By Bode Adewumi
If Segun Idowu, had an inkling of what was in store for him in November 2006, he would probably have taken steps to avert the evil that befell him on that fateful day. He could have abandoned his home temporarily or even forever, but he did not know that trouble was lurking, especially because he had not done anything wrong.
In an emotion-laden voice, Idowu narrated how his left eye became permanently blind following an ugly experience alleged in the hands of policemen at the Oyo State headquarters of the Nigeria Police in Eleyele.
According to Idowu, he was sleeping in his house on the day when some policemen forcefully broke down the door to his rented apartment at Gbekele area of Aremo in North East Local Government Area of Ibadan. He recalled that it was at about 2.30 a.m. He had thought that they were armed robbers with the way they swooped on him.
At the end of their raid, they took him and one of the sons of the landlord along with them. He said the police came in many vans during the operations and that other ‘captives’ in the vans. He told People & Justice that he along with some victims were initially taken to Agugu Police Station before they were moved to Ido Police Station at Dugbe area. They finally took them to the headquarters at Eleyele.
Idowu said they were chattered at the Agugu Police Station and asked to produce a gun they (the police) were looking for. At this stage, Idowu said he began to realise the trouble he was in. He said the policemen raided young men in the area indiscriminately following an incident that happened two days earlier.
He said he was not around when the incident happened, and so his conscience was clear, and that in any case, the incident had happened two days earlier.
Shedding light on the incident or what he thought actually happened, Idowu said he learnt that some policemen from Agugu Police Station mounted a roadblock in the area around 9.30 p.m. (Aremo) two nights before and a fight ensued following a disagreement between the police and a commercial driver, who refused to part with the money one of the policemen demanded.
He said he was able to gather from residents that, because the driver refused to play ball, one of the policemen hit the driver with the butt of his gun on the head, which caused an instant bump with blood gushing out.
The driver reportedly sprang out of the car and a scuffle ensued. The young men within the vicinity, who learnt or witnessed, the scene became infuriated and engaged the policemen in a battle. The policemen, according to Idowu, were said to have taken to their heels and that it was possible that one of the policemen dropped his gun as they tried to escape from the area.
He said he did not know how the gun the policemen were looking got missing as the account of the incident was relayed to him by the people in the area and some of those raided along with him.
According to him, the policemen ran away on the first night the incident happened, but return later in the night to raid the area. He recalled that many innocent young men who live or were passing through the area were taken indiscriminately for three days the police embarked on the action.
He said it was through a combined forces of many police stations across the state.
At the end, he said more than 100 men were taken in the three-day exercise. He was part of the last batch. He was subsequently taken to Eleyele from the Ido Police Station the day after he was taken from his home.
He stated that those taken were dropped at different police stations within the city and that some of them were later transferred to Eleyele, while many others were released on bail along the line. But he and some others were taken to the headquarters for further ‘screening’.
Idowu told People & Justice that it was at Eleyele that the torturing continued, as the policemen were hell-bent on making them admit to the knowledge of the gun and how it got lost. It was in the process that the horse whip being used on him hit him on his left eye. He particularly singled out one policeman he referred to as Saheed SARS.
He said he didn’t know why he was being referred to as Saheed SARS, but that it was possibly because he was formerly of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. He also mentioned one Tempole Nwafor, although he was not sure if he could get the correct spelling of the name.
Because of the impact of the horse-whip on his face, coupled with the fact that he couldn’t get immediate treatment, the eye had become permanently blind. He recalled that this did not stop them from torturing him and the others, especially himself and another young man, Jimmy.
All the while, he said the police did not allow his relations to see him and that in fact, his people were not even aware his predicament since the police did not allow him to send message to his parents. He later sent one of those that were released on bail to his mum, who came with a lawyer, but the police refused him bail.
He said it was in the course of this that they learnt from their detention cell that the gun they were arrested and tortured for had been found on a mentally-challenged woman called Iya Ibeji in the area. He said as the police were raiding innocent young men around, the mad woman quickly took and hang the gun around her neck, going about with it.
And the police, according to him, went and tricked the mentally-challenged woman before collecting the gun from her. The woman was brought to their cell and asked if she knew anyone of them. She replied that she did not know anyone of suspects (about seven of them held in connection with the incident).
Idowu stated that he did not know what the police thought, but that they were charged to court after they had been recovered back. And from the Magistrate Court, they were taken to the Iyaganku area of Ibadan, remanded at the Agodi Prisons, pending the hearing of the case.
Iya Ibeji was also remanded at the Agodi prisons. Idowu said he learnt that the woman later died in the prison. He got to know through those he left back at the prison following his release about two months after the start of his ordeal.
He added that the mentally-challenged woman used to be taken to the court along with them each time they appeared. According to him, she used to sit in the front seat of the Black Maria van in which they normally conveyed them to the court. He recalled that they attended the court for about six times before the efforts being made by his people to free him came to fruition.
According to him, his lawyer applied to the High Court for a motion bail on his behalf and that following the advice from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in Oyo State, that they had nothing incriminating on him, the charges against him were quashed and he was released immediately.
He noted that the judge, who heard his motion bail, advised him to sue the police and those who tortured him, but his father, who is a pastor, said it was not necessary. But he took to the advice when he discovered that his left eye was giving him problem.
He went to the University College Hospital (UCH) for the treatment, where he got to know that the eye could no longer see, but that an operation could remove the cataract. He could not raise any money for the operation. He disclosed that he sold his car in the course of the problem.
Why is he looking for justice now after almost four years? Idowu said his father, who prevailed on him not to take any action at the time, was the one who sparked the anger in him when he abused him with the eye. This, he said, was coupled with the fact that the scars and pains he feels anytime he reflects on the issue usually make him sad and angry at the same time. He said he would like to bring those two policemen who tortured him to blindness to book and at the same, get compensation.
People & Justice tried to get a report on the issue from the Oyo State Police Command, but the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the command, ASP Femi Okanlawon said it was unfortunate that the issue occurred a long time ago, and that it would take him a lot of time to find out what happened since he was not the PPRO when it occurred.
He, however, described the incident as a very unfortunate one, saying nobody had the right to trample on other people’s right. He said that he was sure he would have been more appropriate for Idowu to have pressed charges against the officers who blinded him at that time and that he was sure he would have gotten justice.
Okanlawon further said it was never too late if the victim could provide the names of the policemen who tortured him then, saying the police would investigate and come out with the right measure.