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NewsWireNGR’s Investigative journalist, Ridwan Yusuf spent 4 weeks digging into the dynamics that led to the phenomenal #EndSARS protests of 2020.
He discovered that all the issues are still happening. People are still being brutalised by Nigerian security agencies. Young persons are continually harassed months after an event of such magnitude.
Ridwan shows the connection, reminding government what led to a nationwide protest, still the issues are yet to be resolved three months on.
Ridwan’s detection from across the country conveys that security forces’ violence is still widespread despite government promises of change.
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It was just about dawn in Lagos, Nigeria on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, when an innocent young man striving to make ends meet in a tough Nigerian economy – one which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) described as being at a ‘critical juncture’ – was killed by officials of the Lagos State Government Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit (also known as Task Force).
The ‘faultless’ man is 29-year-old Oluwadamilare Emmanuel Adesubokan, a bricklayer, who was on his way to work, but had his life truncated, no thanks to the excesses of an agency headed by a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Shola Jejeloye.
“It is Task Force people that did this horrible thing ooo [sic],” condolers could be heard saying in a clip of the sorry event obtained by this reporter from an independent witness.
It was a gory sight as Damilare can be seen lying lifeless face down in a pool of his own blood at the popular Oshodi Expressway.
He was buried same day after a mammoth crowd protested to the office of the Task Force at Bolade, Oshodi.
Since its creation years ago, the Lagos Task Force – whose officials are generally fully armed with guns and knives – has been at the centre of troubling tales of extortion and intimidation in the so-called ‘Centre of Excellence’. Their tales have spread across the region. So distressing is their way that some persons posit that they are ‘deadly as SARS’, a now-disbanded notorious police unit.
Despite the fact that their main responsibilities are to arrest and prosecute violators of the provision of Road Traffic Law 2012 and enforce same for street traders, the Lagos Task Force operatives have been branded by many as ‘vicious and monstrous’.
Son’s big promises to mother quashed
Damilare was a victim of the Task Force’s excesses. The deceased is the last born of five children of Mrs Roseline Adesubokan, a petty Lagos trader who is an indigene of Ondo State, South-West Nigeria.
To prevent the mother from witnessing the funeral of his son, she was relocated to the residence of her younger sister’s husband, in Ilaje, Bariga.
Ilaje is a sprawling slum located along the Bariga axis in Lagos, situated by the Lagoon.
This reporter on Friday, February 12, 2021, visited the present location of Mrs Roseline Adesubokan, and an emotional mother while lamenting her son’s killing also bemoaned Nigerian security agencies’ impunity.
“My son was just 29 when they cut short his life,” Mrs Adesubokan, Damilare’s mother said to NewsWireNGR in her native Yoruba language.
“He left the house at Mafoloku Oshodi. We were together. In fact, he was the one who helped me fetched water to bath because I am nursing leg pain.
“Most times, when he leave home on Tuesday, he would not return until the weekend.
“He bid me goodbye when he was about to leave the house, and I said: ‘May Jesus be with you’.
“I was supposed to go to Mile 12 that day, but the person that is supposed to give me money said I’d be called upon later when my money is ready.
“Later in the morning, I saw a crowd in the neighbourhood – suddenly.
“A woman beckoned on me. And I went to meet her.
“She then broke the sad news to me.
“She informed me the incident happened around Brown Street in Oshodi, that the Lagos Task Force Officials crushed my son to death while chasing a traffic offender.
“Damilare does almost everything for me. He is my last born.
“When he is not at work, he stays with me at my shop.
“He always tell me, ‘mum, I still intend to further my education’. And I will tell him: ‘It will be possible in Jesus’ name’.
“I went to meet them at their office at Bolade in Oshodi. They denied being responsible for Damilare’s death.
“But several eyewitnesses protested otherwise, insisting it was the Lagos Task Force officials’ vehicle that hit my son.
“I called the family of Damilare’s father. They said the Lagos Task Force officials should produce their son.
“He was buried at Matoro same day he was killed.”
Asked the Task Force’s reaction to the matter, Mrs. Adesubokan explained that the agency’s hierarchy is not being straightforward.
“They said they cannot completely exonerate themselves from the matter. That they were chasing a traffic offender. In the process, they knocked down an innocent man.
“Their boss (CSP Shola Jejeloye) told Damilare’s elder siblings to see him in his office.
“It was on a Sunday. And he handed over the sum of N250, 000 to Damilare’s brother, named Tunde Adesubokan, and other major protesters.
“According to Jejeloye, it is a “gift” from his “personal pocket” to the family. He said the money should be given to me specifically.
