Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a 49-member civil society coalition, has called on the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to immediately investigate a range of allegations against Mr. Adejobi, Officer in Charge, Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Lagos State Police Command and other officers under him.
NOPRIN's demand for investigation was made in a letter addressed to the Lagos State Police Commissioner. Dated 1 September and signed by its National Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwagunma, the letter said the coalition was shocked by the allegations of criminal and unprofessional conduct made against Mr. Adejobi and officers under him, wants the allegations investigated and perpetrators brought to book if found to be culpable.
NOPRIN said it was informed that on 31 August, Ms. Juliana Francis, the Crime Editor of New Telegraph Newspapers, received a call from Juliana Taiwo Obalonye of The Sun Newspapers, who informed her that her sister, a single mother of two, had been arrested and detained since 29 August. Blessing, the victim, was detained for allegedly stealing $50,000 belonging to her colleague, Mrs. Abiola Ojo Osagie, with whom she had worked for 10 years.
Mrs. Osagie was quoted as saying that she left the $50,000 in a bag in her office and traveled for three weeks. On her return, she was said to have claimed not checking the bag for a few days. But when she checked, she could not find the money and immediately accused Blessing, who had a key to the office and the responsibility of delegating people to clean it.
Mrs. Osagie reported the alleged theft at Ikoyi Police Station and Blessing was arrested, with her case assigned to one Tope as Investigating Police Officer (IPO). This was followed by an investigation, including a search of Blessing’s home and a check on her bank account. The investigation yielded nothing incriminating. As a result, the Divisional Police, Officer (DPO) advised that Blessing be released.
Dissatisfied with the DPO’s investigation and advice, Mrs. Osagie allegedly asked the DPO to ‘make Blessing confess’ to the crime. However, the DPO explained to her that torture is not used for investigation in his station. Mrs.Osagie then took the matter to the Anti-Kidnapping and Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command under the headship of Mr. Adejobi, who assigned the matter to one Igbin as IPO.
Mr. Adejobi ordered that Blessing was to be put in the same cell as suspected cultists and kidnappers, where she spent most of her time weeping, especially because her two children had been left in the care of neighbors. Mr. Adejobi pronounced Blessing culpable and refused pleas to grant her bail or charge her to court.
He also flatly rejected interventions by members of Blessing's family, journalists, and other concerned individuals to grant her bail or charge her to court. One of those turned down by Mr. Adejobi was a retired State Security Service operative, a friend to Blessing's father. Another was Mr. Christopher Oji, a journalist with The Sun Newspapers, who was insulted by Mr. Adejobi for intervening.
According to NOPRIN, an Area Commander also called Mr. Adejobi to no avail. That got Ms. Francis to call the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Olarinde Famous-Cole, who told her that he had also spoken to Mr. Adejobi about the case, but he remained unyielding. NOPRIN said Ms. Francis then called Mr. Adejobi’s elder brother, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi, a senior police officer, to intervene. The older Adejobi spoke did as requested, but his counsel was rejected, with his younger brother saying the investigation showed that Blessing was culpable. Ms. Francis later called Mr. Oni, second in command to Mr. Adejobi, requesting that Blessing is granted bail. Mr. Oni promised but had to speak with his boss.
In hope, members of Blessing’s family were at the station till 10 pm on Thursday, where they prayed that Mr. Adejobi would change his mind and grant Blessing bail. While at the station, members of Blessing's family said they watched policemen smoking Indian Hemp with unfettered relish.
On Friday, Blessing’s family members were asked to go and find two persons with valid passports, N2 million in their bank account, and property that had the Certificate of Occupancy to take Blessing on bail. In addition, said NOPRIN, the policemen also demanded N70,000. Blessing’s sister, Folake, said all they could raise was N50,000. Mr. Adejobi, however, refused to grant her bail, insisting on full payment of the sum demanded.
Pleading ensued, after which Mr. Adejobi agreed to take N50,000 and "grant Blessing bail". However, he held on to her mobile phone, saying she would get it back on 5 September when she pays the balance of N20, 000. The saga forced Ms. Francis to quickly send a text to the new Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Edgal Imihinmi, alerting him of the case. The Commissioner replied around 9 pm, promising to intervene.
Equally worrisome, said NOPRIN, was that that Juliana Taiwo, Blessing’s sister, revealed that their younger sister, Florence, who was taking food to Blessing in custody, said that each time she went to the station with food, a policeman (instead of a police woman) would ‘search’ her. The policemen, it was alleged, would ask her to strip naked and would be fondling her breasts and penetrating her private part digitally.
One of the policemen involved in the disgraceful treatment of Florence still phones her, asking her to meet him somewhere.
NOPRIN said it is worried that Mr. Adejobi assumed the role of investigator, prosecutor, and executioner, saying his conduct manifests notoriety for corruption and abuse of police power.
"That the OC (Mr. Adejobi) could continue to unjustifiably detain Blessing beyond the duration permitted by law without showing any evidence of her culpability, and refusing all entreaties to either grant her bail or charge her to court, is a clear demonstration of abuse of police powers and violation of the victim’s constitutional rights further elaborated by the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2011."
In the first place, a case of stealing ought not to be taken to or investigated by the Anti-Kidnapping Unit but because the complainant and the OC probably have some personal things in common, the OC decided to do her illegal biddings, which the DPO at Ikoyi professionally refused to do," said NOPRIN.
The coalition added that police officers, who sexually abuse female detainees or women, should be sacked. In addition to its call for an investigation, NOPRIN called on the Lagos State Police Commissioner to ensure that the police provide adequate remedies, including a written apology to the victim. The coalition also vows to follow up on the matter to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to account and the victim’s fundamental rights are fully enforced.