At its inaugural sitting, the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and and the Toll Gate Incident on Tuesday heard the shocking story of grueling torture and extortion of a Lagos resident, Okoliagu Abunike in the hands of the dreaded Special Anti Robbery Squad(SARS) in 2012.
Abunike told the nine-man panel headed by Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd) that his travails began when he was detained in 2012 at SARS office located at Ikeja, over a false allegation of theft leveled against him by his former employer.
He said:”I currently earn a living by running errands for people. The incident happened in 2012, I worked with a company for four and a half years, I had stated that I wanted to resign and my then boss authenticated my resignation. After some days I was called to come to the office for some clarification and I was promptly arrested. First, by police at the Ojo Police Station and from there I was taken to SARS.
“I asked what happened and I was told that my boss said something happened. I was beaten, stripped and paraded by SARS around the Alaba International Market as a thief, my head was broken and lost a lot of blood. I sustained so many injuries and I still have the scars.
“I spent about 47 days in SARS, I was tortured and hung upside down. SARS officers extracted two teeth from my mouth during the torture. I remember the names of two of the officers – Insp Sunday alias Baba Ijapa and ASP Haruna. When my mother and wife came to see me and the SARS people started beating my wife and my mother. One day, my mother visited and she told me that everything is gone.
“They took all my properties – My house, phones, cars, generator, everything. I was told by SARS to confess and my former boss said that I must produce the missing goods and if I don’t, I will die there. I just said my boss is not God and I never confessed to committing any crime.”
Abunike said that he was eventually released from SARS custody after he filed a fundamental human rights suit against SARS at the Federal High Court Lagos.
According to him, Justice Ibrahim Buba gave a ruling in his favour ordering SARS to pay him ten million naira as damages.
He however said that efforts to get the said sum compensation awarded by the court has been futile.
“Garnishee proceedings were instituted and the banks said that they do not have any SARS account.
“My belongings have not been given back to me. The only thing we have gotten back through legal processes is my landed property documents through a judgment issued by Justice Okiki-Olu Igile in Badagry.
“The person they sold the property to said I wanted to threaten his life and he took me to Magistrate court and that suit was dismissed,” he said.
Abunike said that he also sued the person inhabiting his property at the High Court for recovery of his property and also got judgment in his favour.
He noted that he has not been found guilty of any crime by the justice system and that he is yet to receive his N10 million court ordered for compensation.
“I want this honourable panel to compel the police to do what the court said they should do.
“I am tired of suffering, running around and struggling to pay school fees,” he said.
The panel adjourned the hearing of Abunike’s petition until November 3 to give their findings.
The judicial panel of inquiry could not hear the petition of wheelchair bound Mr Ndukwe Ekekwe due to the absence of the accused former SARS officer ASP Haruna. The hearing of his petition was also adjourned until to November 3.
Also the petitions of Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje and Mr Basil Ejiagwa could not be heard due to the absence of the petitioner at the panel. The hearing of their petition was adjourned until November 6.