.

“The charges against my clients are baseless, malicious, and cannot stand the test of trial,” he noted. “The truth is that those arrested in connection with the #EndSARS protest are only victims of the wickedness in Nigeria.

“The state is not interested in serious prosecution. We know the criminals of the Nigerian state. We know the sponsors of Boko Haram insurgents. Those are the ones they should prosecute and not people demanding an end to misgovernance and police brutality.”

FREE BUT HAUNTED BY THE PAST

Kemisola Ogunniyi’s childbirth in detention triggered public outrage with many demanding her swift and unconditional release from detention.

On October 25, 2020,  the 18-year-old was arrested and whisked to the State Criminal Investigation Department in Ondo while going to get drugs for her sick mother. She was accused of having connections with the hoodlums who burned the All Progressive Congress (APC) secretariat in the state during #EndSARS protest and was charged with arson, among other offenses.

She would later be released in late June. But Bukunmi Ayodele, a lady who was detained alongside Ogunshola, did not have such a happy ending.

Bukunmi lost her three-month-old pregnancy as a result of the torture by a combined team of operatives of the police and the Nigerian Army. 

She was released about two weeks before Ogunshola, but her scars remain. Her foetus didn’t survive the incarceration.

Published 20th Oct, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

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