A police inspector, on Tuesday, told the #EndSARS panel in Abuja, how an 83-year-old suspect, Samuel Adagbor, died during his seven-month detention in February 2021.
The panel set up to investigate cases of police had, on Friday, summoned Sunday Sylvester, who was accused of complicity in the illegal detention of the suspect.
The daughter of the deceased, Angela Benjamin, who petitioned the panel set up to probe cases of police brutality, had accused Mr Sylvester of extorting about N2 million from the family.
She earlier testified that his father and his wife were arrested by the police sometime in August 2019 at their family house in Agbor, Delta State, on the allegation that they were running a “baby factory”.
The family denied the charge.
After one week in detention, the wife, who was said to have just had a baby through the cesarean section, was released, while Mr Adagbor was moved to Abuja, Mrs Benjamin had told the panel.
In Abuja, she said, the police took advantage of the family’s desperation to get the octogenarian released by continuing to keep him to create a room for extortion.
She alleged that Mr Sylvester received over N2 million from the family and still refused to release the old man.
The family would later hear seven months after the arrest that the man had died in custody, she said.
‘Suspect died after health complications’
Appearing before the panel on summons on Tuesday, Mr Sylvester denied any wrongdoing in his handling of the case, but confirmed the death of Mr Adagbor in custody.
Fielding questions under cross-examination by the complainant’s counsel, Gabriel Egbule, the police officer said the octogenarian died after developing health complications in custody.
“Mr Samuel (Adagbor) developed health complications and was taken to the police clinic but was transferred to Gwagwalada General Hospital (Abuja) when he worsened (sic),” he said.
He added that the suspect died later sometime in February 2021, seven months after his arrest on September 16, 2019.
‘Why octogenarian was arrested’
Mr Sylvester told the panel that Mr Adagbor was arrested after the police received intelligence that he was selling human parts, contrary to the petitioner’s claim that her father was arrested on an allegation of running a baby factory.
In his testimony, Mr Sylvester told the panel that the police had traced Mr Adagbor to his house in Delta State where they found two dead bodies.
“We went to his house in Delta State and met some of the children and we opened a door and saw two dead bodies. One was already tampered with and the other was fresh,” Mr Sylvester told the panel.
He said they took the suspect to Agbor police station and then proceeded to Agbor General Hospital to process a possible evacuation of the bodies.
The hospital, he said, requested a formal letter since the police officers whom he said were from Abuja.
“We returned to Abuja to reinforce ourselves, but when we went back to Mr Samuel’s house, the bodies were no longer there,” Mr Sylvester said.
He said they asked Adagbor’s son, Peace Adagbor, where the bodies were, and he said the bodies had been handed over to the “owners”.
He said Peace Adagbor had since been on the run after the police accused him of moving the bodies and tampering with evidence.
But the petitioner had told the panel that Peace Adagbor died in 2020.
The police officer said he had the case file and documents to back his testimony.
Mr Sylvester, who admitted under cross-examination that the alleged victim died after developing health complications in detention, also said the police could not charge the suspect in court seven months after his detention because investigation was still ongoing.
The police officer was asked if he was aware that Mr Adagbor retired from the Nigerian Army and subsequently became a private mortician. Responding, Mr Sylvester said the suspect said he was not a mortician when asked during interrogation.
He added that the police took him round the village to link the bodies found on his premises to any family but could not.
On why the family was not contacted after the suspect died, Mr Sylvester said the man’s son, Peace Adagbor, who had been the family’s contact person stopped picking the calls from the police and nobody made a formal application for the release of the corpse.
He also faulted the family’s claim about Mr Adagbor’s age, saying there was no birth certificate to ascertain it. He insisted the deceased person did not look as old as the family claimed.
Police officer denies extortion
He said also denied extorting the family. He said he never collected any money from the family. He said he rather incurred debt feeding the man in custody.
“I spent close to N70,000 to feed Mr Samuel while he was in detention and I am still paying some of the debt to the woman who was providing the food,” Mr Sylvester told the panel.
The panel, chaired by Garba Tetengi who acted in the absence of the substantive chairman, Suleiman Galadima, ordered Mr Sylvester to produce the case file opened for Mr Adagbor, and other relevant documents.
The panel also ordered that the body of the deceased be released to the family for burial.
The panel adjourned the case until March 30, 2022.
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