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#EndSARS: Man Dies Seven Days Before Lagos Panel Hears Petition

The Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing atrocities committed by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was told on Tuesday told that one of the victims of the police tactical team, Basil Ejiagwa, whose petition was scheduled to be heard on Tuesday died seven days ago.

The eight-member panel presided over by Justice Doris Okuwobi (retired) was informed by one of the deceased’s cousin, Chukwu Vincent and his lawyer, Olalekan Gazali that the petitioner died on November 17, 2020.

The panel had was listed Ejiagwa as the third petitioner to be heard on Tuesday but when his case was called, his counsel Gazali told the panel that “the petitioner is no more, we lost him last week as a result of the torture meted to him by SARS.

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“His wife came to the panel all the way from Imo State with his picture to show the state of his health but unfortunately the matter did not go on at the last sitting,” the counsel said.

Gazali urged the panel to allow him call on a family member to testify on behalf of the deceased petitioner.

“He is being represented by a family member who has his death certificate, hospital bills other hospital records and is ready to testify on his behalf,” he stated.

At this point, the counsel representing the police, Joseph Eboseremen raised an objection to the effect that, “it can’t be proven that Ejiagwa’s death was directly caused by the torture from SARS as it took place a while ago,”

The Chairman of the Panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi agrees and strikes out the claim and allowed the relative to testified.

Vincent, a businessman who describes himself as a cousin to the deceased is then called upon to testify.

In his testimony Vincent told the panel that his cousin was arrested by men of the police, on his way from work at Alaba while going home.

He said the petitioner was taken to Igando Police Station where he spent five days and got his legs damaged by the policemen who hit him with a hammer while he was there before he was later taken to the SARS office in Ikeja.

Vincent said, “We rushed him to El-Shaddai Hospital at Iba/Igando.

“The hospital results said the ‘hitting’ was responsible. He even travelled abroad at some point and it was him who filed this petition.

“We noticed gashes on his head from where he claimed to have been beaten by police with their guns. He was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“The incident happened in 2014 and we tried to treat it till 2017. I spent my personal money too and as time went by, it got worse and he began to lose his memory.

“When his condition was too severe, the family decided to move him out of Lagos to the east, then we started searching for a good lawyer to take up the case,” the witness testified.

The Panel then admitted in evidence hospital documents including photocopies of drug prescription forms and a bill of N1m for his treatment.

The hospital documents came from the Lagos State Government General Hospital in Alimosho and the El-Shaddai Hospital also in the Iba/Igando area of the state.

The panel also admitted a N40million judgement the deceased obtained in his favour from the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Through the witness, the family is appealing to the panel to help enforce the judgment against the police. The judgment was said to have been delivered on the 16th of April 2019.

Earlier a mild drama occurred when another petitioner, Okoli Agu Abunike, spotted a Police lawyer who he claimed assaulted him at the hearing of his petition.

The drama began when Abunike was being cross-examined by another police lawyer, Eze and asked for the panel’s permission to speak.

When he was granted the permission to speak by Justice Okuwobi, the petitioner pointed at the police lead counsel, Joseph Eboseremen, and accused him of assaulting him in the past.

Abunike alleged, “I am surprised today to see a counsel sitting before this tribunal in my proceedings, Mr J. Eboseremen
“Last year he slapped me four times at Panti (State Criminal Investigating and Intelligence Department, (SCIID) when I went to serve him a court process. He said I should slap him back if I had the balls.”

“That is why I am surprised that he is here in my own situation again.

“The day it happened, their OC legal, Mrs Yetunde, came down to beg me, and she called my boss, Ogungbeje, to beg.

“I told her that the only thing that will appease me is if this man would put his ears down so that I would slap him back but she said, `No’.

“My lord, this is how they operate,” Abunike said.

In his response, Eboseremen denied the allegation, claiming that it all started following his refusal to compromise his integrity in a N200 million judgment debt recovery case involving a law firm linked with Abunike.

“He (Abunike) wants to dent my image… Myself? Slapping you? I don’t sell my integrity for a pot of porridge,” the police officer said.

Abunike, a father of five, had alleged that in 2012 FSARS operatives detained and tortured him for 47 days at their Ikeja station.

15th April 2024
Nigerian Pantagraph