“I told my relatives I am not collecting the money, that they should return it.”
When quizzed on what she actually desires, “justice” she says.
“The N250, 000 they gifted the family cannot purchase a soul.
“Before my son left home that day he was crushed to death, he promised to help me settle the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and power charges we are owing when he comes back from work on Saturday.
“I prayed for him, that God will be with him.
“They just wasted my son’s life.
“I don’t know what to do.
“I am not totally okay – health-wise.
“A few days ago, a doctor came to treat me.”
The bereaved mother, therefore, called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to come to her aid.
“I have no one. Governor Sanwo-Olu should help me.
“Their father died a long time ago – about 22 years ago. Late Damilare was still in Primary two or so at the time,” Mrs. Adesubokan says as tears slip down her cheeks.
She added that the police initially wanted to take Damilare’s corpse away, but his elder brother, Tunde said ‘no’, arguing that his late sibling is not a thug.
Mrs Adesubokan’s claim that the police originally prohibited the collection of Damilare’s body was corroborated by pictures on social networking platform, Twitter, by Adewale Alaka, a relative of the deceased.
Adewale was however forced to delete the pictures. His phone was subsequently on shadow-ban for 12 hours, hence his activities on Twitter for that period were restricted – according to him in an exclusive chat with this reporter.
Though now deleted, NewsWireNGR already screenshotted Adewale’s content.
NewsWireNGR also obtained video footage of the moment Damilare’s corpse was fetched by his loved ones for burial.
Task Force’s denial
In a statement the same day the incident happened, the Lagos Task Force washed off its hand in the death of Damilare. They described the story “as being falsely reported on the social media.”
Chairman of the agency, CSP Shola Jejeloye, said in a statement that Damilare was ‘knocked down as he was trying to cross the Oshodi Expressway by a commercial bus driver, who took off recklessly at a high speed, having noticed the presence of a Lagos Task Force vehicle, while illegally loading passengers by the roadside’.
Jejeloye vowed that the affected commercial bus driver would be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the law of the land.
“Early this morning, a commercial bus driver was illegally loading passengers by the roadside in Oshodi and, on noticing the presence of a Lagos Task Force vehicle, took off recklessly at a high speed, knocking down the innocent young man who was trying to cross the Oshodi Expressway,” the Task Force boss had said.
“Despite warnings and enlightenment campaigns about the dangers of violating traffic laws, commercial drivers have continued to flout the law and put the lives of commuters at risk. This violation of the law led to the death that occurred in Oshodi,” Jejeloye added in the January 26 statement.
Police in rebuttal game too
In the same vein, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the police spokesperson in Lagos State, in an official statement, said the Force had launched a manhunt to arrest “the bus-driver” that caused the death of Damilare and injured two others.
Adejobi, a chief superintendent of police, said one of the buses, while trying to escape, hit three persons, killing one instantly. The police said the ‘hit-and-run’ driver subsequently fled the scene.
He added that the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, had ordered the DPO, Akinpelu Division, to work with witnesses in the area to trace the fleeing driver and bring him to justice.
“The Lagos State Police Command has deemed it necessary to clear the air on the alleged killing of one Emmanuel Samuel, m, that was knocked down by a bus at Oshodi on Tuesday 26th January, 2021.
“The Command wishes to state that today, Tuesday 26th January 2021 at about 0600hrs, the DPO Akinpelu Division got a call that while the Taskforce operatives were on operation, some commercial buses, violating traffic regulations, at Bolade Oshodi area of Lagos State, were trying to escape arrest, but unfortunately, one of the buses hit three persons and fled.
The core of the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria
#EndSARS protests – the October 2020 second wave specifically – goes beyond the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuses.
Nigeria in October 2020 dissolved its hated SARS, which has been accused of corruption and human rights abuses. The Nigerian federal government had bowed to pressure after days of nationwide ‘end SARS’ protests – the biggest display of people power in years in Africa’s most populous nation, but demonstrators continue to say disbanding the police unit is not enough.
They demand justice for victims of security agencies’ brutality, an end to police impunity, and a better country all-round.
As reports of police violence and brutality steadily punctuate the news cycle, nationwide awareness of and activism against the use of deadly force by law enforcement agencies, particularly against the common people, has grown.
What are police violence and police brutality?
Police violence and brutality refer to the excessive use of force by police officers and government officials.
It happens when law enforcement uses more than the minimum amount of force necessary to respond to an incident, protect themselves, or protect others.
