The National Coordinator for Democracy Vanguard, Adeola Soetan, has urged the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, to order an investigation into the alleged torture of #OccupyLekkitollgate protesters by some police officers on February 13.
Viral videos had shown security operatives assaulting some of the protesters arrested at Lekki tollgate.
The development had sparked heated outrage with Odumosu promising to probe the matter.
But reacting, the human rights activist wondered why there is a delay in fishing out the policemen involved when the police commissioner himself had condemned the act and promised to investigate the matter.
Soetan said since the offending officers are from a particular police station, the police commissioner should work with the Divisional Police Officer of the station or area commander to bring the officers to justice.
Speaking with SaharaReporters on Friday, he said, “The peaceful protesters at Lekki toll gate who were protesting the untimely reopening of Lekki toll gate business, were so peaceful. It was shown on television that they were so peaceful. They were arrested illegally; they were tortured illegally and they were taken to Adeniji Adele police station where they were totally humiliated.
“They were stripped naked, totally naked before they were allowed to put on their boxers and the video is there on the social media to the extent that they were even ridiculing Macaroni, and Macaroni even gave an account in a video I watched that they were stripped naked initially and I want to say, that is torture.
“Every suspect is assumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, not by a police station so they were treated as criminals. They were treated as people who were already guilty of the offence and of course, we know that torture is a crime against humanity, it is illegal, it is unconstitutional, it is immoral, and uncivilised. Nationally and globally, it is condemned.
“As the Commissioner of Police himself came out openly to condemn the act, though I felt that is pretentious of him because he was the total overlord of that police action, because he was even there at the tollgate. He visited tollgate. Odumosu condemned the torture which is at least on the surface, commendable. He condemned the torture and promised that he was going to set up a committee to look into it and of course those who were involved will be sanctioned. It happened on February 13, he put out that statement, this is almost two weeks later.
“We are talking of Adeniji Adele Police station, just one police station, what investigation will take more than two, three days? You know who arrested them, you know those who were talking, you know those who tortured them, just to call the DPO or DCO or whoever is in charge, summon them and let them make their statements within 48 hours. I expected personally that we should have known who the torturers are and they should have faced the music.”
Soetan said it is quite unfortunate that the police are still using torture as a method to harass suspect barely five months after the #EndSARS protests.
He said despite the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS, and supposed refinement and training of policemen, it seems nothing has changed due to the event of that Saturday.
He continued: “In Lagos state, the epicentre of #EndSARS protests where a lot of atrocities of policemen were relived, the sad experience that all of us went through, it was least expected that such a thing will happen. And the CP who has always been addressed as a fine gentleman officer; that it happened under such a person, means that worse will happen under such persons that are not as rated as Odumosu.
“I think we should put pressure; we are impatient to know who the torturers are. And I warn them that this cumulated anger, deep anger that people cannot express immediately would buckle up someday because that was what led to the #EndSARS protests. It was not just an incident that happened in a day, it was accumulated anger of many people that witnessed the atrocities of these unscrupulous officers and we will make sure that Odumosu walks the talk because of that statement he made.”
Speaking on the kinds of punishments the faulting officers deserve when fished out, Soetan said the force should follow due process in trying the officers and ensure they are dismissed from the police force so as not to corrupt other officers.
“There are processes and I would not even want what is called trial room whatever, it is purely an abuse of human rights. So, such things should go to court, and they should be dismissed from the police force because you don't keep animals in the midst of humans. Dismiss such bandit police, hoodlum police from the midst of fine policemen, they are going to corrupt them and that is dangerous.
“Once you see a bad seed amongst may good seed, pluck it out. Luckily for us, the officers themselves posted the video on social media. What that means is that they are not remorseful, they are also warning us that this is what happens if we dare protest. Meanwhile, bandits are there, they don't go there to touch them. The Lagoon bandits in Obalende, they were using guns openly, the police stood and looked on so why peaceful protesters.
“Why is the commissioner delaying the investigations? We are not talking about the whole of Lagos state police command so what is so special about investigating a single police station? People have been saying that it is one of the most notorious police stations in Lagos State; all he needs to do is call the DPO, give him 24 hours to fish those officers out, or even the Area commander.”
Soetan said dismissal from the force is the best punishment stressing that the Nigerian system has to cultivate the habit of making people suffer for crimes committed.
According to him, a member of the democratic socialist movement recounted the ordeals of the arrested protesters with the police officers.
“Moshood who is a comrade of our democratic socialist movement told us that they did a lot of hell on them, smashed their phones, seized some, before they could release, if you have two, they release only one and they also looked into their phones which is illegal, displaying all sorts of criminality which is against the detainees. Luckily for us, they posted it on social media, to show that they know what they are doing, so I suggest dismissal, trial.
“We should try to cultivate making people suffer for crimes, imagine if those people become CPs in any state, won't they be conniving with criminals?” he quipped.