A victim of police abuse has approached the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos to seek restitution for the brutality she suffered at the hands of police officers.
Ebere Okpara was arrested on July 14, 2017, at Olowonla bus stop, Igando, after she received a call that she had a parcel sent to her from DHL.
“I was called by a number (09033997455) that I have a DHL parcel that I should come to DHL office to collect my package,” Mrs Okpara, 40, said.
“I did not call the number back because I was not expecting any parcel. After some minutes, the same number called me back that where is my bus stop so they can deliver it.”
Mrs Okpara said she gave the caller her bus stop, where she was accosted by four men in mufti who later identified themselves as police officers.
“When I got to the bus stop, I ran into four men, they were on mufti. They told me that I should enter a car, there was no number on the car, it was a private number. I told them I will not get into their car because I cannot identify them and that saying they are police officers was not enough.”
The petitioner said three of the men beat her up and “bundled” her into the vehicle, adding that one of the officers, ‘Mr Idowu’ brought out a gun when she was shouting for help, threatening to shoot her on the leg if she continues shouting.
Mrs Okpara is the second petitioner to recount how police officers hide under the pretence of delivering DHL parcels to apprehend citizens.
In the early days of the panel, Nzube Obiechina, a schoolteacher, narrated how she lost a two-month-old pregnancy while being tortured by the police.
Mrs Okpara said she was taken to Area F Police station in Ikeja, where she was met Mr Philip, an officer of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT). Her offence was not stated by the police.
“I asked him what I did and he said I will suffer. I told them I have a baby at home that was very sick because I gave birth to him through caesarean section when he was six months and two weeks old.”
The victim told the panel that the officers turned deaf ears to her pleas, collected her phones and demanded N10 million as ransom from her husband who later got through to her.
She said on July 20, after spending six days in detention, Christian, a police officer called her out of the cell and took her to Mr Philip’s office where there were five other police officers.
“When I entered, it was all-round beating, they started beating me, Philip brought out his belt and started beating me. When one officer hits me, he will push me to another to continue beating. Blood was gushing out of my body, I fell on the floor,” she told the panel.
The victim said the police instructed her to lead them to her house at Igando and when they got there, they met one of her brothers and told him that her husband used her phone number to do fraud.
Mrs Okpara said she spent 11 days in detention and the police went back to her house on July 22 to arrest her husband.
She said the police took their Camry car with registration number AA110AHA, and seized original receipts of the car and other properties.
The vehicle is still in police custody, according to her, while Mr Okpara was charged to court after four months in police custody.
During cross-examination of the petitioner, Nosa Uhumwangho, the counsel representing the IRT, said the petitioner was arrested because the police were investigating a case of kidnapping involving Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike popularly known as Evans.
The counsel, who said the victim was ‘deceived’ that she had a parcel with DHL, said her husband was connected to Evans.
“He was arrested on June 23 and when he was interrogated, the petitioner’s husband was one of the people mentioned by Evans. Her phone number also featured and which was why she was deceived that she had a parcel from DHL.
“Evans mentioned that there as a woman, a member of his gang. He described the female as fair in completion, that cooked for kidnap victims,” the counsel said.
Mr Uhumwangho did not establish that the petitioner was the ‘member of the gang’.
The petitioner said she has never seen Evans before, neither did she know of any of the allegations of the counsel.
“If my husband was working with Evans, why was he not charged with him? He was kept in detention for four months, it was after I reported to a Human Rights Group that the police were angry that I reported and charged him to court,” Mrs Okpara said.
The petitioner said the monies, documents and other properties seized by the police should be returned to her, stating that her four children are out of school since the incident.
“The landlord threw out our things when I could not pay rent. My children are with different relatives in the [south]east and out of school, I have four children,” Mrs Okpara said.
Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge heading the panel, adjourned the matter till April 13 to allow the police to bring their witness before the panel.
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