Imoleayo Michael Adeyeun, a tech-savvy Nigerian youth, has narrated how his livelihood was ruined after spending 41 days in detention at the Department of State Services (DSS) Headquarters in Abuja.
In what seemed like a kidnap, Michael was whisked away from his house at Bassa Phase II area of Abuja by DSS operatives around 3am on November 13, 2020 for participating in the #EndSARS protests. He would later be charged to Magistrate Court in Abuja on December 18 without getting the opportunity to choose a lawyer or communicate with his family.
He was arraigned on a three-count charge of public disturbance. After the second hearing, the court ruled that Michael be released on bail but he was denied the freedom until December 23, despite meeting bail conditions the same day the court ruling was made.
“I met the bail conditions that same day but was not freed until December 23. Till date, my phone and laptop have also not been returned,” he said.
Michael, a computer programmer, stated that survival has become difficult for him as a result of his seized gadgets.
“I have lost so many gigs because of this case and am practically out of jobs,” he said.
Being the breadwinner of his family, which includes his wife, young child and an aged mother, Michael lamented that he “doesn’t even have his working tools to cater for the family”.
“All the codes I’ve written in over 10 years of my career are on the portable computer in DSS custody.”
FIJ learnt that DSS was able to track Imoleayo’s residential address through a telegram group page he belonged to during the Abuja #EndSARS protest.
On the day he was picked up, DSS officials tracked him to his house at about 2:30am, literally broke into his bedroom, blindfolded him and whisked him away to their headquarters.
“I was just in my house in the middle of the night and I noticed my dogs were barking,” Michael first told FIJ last year. “I got up to see what was happening. I saw some gunmen, heavily-armed, in my compound. I thought they were armed robbers.”
Michael fetched his whistle and started to blow it relentlessly. The DSS officials tore the net of his window, pointed a gun inwards and ordered him to release the whistle and open the door. When he complied, seven of them rushed into his living room, one instructing him to unlock his phone. Once they confirmed that the phone number in their possession was Michael’s, they whisked him away.
They blindfolded him until he got to the DSS headquarters, where he ended up in an underground cell. This was in the small hours of Friday but it wasn’t until Tuesday that officials retrieved him from the cell for the first time.
“I was in custody from Friday but it wasn’t until Tuesday that I knew why was I arrested: #EndSARS protests,” Michael said. “They interrogated me about how I participated in the protests, whether I was paid for anything or I sponsored anything. Those were the questions they wanted answers to.”
The interrogation continued intermittently for two weeks — two weeks of denial of access to relatives or a lawyer. Thirty-six days into his detention, Michael was suddenly summoned and told he would be arraigned in court.
“I was taken to court in handcuffs,” he recalls. “I couldn’t see anyone that I knew. At least, I should have a lawyer. The prosecutor said I shouldn’t worry but to keep quiet.”
Safwan Bello, the DSS prosecutor, did not answer calls to his phone or respond to the text message sent over the case.
Meanwhile, the next hearing of the DSS’s case against Michael is scheduled for April 27.
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