A witness has narrated how her brother died after torture by officers of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police.
The witness, Doris Idedia, appeared on Wednesday in Abuja before a nine-member panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate allegations of violations of human rights by the police.
Judicial panels of inquiry have been set up by many state governments in Nigeria following the #EndSARS street protests of October against police brutality.
In Abuja, only the panel set up by the NHRC is investigating such incidents.
Mrs Idedia told the panel that a police inspector identified only as Kingsley tortured her brother, Festus Idehen, over a false accusation that he stole a car in 2016.
She said Mr Idehen died as a result of the torture on September 6, 2016, three days after he was taken into police custody.
The witness said she was with the deceased and some members of her family in Kaduna on September 3, 2016, when Mr Idehen’s wife’s younger brother, Onyekachi Sunday, called him.
“He told him to wait for him at a nearby petrol station where he would pick him up. He left his food and went,” she narrated.
“Throughout that Saturday, we didn’t see my brother. We planned to report the case on Sunday but luckily for us, a strange number called his wife who was with us, since we slept together on Saturday.
“It turned out it was my brother. He told us he was at Barau Dikko Hospital in Kaduna. We rushed to the place and met our brother on the hospital bed covered in POP.”
Mrs Idedia then narrated how SARS operatives had allegedly invited a mob to brutalise Mr Idehen.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES after presenting her petition before the panel, Mrs Idedia said the police had accused her brother of stealing a car.
“He did not steal the car but bought it from Onyekachi, his in-law. Onyekachi also confirmed that he was the one who sold the vehicle to my brother,” she said.
She said Mr Sunday (Onyekachi) confirmed to the officers that he sold the car to Mr Idehen but the officers allegedly brushed off his attestation.
She said despite pleas from the doctor providing care for Mr Idehen that he needed more medical attention, the police inspector, Mr Kingsley, insisted on taking him to Abuja.
She said Mr Idehen was tortured over the next three days in Abuja before he was pronounced dead on September 6 in a Asokoro hospital.
She said Mr Kingsley had ignored their calls after taking the victim away from Kaduna, only to “invite us to Abuja on September 6, the day Festus died.”
“When I came to Abuja, he had already died. I didn’t see my brother. It was the nurse taking care of him at the cell who informed me that my brother really suffered a lot in the cell, that he didn’t eat anything and was not taken to any hospital for treatment.
“When Kingsley saw me, he asked me to join the vehicle, that my brother was being taken to the hospital. I called my brother by his name but he did not answer me.
“We took him to the police clinic but they refused to accept him, saying he was dead. But Kingsley insisted that he was alive and said we should go to Asokoro General Hospital.
“When we got to Asokoro, they could not take my brother out of the vehicle. The doctor came to see him in the vehicle and said he was brought in dead,” she recalled.
Ms Idedia said Mr Kingsley also blocked the family’s effort to collect the corpse from the mortuary.
“He refused to release the corpse to us and said that if he released the corpse, we would go and make a case,” she said.
Mrs Idedia said the family’s appeal for justice to the offices of the Inspector-General of Police and Abuja Police Commissioner was ignored.
Mrs Idedia is demanding N200 million compensation from the police over the death of her brother.
After her presentation, the panel tasked the police counsel to present the accused officer at the next hearing on December 15.