What does the Nigerian Constitution say about the excessive use of force? This is the provision of the 1999 Constitution as amended:
Section 34 (1)
Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –
(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;
(b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and
(c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
What constitutes reasonable use of force?
According to a Lagos-based lawyer, who does not want to be named, “It is relative, and depends on laws that bind different jurisdictions”.
She added that “the constitution does not expressly spell out or define what amounts to excessive force. However, Section 214 (1) of the Constitution establishes the Nigerian Police Force. The duties and powers of the police are set out in the Police Act.”
Another legal practitioner, Barrister Temitope Omotayo expounded on what makes ‘reasonable use of force’:
Law enforcement agencies can use reasonable use of force according to Section 33 (2)
(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property:
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection, or mutiny.
‘Offence’ of use of transparent blue plastic on vehicle number plate lands UNILAG student in hospital
John Akinwale, a 300 Level Accounting student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), was going to see a client on a sunny Monday in January when he was first stopped by officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and then power-drunk police officers attached to the Mosafejo division in Oshodi area of Lagos State.
He was seized for covering his number plate with transparent plastic. Akinwale was held for hours “for being rude” to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the Mosafejo division in Oshodi.
Subsequently, he went into a coma and was hospitalised.
“On the 18th of January around 2 pm, I was heading to a meeting with a client.
“First it was LASTMA. They accosted me after I drove out of a filling station. They said I was not on a seat belt.
“They were trying to waste my time.
“They took me to Oshodi.
“I told them I would only pay into a government account. But they told me to pay 10K cash, else I won’t be freed.
“I settled with them and drove out of the LASTMA building. And afterward, I entered police ‘wahala’ too. They crossed me.
“They asked for my driver’s license, checked my boot, everything.
“They then said Lagos state government said any vehicle with its plate number covered should be impounded.
“So they took me to Terminal 3 Oshodi – under the bridge
“They asked a vulcanizer to deflate my tyre.
“I was pissed and brought out my phone to record.
“Thereafter, they asked me to write a statement.
“The policewoman taking my statement said I should write that I was driving like a criminal. I frowned at that.
“After writing my statement, I was there for roughly four hours.
“One of my friends, who works with Gokada then came. He is their Finance manager. Because I have been making some calls.
“Police said I am rude.
“They then asked me to pay 50 thousand naira for bail.
“My friend negotiated with them for 20K.
“I have a pre-existing condition. So, I had to take my drugs. But they disallowed me from taking my drugs.
“At a point, I went to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) [of the Mosafejo division in Oshodi] and complained to him.
“They searched my phone, tried to seize it after they saw me making calls. But I resisted.
“I told them I didn’t commit any crime.
“One of the Police officers was dragging the phone with me. Then the last thing I knew was that I went unconscious.
“I was told I was unconscious for about two hours.
“At the hospital, they said my pulse was low.
“I ended up spending over N100,000.
“When my friends wanted to go and pick my car at the station, they still asked for 20K.
“It was a sad experience for me.”
‘Sinless’ Ex-SUG President shot at by Nigerian police
Police lawlessness is never-ending in Nigeria.
A Twitter user, Uncle Frost (@Pascafrost) had on January 21, 2021, narrated how one Victor, a former Student Union Government (SUG) President of Osisatech Polytechnic, Enugu, South-East Nigeria was ‘shot at by a policeman while on his way to an errand for his mother in Asaba, the Delta state capital’.
Providentially, the bullet hit the young man’s car rear screen.
This reporter on January 26 tried to reach Victor through Uncle Frost to get an extensive account of the occurrence, but I received a response the following day saying, “he said he is not interested, that he has ‘died the matter'”.
Police van crushes mother, child, to death in Delta ‘while chasing Yahoo Boys’
A day before Victor’s incident happened, and in the same state, a van belonging to the police allegedly crushed a mother and her four-month-old baby to death around the popular PTI Junction in Warri.
The nursing mother, sources say is a fish seller.
The incident occurred in the afternoon when police operatives were reportedly chasing suspected internet fraudsters, aka ‘Yahoo Boys’, and hit a commercial tricycle conveying the woman and her baby, killing them on the spot.
Angered by the incident, irate youths had set the police van ablaze.
Despite multiple witnesses’ accounts implicating the Police, Nigerian security operatives – in their usual way – twisted the story. The Delta State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya although confirmed the incident, denied that it was the police van that crushed the duo to death.
The police had said: “The accident involved a Mercedes Tipper with Reg. No. WWR 425 ZR loaded with granite, a Toyota Camry car with Reg. No. AKD 403 FM and a Tricycle Reg. no. yet unknown, all moving in the same direction and Police vehicle was never involved.
