Thirty-year-old Abayomi Adebayo paid a visit to his mum, Kudirat, who sells akara (a local snack), on April 4, 2017. He had just closed from work and rode down on his motorcycle to request for some money to sustain himself.
“Come back in the next 15 minutes,” Kudirat said in response to his request.
While Adebayo was still around the vicinity with his friends, he heard gunshots and was told that operatives of the SARS unit were around searching for an internet fraudster celebrating his birthday.
“They normally come there for their stop and search. We were still talking when I received a call from my mother’s younger sister that SARS had injured her. They took her body to Olosan police station. It was when I entered their police station that I saw my mum’s dead body in their vehicle,” Abayomi explained to the Lagos State judicial panel of inquiry, Southwest Nigeria.
“They saw someone travelling along the road, and the man had his international passport. So they told him he is involved in Yahoo business. The second boy with him was about to run and while he was dodging, one of the SARS operatives opened fire. A stray bullet then hit her and she died immediately.”
“From the autopsy carried out, I saw there was penetration into the membrane, because they did an autopsy on her body, which confirmed it was the bullet that killed her,” Adebayo explained.
Kudirat’s corpse was moved to Mushin Olosan police station, where Adebayo was assured by the Divisional Police Officer that the police would embalm the body of the deceased and arrest police personnel involved.
“So, when I got to the station, I visited the IDH mortuary, I saw my mother’s body on the floor, swollen. The police didn’t embalm her as they had told me.
“They told me they saw three out of the four police officers that came to that area that day — that is Prince, Charles, Fabian and one T-boy — and the DPO said he cannot prosecute the three others since they all said it was Charles that fired the shot that killed my mother; that Charles has run away and they can’t find him,” Adebayo added.
Adebayo, despite being reassured by Fatai Owoseni, a commissioner of police in Lagos who visited his family to commiserate with them, claimed that the outcome of the case and result of the autopsy had not been disclosed to him or his family members at the time the report got to the judicial panel on Dec. 2, 2020.
The judicial panel awarded N10 million to Abayomi as compensation to cover scholarships for Kudirat’s children, as well as a letter of apology from the police.
Adebayo is among the 12 victims the Lagos judicial panel has awarded monetary compensation after their encounter with the SARS operatives.
Inaugurating a judicial panel
In response to the #EndSARS protest that rocked the state in Oct. 2020, the Lagos State government announced that it had set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the extrajudicial actions of the police force and SARS operatives.
The panel was set up “in line with the resolution of the National Economic Council on October 15, 2020, chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo,” the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said.
Sanwo-Olu approved a N200 million fund for the panel to compensate victims.
Between Oct. and Dec., 235 petitions were received by the panel, of which 112 cases have been brought before it, including those that have been struck out, those undergoing hearing, and those that have received judgments.
However, between Oct. and May, 12 victims received N68.25 million out of the N200 million fund approved by the government.
Awarding compensation to 12 victims
On Feb.19, the Okuwobi-led panel awarded N20 million to Adebayo and Hannah Olugbodi. Olugbodi, a hair stylist, narrated to the panel how a stray bullet from a police officer had shattered her leg and left her in crutches.
The incident, according to her, happened in June 2018, while she was on her way to a market in Ijesha. She said officers of the defunct SARS had raided a hotel and shot sporadically, and she was hit in the process.
The panel, on March 12, awarded N7.5 million to Marc Chidiebere Nwadi, a petitioner who spent six years in prison without trial “because of his inability to give bribes which led to trumped-up charges,” Okuwobi said.
On March 27, the Lagos judicial panel awarded a total of N16,250,000 million to four victims.
The petitioners included Tolulope Openiyi (N10 million), Blessing Esanbor (N5 million), Felicia Opara (N750,000), and Tella Adesanya (N500,000).
Mrs Openiyi had approached the panel over the death of her husband, Olusegun Openiyi, whom she said was shot by one Jide Akintola, a police sergeant with the force number 32405.
The widow had told the panel that her husband, who worked for Celtel (now known as Airtel), was shot in his chest while on his way back from an official outing at the University of Lagos in August 2007.
Esanbor on the other hand narrated how a police officer shot her on February 10, 2012 during an argument, adding that she sustained injuries and had spent over N5 million in the hospital for treatment.
On the part of Adesanya, he said the police officers seized his car while he drove along LASU/Ibadan road in June 2018, after some persons accused him of hitting someone along Igando junction.
He spent three days in a police cell, after which he alleged that he paid N10,000 for bail. In addition, his car was damaged at the station.
In Opara’s case, some police officers assaulted her with their guns after she was arrested for using her phone to record during the #EndSARS protest.
Ndukwe Ekekwe was awarded N7.5 million by the panel after he had spent more than N30 million to treat himself. He told the panel, from his place on a wheelchair, that the operative of the SARS unit in 2018 threw him from a two-storey building, leaving him with spinal cord damage.
The panel also presented a compensation of N3 million each to Andrew Okoh and Isaac Adesina. Okoh, a driver, and Adesina, a passenger, had narrated how a police officer shot them along Egbeda-Idimu road, Lagos, for failing to give him a bribe.
On May 15, the panel also awarded N10 million to the family of the late Rasheed Olanrewaju and N1 million to Adebayo Yinka.
A brother of the late Olanrewaju told the panel that the deceased was killed by a stray bullet shot by police officers attached to Area C in Surulere, Lagos during the #EndSARS protests in October.
Meanwhile, Yinka told the panel that he was arrested, detained, and tortured by police officers for allegedly defrauding a woman, despite investigations showing he did not have any contact with the complainant.
‘Monetary compensation not enough’
The program manager, governance and development, Yiaga Africa, Ibrahim Faruk, who spoke with HumAngle noted that the resolutions of the National Economic Council was to set up Victims’ Fund to facilitate the payment of monetary compensation to survivors of police brutality but, “there is no evidence to suggest that a Victims’ Fund has been opened by the governors,” he added.
“One of the reasons why there is very little information is that none of the panel reports are publicly available and the details of the compensation and processes leading to the compensation is not clearly defined.
“There is no monetary compensation that can replace the value of a human life, these compensations are offered partly in recognition of the wrongs that have been meted out on citizens by security agencies, partly in the quest for justice for the families of victims and to provide relief for the hurt they had to endure,” Faruk said.
According to Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria survey, the 5 for 5 demands of the #EndSARS Protest Movement was part of an effort to restructure the police force and curb extrajudicial actions and brutality.
Despite the disbandment of the SARS unit, Faruk emphasised that there had been inconsistency in the demands both at the state and federal level of government.
“The presentation and public access to the Reports are important towards citizen engagement and monitoring of the implementation of the panel’s recommendations.”
“Yiaga Africa also prepared a Policy Brief as an engagement tool with recommendations to all the relevant stakeholders as we continue to monitor the panels and make recommendations to provide information to promote transparency and accountability and also build citizens’ confidence in the process,” he noted.
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