The Nigerian Army on Tuesday apologised to the family of Abubakar Alhaji, a commercial motorcyclist who was beaten to death by a sergeant, Taiwo Owoeye, a soldier in Lagos.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the victim’s brother who witnessed the incident narrated it to the presidential panel investigating rights abuses by the military.
“The Nigerian Army has detained Sgt. Owoeye for murder, we find the matter reprehensible and condemnable,” the Nigerian Army’s counsel, Bola Oyebanji, said on Tuesday.
“However, this is a single act which showed that the sergeant was on his own.
“We apologise and sympathise with the family of the deceased,” Mr. Oyebanji said as reported by the News Agency of Nigeria.
The panel, currently sitting in the South-west, is to sit in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory from September 11 to November 3.
The head of the panel, Justice Biobel Goodwill also, giving his condolences, told the brother of the deceased “apologies to you and your family for the death of your brother”.
Mr. Goodwill after tendering the apology, told Lucas Koyejo, a counsel from the National Human Rights Commission to follow up with the military trial of Mr. Owoeye to ensure that justice is done and to liaise with the victim’s family.
Earlier, Mr. Alhaji’s brother, Salihu Mojahid, in his testimony before the panel, shed light on the series of events leading to his brother’s death.
Mr. Mojahid said: “On February 27, my brother called Abubakar Alhaji, a commercial motorcyclist, took a passenger to Maroko Roundabout beside Myhoung Barracks, Yaba, Lagos.
“He parked at the back of a vehicle and unknown to him someone was in the vehicle, the person in the vehicle reversed and bystanders shouted that a commercial motorcyclist is behind him.
“My brother knocked on the car to alert the owner that he parked behind him, the owner of the car came out and he was Sgt. Taiwo Owoeye.
“Owoeye who was in full military uniform, slapped my brother twice and after he fell down, and he started kicking my brother several times in his stomach while he was on the ground.
“Bystanders tried apologising to him but he refused to listen to them till my brother fell unconscious.
“When my brother became unconscious, he wanted to leave and the bystanders said ‘do you not see the state of the person you have beaten up?
“Sgt. Owoeye told them ‘let him die, even if he dies, nothing will happen’.
“Fellow commercial motorcyclists and military men took him to a hospital in the barracks , he was vomiting blood till the next day.
“My brother died on February 28 and the Commandant ordered the arrest of Sergeant Owoeye.”
Mr. Mojahid claimed that his brother’s corpse was not released to the family until May 25 which was four months after the incident.
“Anytime we asked the military for his corpse, they said that they needed to do an autopsy, till now we have not received an autopsy result.”
The panel had during its proceedings dismissed a petition by Mohammed Okorie who was accused of treason, unlawful possession of firearms and conspiring to blow up a presidential aircraft with some accomplices in 2004.
“I was wrongfully accused of being a missile importer. 76 military officers were arrested when I was also arrested.
“A military plane was sent from Nigeria to Ghana, Lome and even Ivory Coast in connection with the charges,” Mr. Okorie claimed.
Mr. Okorie through his lawyer, Charles Nzeagbuna, challenged his incarceration by the military, stating that he was subjected to inhumane treatment and torture during the four years he was in custody.
However, the Army, disputed Mr. Okorie’s claims noting that he was arrested on the orders of the State Security Service and not the military and an investigation of his case was conducted by a special panel created by the federal government.
Dismissing the petition, Justice Georgewill said Mr. Okorie’s petition did not fall within the terms of reference of the panel.
“The situation weaved around this panel does not apply to the charges of treason and felony.
“This situation in reality does not fall within the five terms of reference which is restricted to conflict and insurgency scenarios.
“Arrests in regards to a felony does not fall under the jurisdiction of this panel; this panel lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this case,” he ruled.
The panel also dismissed the petition of Anthony Azuibike on the grounds that his petition did not also fall within its terms of reference.
Mr. Azuibike in his petition against the Nigerian Military claimed that they unlawfully evicted him from a land he had bought from an army Commandant.
The piece of land on which he had built his home was located at Peace Estate, Command Road, Ipaja, Lagos.
He claimed that the military infringed on his rights by evicting him from the property, rendering him homeless and subjecting him to torture.
Mr. Azuibike had demanded N200 million damages from the military.