“Two passengers conveyed by the tricycle a woman and a baby girl died on the spot and other passengers were injured.
“The Police Command deeply sympathizes with the families of the deceased and the injured persons and equally frowned at the unjust treatment meted to Police officers who went to rescue the victims by members of the public.
“They went as far as burning the Police patrol vehicle that came for the rescue operation.
“The Command also wishes to inform the general public that neither Operation Delta Hawk nor Ebrumede patrol vehicle was involved as speculated earlier.”
And despite Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State governor, ordering an immediate investigation into the death of the woman and her daughter, and Hon Ben Igbakpa, the member representing Ethiope Federal Constituency seeking the arrest of culprits, nothing has been heard of the investigation ever since.
Victims of Nigeria’s ‘most brutal’ police station, Awkuzu SARS’ misdoings ill-served by Nigerian system
Over the years, defunct SARS operatives in Awkuzu, a town in Oyi local government area of Anambra state have acquired so much notoriety that it has been deemed by majority as the country’s most dreaded specialized police unit.
When thousands of young Nigerians began pouring onto the streets across the nation in October 2020 to demand the Nigerian government scrap SARS, Ada Iloanya felt compelled to join them.
The social justice campaigner wanted to speak out for her brother, Chijioke Iloanya, who was 20 years old when police officers arrested him in November 2012.
He was handed over to Awkuzu SARS and till date, his whereabouts remain unknown.
When NewsWireNGR met up with her, all she craves for is fair judgment.
“When Chijioke was alive, he was a carefree, outgoing, fun-loving person. He loved cooking even though his food is quite very spicy. And he loved making a lot of friends,” Ada says of her blood, who was arrested at a Naming Ceremony and taken to Awkuzu SARS.
“He is really outgoing, I can describe him as a highly extroverted person. He is my very good friend, and he is so fun to be with.
“He is the life of the party; he likes fashion too. He is just cool all-round.
On how Chijioke’s exit has affected your family, she said: “For the most part, Chijioke’s death has affected us horribly, and we were very hopeful that he was alive for a long while even though the man (James Nwafor) had told us that he had killed him. We were holding out for maybe he lied just so he could get us out of his head.
“But when we got the full gist of what happened under the judicial panel, it became a lot more painful for us.
“It is not easy to be living with someone for the past 20 years and all of a sudden, you no longer have access to this person. You can no longer talk to this person.
“Someone that had his whole life mapped out, someone that had his own things in the house.
“It has not been easy for us.
“It has been very difficult for us to cope.”
James Nwafor, a retired Chief Superintendent of Police, served as commander of Awkuzu SARS. There are several allegations of human rights abuse against his person.
Nwafor allegedly oversaw the killing of Chijioke; and made his father, Emmanuel, swim a river filled with dead bodies (dumped by Awkuzu SARS officers) in search of his son’s body.
Chijioke’s extrajudicial killing was one of the unfortunate tragedies that were highlighted during the EndSARS protests.
His case is currently in front of the judicial panel.
For Ada, justice means the killers of Chijioke be punished. She was unequivocal in her call for justice.
“Justice for me and my family would be the killers of Chijioke being punished and prosecuted,” Ada, a 2017 graduate of Political Science from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka said.
“We want more than anything, justice to be done and seen to be done.
“All these stories are unfair. Chijioke was arrested by the police, the constitution demands that within 48 hours he be taken to court. The Constitution did not say his parents are not allowed to see him.
“They denied him that opportunity to meet up with his parents; they denied him the opportunity to speak for himself or defend himself in court. They became the judge, jury, and executioner.
“And for that reason, we demand justice more than anything.
“We want these men to be punished for what they have done to my brother and family.
“That is the most important thing to me and above all, I would really love to see what these people suffer for what they have done.”
Asked if she has confidence in the Judicial panel to grant the Iloanya family justice, she replied: “To a large extent, no.
“I do not have much confidence in the judicial panel.
“This is because the judicial panel is only able to give recommendations and the chances of their recommendation being taken into cognisance are quite slim.
“However, we still would not mind.
“It is a 50-50 thing for me.
“I am not very sure their recommendations would be taken but yes; we are going because it gives us some kind of closure.
“When we go and they give their recommendation, judgement, it makes us feel a little good that people are listening and a competent number of people have found this man guilty and a proof that we deserve justice.
“So to a large extent, even though I do not have 100% confidence in them, 50% or 60% is enough.
