Human RightsNews

Police Brutality: I Spent 60 Days In SARS Cell, Witnessed Many Extra-Judicial Killings – Hotelier

Bonaventure Mokwe, the owner of Upper-Class Hotel, located at No. 8, New Market Road Onitsha, Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria has revealed how he spent 60 days in detention of defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) and got released without bail or being charged to court.

Mokwe said he was arrested by operatives of SARS on August 1, 2013, on the allegation that his hotel served as a hideout to ritualists, adding that the hotel was demolished before noon of the day of his arrest.

The hotelier who appeared as a petitioner before the Anambra Judicial Panel of Inquiry (PJI) on Police brutality on Thursday said the allegations of ritual killings against him were not investigated by the police who detained and tortured him in SARS cell for two months without trial.

He submitted a five-page petition dated October 27, 2020, and verifiable affidavit with seven annexures as evidence including the ‘trumped-up’ charge sheet and a picture of the demolished hotel to the panel.

Mokwe who said he built the hotel in 1974 claimed that the Anambra State Government was deceived by some influential people in Onitsha, the commercial city of the state whom he defeated in a motor park-related fight and wanted to take a pound of flesh.

He alleged that Upper-Class hotel was demolished on the allegation that it was being used as a venue for ritual killings.

The SARS operatives who visited the hotel according to Mokwe made straight to Room 102 where they allegedly found a human skull and guns which the hotelier claimed were planted.

The Anambra JPI
The Anambra JPI

“At that time, the Anambra Government conceded Ose motor park to indigenes of Onitsha to manage and besides, Ose motor park was Mokwe park which belonged to me.

“Later, the levy charged by Onitsha indigenes became unbearable for transporters who plied Otuocha- Ifite Ogwari-Anaku route and as a result, they moved to Mokwe park.

“That was when Onitsha youths attacked my park and naturally I defended my property proportionately.

“Later on, the transporters went to court and obtained judgement stopping Onitsha people from disturbing them at Mokwe park. Onitsha people considered it as an assault and affront that I confronted them.

“Two weeks after the fight, my hotel was set up and demolished by the Anambra government.

“Usually, we submit our guests manifest at the police station every 6:30 am in the morning, they did not bother to know whose name was there, their mission was to have me arrested that morning and that same day, the state government moved in and demolished the hotel,” he narrated.

Mokwe said he was inside SARS dungeon for 60 days during which he saw many extrajudicial killings.

He said he was tortured to coma and his thumb forcefully made an imprint on a pre-written statement as a signature.

According to his narration, he said he was released from SARS custody without being charged to court, surety or anybody taking him on bail.

Responding, retired Justice Veronica Umeh, chairman of the panel stopped him from narrating his ordeal while in Police custody but directed him to file an addendum petition on that aspect of his grouse.

Umeh said the addendum petition should be submitted before November 26 so that police would be made to respond to it adding that they would be invited on a yet to be determined date.

Meanwhile, the number of petitions filed at Anambra JPI has increased from 33 to 114.

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