The #EndSARS panel investigating complaints of police brutality in Abuja has dismissed the case of a suspect who allegedly died shortly after his release from unlawful police detention and torture last year.
Martins Daomi was said to have been arrested by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Guzape, Abuja, in March 2020 for allegedly buying a stolen phone.
The deceased person’s brother, Charles Daomi, who petitioned the panel, testified on Tuesday that SARS claimed the owner of the allegedly stolen phone was murdered, and demanded that his brother produce the person he bought the phone from to be released.
According to Mr Daomi, his brother’s detention since March 3, 2020, when he was contacted about his arrest, extended beyond the four weeks of last year’s COVID-19 lockdown.
“After the lockdown got lifted, I called my sister in Kubwa (Abuja) and we went to SARS office together. But on getting there, I couldn’t recognise my brother. His beards were unkempt, his fingernails were long and he had lost so much weight. I looked at my brother and cried,” Mr Daomi said.
The petitioner said when he met his brother, he was only allowed by one Inspector Hakeem to say what was dictated to him concerning the allegation he was arrested for.
‘Health complications, death after release’
The SARS, according to the petitioner, initially demanded N2 million to release the suspect, but surprisingly called the family to “pick” him up long after the family stopped pushing for his release due to their inability to raise the allegedly demanded fee.
When SARS would eventually release his brother, the petitioner said, he looked malnourished and “started complaining of headache from the moment he was released”.
“My brother started developing complications immediately he got released – first it was headache, low blood pressure, then he couldn’t talk or move his body parts.
“The doctors said he was suffering from ‘brain malfunction’. We had to take him to Lokoja Medical Health Centre in Lokoja, Kogi State, where our aged mother stayed so he could be duly taken care of,” the petitioner added.
He said his brother was on life support when the hospital discharged all patients because of “a chaotic event” that happened there.
He testified that his brother died three days after he was discharged from the hospital.
The #EndSARS panel chaired by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, dismissed the petition after Mr Daomi’s testimony on Tuesday.
Justifying the decision, Mr Galadima said “there is no connection between Mr Daomi’s death and the police”.
The leader of the police legal team, James Idachaba, who earlier called for the dismissal of the petition, said “the coinage of its title on the panel’s cause list (list of cases) did not correlate with the facts as stated in the petition”.
He said the case was coined as one about extra-judicial killing when the facts in the petition showed it was a case of alleged unlawful detention.
“The coinage of the subject matter by the National Human Rights Commission is a way of giving a bad name to the police,” Mr Idachaba said.
The counsel for the panel, Olawole Afolabi, who assists petitioners in presenting their cases, said he was in support of the panel’s opinion on the petition.
But speaking with PREMIUM TIMES after the proceedings on Tuesday, Mr Daomi, the deceased person’s brother who filed the petition, expressed his disappointment at the decision of the panel.
Mr Daoni, who maintained that the panel denied him fair hearing, said the wrong title stated in the cause list, the basis of which his petition was dismissed, did not emanate from the petition he submitted.
“I feel like I wasn’t given a fair hearing. I believe no one is above mistake. What I had in the petition was that my brother was unlawfully detained and tortured,” Mr Daomi said.
He said despite the panel’s decision, he would not relent in his pursuit for justice in the case.
The #EndSARS panel, replicated in at least 28 states of the federation, was set up last year in the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSARS anti-police brutality protest.
Its principal mandates include investigating the complaints of police brutality and recommending compensations for deserving victims as well as sanctions or prosecution for erring police officers.
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