In the wee hours of June 2, 2020, operatives of the proscribed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) ransacked Akintunde Muraina’s house in Ogun State. The fire service officer was on night duty when he received a panic call from his wife about the invasion of his house by the officers. The officers had threatened to kill his wife if she refused to disclose his whereabouts.
Two weeks later, Muraina ran out of luck. The notorious officers, led by one Omo Mushin, rammed into him at a canteen in the Ayetoro area of the state and took him to his house.
“Upon reaching my house, they searched everywhere trying to see if they could find something to implicate me but they found nothing,” Muraina said, narrating his ordeal. “Then they took me with them.”
He would soon find himself in detention, going through severe torture every day on the orders of Muhammed Tijani, the Officer-in-Charge of SARS, Magbon Police Station. Seun Akinwande, a man Muraina said was having an affair with his wife, had reported him to the SARS officers.
For three days, no member of his family knew his whereabouts. On June 18, his sister finally traced him to the police station where he was being tortured.
“Every day was like hell in the cell,” he said. “I was tortured and beaten with an iron rod until I was unconscious.”
FORCED TO CONFESS
Akinwande, the complainant, had branded Muraina a murderer and an armed robber, after allegedly bribing the officers with N170,000 to deal with him. The victim said he was surprised when the officers began to ask him questions like “Where’s your gun?” “Who killed that man in the video?” “Are you a cultist?” And so on.
“And when I told them I had nothing to do with all those things, they began to torture me severely. After almost three hours of torture, I confessed to things I didn’t do.
“I lied and implicated myself and my immediate brother, mentioning all names that came to mind because I did not want to die. Not long after my forced confession, I fainted.”
The SARS officers forced Muraina to thumb-print the statement they had written on his behalf while torturing him. Muraina said the intention of the officers was to kill him but he survived.
“One of them told me I was supposed to have died. He said that they wanted me to die during the torture but were surprised I survived. They didn’t want to kill me with a gun. He even confessed that my torture period was the longest since he joined the squad.
“Two of those who tortured me are called Osas and Jakusi. Even their administrative officer was one of those that beat me and threatened to kill me. He said I was not the first person to be killed and would not be the last. When I heard this, I prayed for my wife and sister to secure my release on time.”
N100,000 TO SECURE HIS BAIL
On June 18, 2020, the officers asked Muraina’s wife and his sister, who had visited him in their custody, to pay N300,000 for his freedom. Eight days later, the sister returned to pay N100,000 to the officers and secured his freedom after many hours of negotiation.
“I spent nothing less than six days in a private hospital. It was there I discovered that the SARS’ ‘den’ at Magbon had given me a broken leg and so many unknown health issues,” he said.
A PETITION FOR JUSTICE
When the #ENDSARS protest shook the country in October 2020, Muraina hoped for justice, especially when a judicial panel was set up to probe cases of police brutality in Ogun State.
It has been a year since Muraina was tortured by SARS and he still bears scars all over his body. He also suffers from severe tuberculosis contracted while in detention.
According to a medical report signed by Dr. Fagbohun A.O., a consultant radiologist, Muraina has “patchy opacities in his bilateral apical region which suggests pulmonary tuberculosis”. Also, Ajayeoba O. R., another radiologist, revealed, in a medical report, that Muraina had an old tibia fibula fracture seen in the “distal ⅓ of the left leg”.
In a petition filed at the Ogun State Judicial Panel on Police Brutality, the victim accused SARS operatives of “conniving with Seun Akinwande who had slept with his wife”.
“I confronted him with this on WhatsApp and physically. Then he paid SARS N170,000 to deal with me,” he wrote in the petition. “And this guy is the adulterer who has been taking advantage of my wife with the influence of God-knows-what, because, according to my wife, those things happened as if she was dreaming.”
JUSTICE DELAYED AND DENIED
The judicial panel of inquiry on police brutality lasted nine months in Ogun. Dapo Abiodun, the Governor of the state, pledged to implement the panel’s report and compensate victims accordingly. But many of the victims, according to Muraina, have waited too long without justice.
“I think it’s getting late now because I need to cast my left leg and take care of other injuries for permanent healing,” he said. “I know some other victims who lost their relatives. Some broke their back and are now in a wheelchair.”
‘#ENDSARS PANEL NOT CAPABLE OF DISPENSING JUSTICE’
Festus Ogun, the human rights lawyer seeking justice for Muraina, said he had lost confidence in the panel constituted to probe cases of police brutality in Ogun State. He said he was heading to court over Muraina’s case because the panel could not dispense justice.
“My client is suffering from tuberculosis which he contracted during incarceration. Apart from the fact that he’s seeking justice, he’s equally thirsty for financial aid,” he said.
“We are proceeding to court by way of fundamental rights action to ensure justice is served. We’re doing this because we know that the #EndSARS panel cannot dispense justice, in the sense that implementing the recommendation is at the discretion of the authorities.”
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