A woman has told the #EndSARS panel in Abuja how her 80-year-old father died in June 2018 from health conditions linked to the abuse he allegedly suffered during his wrongful arrest and detention in Lagos.
Ifeyinwa Remigus rendered her emotive testimony to the panel probing petitions of police brutality via a Zoom call on Wednesday.
She said her father, Pius Ajaegbu, was wrongfully arrested in an evening street raid by the police in Itere, Mushin area of Lagos State, on February 28, 2018.
According to her, operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), who allegedly carried out the mass arrest, claimed to be hunting for suspects involved in the killing of a police officer.
“He said he went to buy roasted yam somewhere around Itere when a police truck pulled up and he was asked to enter,” Mrs Remigus said of the conversation she had with her father on his arrest.
She recalled her father recounting being physically assaulted by the police to break his resistance to arrest. Recollecting his father’s account of the scene, she said the police officers slapped him severally before he was then hit in the groin with the butt of a gun.
“While he was trying to resist them, he got hit in the stomach and collapsed and was pushed into the truck,” she added.
Mrs Remigus narrated to the panel how within days of his arrest, her father was moved from the police headquarters in Lagos to the environmental taskforce facility in Bolade Oshodi, and ended up at the Badagry prison.
The woman could not stop crying as she described her father’s ordeal at the hands of the officials in the various places of his detention.
She recalled how the strike on his father’s groin caused him a urinary problem. His health condition worsened in detention due to lack of care, yet all efforts to secure his release on bail were turned down, she said.
Futile efforts to secure release
She described how her efforts to secure his father’s release at the taskforce facility in Bolade Oshodi, where the man was said to have been taken to barely a day after his arrest by the police, met a stonewall, with officials insisting that her father had killed a cop.
She claimed she told them her father was an elderly man who could not have done such a thing.
“I went there and wasn’t allowed in. I pleaded but it fell on deaf ears, so I started crying and a police officer told me my father killed a policeman,” Mrs Remigus said.
When she was finally permitted in, she said, she spotted her father on the floor, but was not allowed to approach him. They rather instructed her to go seek a lawyer because her father would be charged at a mobile court, she said.
“On the premises, a lawyer approached me and demanded N30,000 from me,” Mrs Remigus alleged.
She said she returned there the following day but was told her father had been taken to Badagry prison.
Poor health condition in prison
She painted a picture of a horrible state of his father’s health and physical appearance at the prison.
“I saw him there looking dirty and tired with swollen face. He said he had not been able to urinate since they brought him to the prison,” Mrs Remigus narrated sobbing profusely.
She added that her father told him the urinary problem resulted from how the strike on his groin by the police during his arrest. She said she gave him water to drink but it did not help.
The petitioner said the mobile court also turned down his father’s application for bail. She said her further attempts to see her father in detention were blocked on two occasions.
Deteriorating health condition, death
She informed the panel that she later got a call that her father was dying and that she needed to come to get him.
The man, according to the petitioner, was brought to the Badagry General Hospital, where a tube was placed into his bladder to allow him to pee.
Mrs Remigus said the man was moved from that hospital to other ones to get better care, yet did not survive the ailment. He died on June 24, 2018, according to her.
Mrs Remigus pleaded with the panel to help her and her siblings to get justice. She asked for N50 million in compensation.
Fielding questions under cross-examination by a police lawyer, Kenneth Egbochua, Mrs Remigus said her father was arrested in a raid by the police after a police officer was said to have been killed during a fight in Mushin.
She said her father had only gone out to buy roasted yam for dinner when he was arrested and was not involved in the alleged killing.
The panel after listening to her testimony adjourned the case till March 22 for defence.
The case which came up on Wednesday was one of the first few in which remote hearing was adopted by the #EndSARS panel in Abuja.
The panel had on Tuesday, started making an alternative provision for petitioners with challenges of travelling long distances to appear before the panel in Abuja to be part of proceedings via Zoom call.
Mrs Remigus, who appeared with her lawyer, rendered her testimony remotely through a Zoom call on Wednesday. She and her lawyer were hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Lagos and connected to the panel in Abuja.