A petitioner at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on SARS abuses and other related matters has narrated how police officers attached to the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) brutalised her and a pregnant woman.
The petitioner, Stella Edegwa, appeared before the panel on Tuesday in the company of the first petitioner, Adeola Mukaila, who was allegedly brutalised during pregnancy.
In a joint petition before the panel, the petitioners deposed to an affidavit narrating their encounter with officers of the defunct SARS.
According to Mrs Edegwa, herself and the second petitioner were meted with “barbaric, brutal and ruthless assault” by three police officers who they identified by their nicknames: Ade, TomPolo, and Walter.
The police officers were part of the SARS team at Tolu Police Station, Ajegunle, Lagos.
In her testimony contained in the sworn affidavit, Mrs Edegwa said the SARS officers drove into Mokoya Street in Ajegunle on June 6, 2020, purportedly on information that some youth were hosting a party in their house in breach of the COVID-19 protocols.
“While driving along the street, the SARS officers came across a footballer by the roadside who was trying to fix his car that broke down. Strangely, the officers started to harass the young footballer accusing him of being ‘a yahoo boy’ and demanding that he hands over his car key.
“When the footballer refused to hand over the key, the said SARS officers pounced on him and started to beat him up using among other things batons and the butts of their guns.
“The assault that was meted to the young footballer by the police attracted the attention of passersby and some even brought out their phones to record the incident,” the affidavit reads.
Mrs Edegwa said upon seeing the incident being recorded by others, Mrs Mukaila, who was five months pregnant at that time, stepped out of the salon they were in and brought out her phone to record the incident.
“One of the officers known to us simply as Officer Ade suddenly pounced on the first petitioner who was five months pregnant at the time and smacked the phone (Samsung A10) out of her hand and also pushed her into a gutter filled with mud.
“Not done, Officer Ade also dragged the 1st petitioner in the said mud and punched her several times on the tummy with his fist. It was at this point that I intervened screaming at the top of my voice and yelling to Officer Ade to stop hitting the 1st petitioner as the 1st petitioner was pregnant and may lose her baby thereby,” Mrs Edegwa said.
She further narrated that rather than yield to her cry, the officer swung a fist at her while she was trying to rescue Mrs Mukaila from his grip.
“The blow caught me on the lips with such force and intensity that my upper lips almost split in half. In no time at all, my mouth was covered in blood which prompted onlookers to advise me to go to the hospital for treatment,” she said.
Mrs Edegwa presented photographs and videos showing the injury she sustained and those of Mrs Mukaila.
She told the panel that the matter was reported to the Area B Police Station, Apapa, where the case was subsequently transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) Panti, Yaba, purportedly for further investigation.
She said they were assured by the Investigating Police Officer, one Inspector Samuel, that the perpetrators of the acts would be brought to justice.
“Strangely, however, and till date, no investigation has been opened in respect of the matter and none of the erring officers has been arrested or charged to court. Worse still, none of us has been compensated for the physical, emotional and financial injuries suffered in the hands of the erring officers,” Mrs Edegwa said.
She urged the judicial panel to order a replacement of Mrs Mukaila’s Samsung A10 phone which was damaged and a thorough investigation of the case with a view to prosecuting the erring officer involved.
The petitioners also asked for compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial injuries suffered as a result of the brutalisation.
The chairperson of the panel, Doris Okuwobi, adjourned the matter till August 13 for further hearing.
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