“So I think yes, the judicial panel might be able to grant us justice, but I am not holding out for it because this is Nigeria, and more often than not investigative panels, judicial panels are not taken seriously in recent times.”
Interrogated on her satisfaction level with the government’s response to the EndSARS campaign, Ada said she “is not satisfied with the way the government acted towards the EndsSARS campaign. Their disposition is one of antagonism”.
“The EndSARS campaign is simply negotiation.
“We are just demanding for the basics. The right to live in our country and to live freely without being harassed by anybody, our fundamental human right to be respected.
“The way the government reacted to us seemed like the government did not want to afford us these.
“The reason the government exists is to ensure the constitution is upheld. That is why they exist.
“When the government attacked us, when they label us as violent and treated us with disdain, I was at the EndSARS protests in Abuja and from the beginning of our protest in Abuja, teargases were thrown at us.
“We were insulted, water cannons were used at us and they chased us with sticks. Caught up with us, beat us while insulting us.
“All these things show that the government does not want to act.
“They do not care about our feelings, and that is unfair to a lot of people.
“I do not think that the government has done well by the way they reacted.
“This is a simple thing. EndSARS, disband SARS completely via an executive order then take these people out of the streets so they stop hurting people.
“Release peaceful protesters, compensation for people who have been victims of SARS brutality, then prosecution of these defunct SARS members who have committed heinous crimes.
“These are the easiest things, we have not asked for the impossible; we have not asked for the head of the IG on a platter of gold.
“Nobody has done anything drastic, we are asking for the simplest of things.
“But still, it is such a sad thing the way they have responded and treated us.”
The Iloanya family has not received adequate support from the police and the government ever since Chijioke died, according to Chijioke sister. She revealed that the police accused her untried brother of armed robbery and executed him unjustly.
“Since Chijioke’s death, we have not received anything from the government, nor heard anything from the police.
“They have not even talked to us directly; they have come to the panel to insult Chijioke’s memory and branded him as an armed robber which even if he were does not mean that he does not deserve justice or does not deserve due process which is having his day in court and defending himself.
“So it is so painful but I do not expect the government to like us.
“We were asking them to do the right thing. I do not even expect anything from the police, because I think they are just an evil force.
“They have not done anything for us; they have not said anything to us, no support. Not even I am sorry.
“Even our lawmakers, even when I went to The National Assembly with the protesters and I spoke, the Senator representing Anambra State central, the House of Reps member, none of them came out to talk to us. And none of them have said, ‘oh these are people from my constituency, let me talk to them, let me say sorry to them. Let me issue out a word at all’.”
Queried on her thoughts about the 2020 EndSARS protests’ implication to the average Nigerian youth, Ada branded it “a call for help”.
“I cannot speak for the average youth, but to a large extent, it is like a call for help. We are tired of the incessant killings. We are tired of being unsafe in our country. The EndSARS protest for us youths is just a way of us saying please let us live. That is all we are saying.
“That is what I think the EndSARS protest is about.
“We are just asking for the bare minimum, let us live, let us be alive.
“And I hope they listen because there is no way they would not listen. We do not have any other option.
“You cannot just kill us indiscriminately. At some point, they have to stop and we are hoping now is the time to stop.”
Under international law, governments are obliged to bring to justice people who have been identified as having participated in unlawful killings. But in Nigeria, impunity reigns.
It is noteworthy that there has been a sort of silence from the south-east axis as it concerns the judicial panels of inquiry probing various acts of police brutality and human rights abuses.
In Enugu, the #EndSARS panel in the state on February 1, protested unpaid allowances by the government and consequently suspended sittings.
The state government has been mute about reports of sittings suspension.
As of November 17, 2020, 30 petitions have been submitted to the Enugu #EndSARS panel.
Recall that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, had on October 21st, 2020, inaugurated an 8-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to entertain petitions from alleged victims of the extinct SARS and victims of police brutality with a mandate to submit its report within 6 months.
The Governor’s directive on report submission lapse in April 2021 – two months from now.
Nigerian authorities yet to initiate concrete police reforms
On the campaign for police reforms and accountability, while President Muhammadu Buhari had in his New Year Message to Nigerians stated that: “This government is committed to fulfilling the five demands of our youths”, Nigerian authorities are yet to initiate concrete police reforms.
During the October 2020 second wave of the #EndSARS protests, thousands of Nigerians calling for police reforms staged largely peaceful protests nationwide for about two weeks, but the infamous Lekki shootings sparked street violence and looting across the country.
The wave of civil unrest was one of the worst since the end of military rule in 1999.
Those demanding police reforms are still fervent with their call though.
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