Cases of police violence are still a grisly staple daily in the life of young people in Africa’s largest economy, even a year after #EndSARS protests were conducted in major Nigerian cities.
Oluwaferanmi Moses, a first-year student at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) studying Mechanical Engineering, says his time in police prison from September 19 to October 8 was similar to that of many other young Nigerians who have been falsely profiled and brutalized by police officials.
On his way to his workshop, where he repairs automobiles during the holidays, Moses was stopped by men from the Lagos State police force attached to Zone B command in Mushin.
“I went to Festac that Sunday morning to check a Range Rover. I was done with the work on the Range; there were just a few things that were left to be completed,” Moses said.
“I had to go back to my shop at Mushin to pick up some tools so that the work could be completed. I didn’t know if there was a fight going on at Mushin. So I took a bike from Sadiku in Illasa to where my shop is.”
“After picking my tools and going back to Festac, there was no bike so I began to trek, then I saw some guys running, I had to run back when I saw policemen shooting.
“Suddenly, policemen parked at my front and what I heard was ‘hold him’. I showed them my tools and informed them of the work I do. The man who held me then left me to go but the DPO attached to Zone B who led the operation, one officer Garba, ordered my arrest and beat me up while my tools were thrown away.”
Moses was apprehended together with a total of 15 other persons. They were held for five hours before being transported to Ikeja’s Area F Command.
Moses claimed he was moved from Ikeja to Ijede in Ikorodu. Moses also added that the order to transfer him to Ijede came directly from Lagos State Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu.
“When the Commissioner of Police came around that day, he said ‘go and drop them at Ijede.” Ijede is Area N Command.
“I was in Ijede prison for 20 days. I fell sick seriously that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) had to take me to the nearest general hospital.
The DPO then informed me that the CP had forgotten about us in prison.” Mrs Moses, Feranmi’s mother, said her son was transported to three prisons before she learned of his whereabouts.
When her son did not return home on the day he was detained, she assumed he had been kidnapped.
“When it was 8 pm, I expected that he should have returned home I was worried and began to call his number but the phone was ringing with no one answering the call,” Mrs Moses said.
“This made me scream out to neighbours informing them that my son left for work and has not returned. I kept trying his number on Monday, September 20, until around 4 pm when the phone went off.”
Someone who had gone to check on a boy who had been arrested told her that her son had been arrested too.
According to Mrs Moses, Feranmi had pleaded with the parent and requested that his mother be notified.
She claimed that on October 8, an officer known as SP Taiwo at Area F in Ikeja wanted N80, 000 to guarantee Feranmi’s release even though her son was never prosecuted in a court of law.
She then begged that he collected N50,000 since she was cash-strapped and worried about her son’s safety and health.
“We pleaded for N50, 000 which they refused. He was sick, we didn’t want him to be held there anymore because we didn’t want him to die in custody. That was why we had to pay the money they requested in cash to secure his release,” Mrs Moses said.
The police officers involved wanted cash payment because they knew they could be tracked if the money was wired to them.
After the monetary payment, Moses was released on Friday. However, before his phone could be returned to him, the cops wanted another payment.
He was however given the phone back without being charged on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Lagos State police spokesman Adekunle Ajisebutu stated emphatically that he was not aware of Moses’ arrest.
He, however, advised against giving money to police officials “because in the case of the law, both the giver and the receiver are liable. It won’t be enough to pay a bribe and come back to complain later.”
Ajisebutu also stated that he “would try and see what can be done,” but that police may be unable to identify the errant authorities because no financial accounts exist to demonstrate that the officers got the alleged sum.
“I have always advised people to complain before giving out money to officers for bail because once you pay money it is usually very difficult to refund. Obviously, it would be denied if you don’t have any evidence,” Ajisebutu said.
“Once an officer demands money, you should raise an alarm and call. It is not enough to make an allegation, the onion is on he who alleges should assert. If the transaction was done through POS or bank transaction, that it would be easy for us to make sure that the money is refunded.”