An aged woman, Otomerhre Onaodowan, told the #EndSARS panel in Abuja, on Monday, how she allegedly lost two of his sons to police brutality in the same day in August 2010.
Mrs Onaodowan said a team of police officers and soldiers arrested his two sons – Collins and Owen – while they were escaping from a football viewing centre, Okoloba area of Effurun, Delta State, after it was invaded by a gang of armed robbers.
The grieving woman said her sons were arrested on false allegation of armed robbery in retaliation for the shooting of a soldier at the viewing centre by the invading armed robbers.
“They arrested my sons and didn’t allow me see them. I was only told later they had been killed,” Mrs Onaodowan said.
The woman, who started speaking to the #EndSARS panel while standing, was later offered a seat to enable her to continue her testimony comfortably.
Mrs Onaodowan said she lost her husband six years after the incident.
The petitioner, who travelled from her base in Effurun, Delta State, to testify before the #EndSARS panel in Abuja, said she filed her petition to seek justice for her sons’ death.
She said her family had earlier taken the case of her sons’ killing to court, but that it was dismissed on the grounds of lack of evidence.
How police arrested my sons
Tracing the beginning of the incident on Monday, Mrs Onaodowan said her two sons were watching a match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at a football viewing centre in the Okoloba area of Effurun, Delta State, on August 16, 2010, when a four-man gang of armed robbers invaded the place.
“The robbers took items from those at the viewing centre and shot a soldier who tried to oppose them in the leg,” Mrs Onaodowan told the panel.
“People started fleeing to safety,” she said, adding that her sons were on their way home when soldiers from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) sub-station near the scene accompanied by one police officer, Andrew Enogieru, stopped them and claimed they were the robbers who had shot their colleague in the leg.
According to her, her sons attempted to identify themselves to the police officer nicknamed ‘Dogo’, being a familiar face to them.
“My children were saying, Brother Dogo, you don’t know us?” Mrs Onaodowan said.
She claimed that about 10 p.m., her elder son received a call from a church member at the scene informing him that his younger brothers had been arrested.
On hearing this, she said, they rushed to the scene “where we saw Collins and Owen Onaodowan had been stripped naked and assaulted by the soldiers and Mr Enogieru.”
She added, “All of the pleas from the observers and family members there fell on deaf ears of the soldiers and the police.
“I was explaining to them that that they are my children and that one just came out of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp while the other is about to enter University.”
She said the soldiers eventually handed Collins and Owen over to the police, who drove them to Ekpan police station in their patrol van.
“We followed the police van to the station but the police at the gate said we couldn’t enter because it was late and that we should come back the next day,” Mrs Onaodowan said.
On returning there the next day, Mrs Onaodowan said, they were told that Collins and Owen were no longer there.
But she added that on the advice of people who claimed they heard gunshots in the midnight, they returned to the Ekpan police station to see the divisional police officer (DPO), Mohammed Muazu, a chief superintendent of police, who told them that Collins and Owen had died the previous night.
The DPO, the woman said, ordered Mr Enogieru and another police officer to bring her sons’ case file, where he showed her husband, Stephen Onaodowan, and her older son a photograph of Collins and Owen’s bodies.
Mrs Onaodowan informed the panel that the family went to court after that, but their case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Under cross-examination, the police lawyer, Malik Taiwo, asked Mrs Onaodowan why she did not submit the court judgment along with her petition to the panel.
Responding, Mrs Onaodowan said she did not find any reason to file it with her petition.
Garba Tetengi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, acting as the chairman of the panel, asked Mrs Onaodowan if she saw the corpses of her two sons.
Mrs Onaodowan answered in the negative, adding that the police told them they had been buried.
Another member of the panel, John Aikpokpo-Martins, asked that the certified copy of the judgement and correlating documents be produced.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES after Monday’s proceedings, the petitioner’s lawyer, Emuesiri Okoko, said the photograph shown to the family by the police had the corpses of Collins and Owen, with two guns with some cartridges placed on their chests.
The panel adjourned the case until March 11 for continuation of hearing and for the police to present their defence.
The 11-member panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was set up, after the weeks-long #EndSARS anti-police brutality protests that ravaged many Nigerian cities in October 2020, to probe cases of human rights violations committed by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units.
The panel is expected to recommend compensations to victims of such rights violations and recommend disciplinary action or even prosecution against erring police officers in deserving circumstances.
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