Segun Enikuemehin now wears a pair of black shades, not due to his choice of fashion., but to cosmetically hide his blinded eye, a consequence of the Nigerian Army’s brutality.
On the evening of August 14, 2016, Mr. Enikuemehin, an official of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), thought he could save a civilian who was being tortured by some intoxicated soldiers. The victim was being tortured for the offense of wearing camouflage, which the troops interpreted as impersonating a member of the Nigerian Army.
What could have been a good gesture from the FRSC official left one of his eyes permanently damaged instead. The soldiers turned on him and warned him to never interfere with them.
Three weeks before Mr. Enikuemehin was maimed, some soldiers had caught David, the man Mr. Enikuemehin tried to save from the vicious soldiers, in camouflage shorts and accosted him, but his day of punishment was postponed with a threat to come back for him.
True to their threat, the soldiers, on August 14, 2016, saw David, asked him to fetch the item of his offense, but David, who promptly remembered his captors, told them he no longer had the camouflage shorts. The enraged soldiers pounced on him.
“They started beating me because I could not give them the knickers [shorts],” David had told our correspondent.
Recalling the incident, Mr. Enikuemehin said he regained consciousness while lying on a hospital bed, hours after series of blows from the soldiers had beaten him for trying to protect David.
“I saw that the guy was already dying. People were scared to move closer to the soldiers but I thought they would understand since I am a service man, too,” Mr. Enikuemehin said. “I was able to get them to stop beating their victim after which I proceeded to the nearest police station at Adekunle to report them. I think that was what got them angry.
“As they saw me coming with some policemen, they became visibly angry. They rushed up to us even as the police came closer.
“Just as one of them kicked me, the rest of them added their hands immediately, saying ‘na we you go call police for?’”
Mr. Enikuemehin said the police officers could not help him. He later learned that the policemen were afraid that the soldiers might take their rifles from them.
“So, the policemen watched as they kicked me with their boots many times.”
The soldiers did not let go of Mr. Enikuemehin until they thought he had drew his last breathe. The last blow to his left eye had knocked him unconscious, and they stayed by to supervise his inertness, while blood continued to ooze from his damaged left eye.
Realizing the gravity of their actions, the three soldiers scampered away in different directions, leaving Mr. Enikuemehin bleeding.
Oluwajoba Ojatunwase, an uncle to Mr. Enikuemehin, told SaharaReporters afterwards that residents of Makoko, where the incident occurred, quickly rushed the victim to the hospital, while some of the boys who had earlier been too scared to challenge the soldiers then chased after them, caught two of them and handed them over to the police.
The arrested soldiers were later identified as Ihama Osaretin and Okpor Ray from Myoung Barracks in Yaba, Lagos.
SaharaReporters also gathered from Makoko locals that one of the culprits, Mr. Osaretin, was a friend of three brothers who resided in the area. The relatives were identified as Efenus Idowu Yayagbene, Waribi Yayagbene, and Tobue Yayagbene.
They confirmed that Waribi Yayagbene owned a beer parlor that was frequented by the soldiers. They also said the bar operator’s brothers, Efenus and Tobue, were military recruits and had also joined in on the attack on Mr. Enikuemehin.
Counter Claims, Denial And Threat
When news broke that Nigerian Army soldiers were complicit in the death of 40-year-old George Oyekan, Army spokesman Sani Usman denied that its men were involved in the incident and threatened the man who reported the case.
“We wish to call on Mr. Adesanya and all other persons that shared the story and the media to understand that Mr. George was not murdered by any soldier, let alone those serving in 174 Battalion and should correct this erroneous impression.
“Additionally, Adesanya should render an unreserved apology to the Nigerian Army, and the 174 Battalion in particular, over this false allegation, the failure of which would attract legal action against him,” Mr. Usman threatened in a press release.
Kenny Abel Adesanya, a Twitter user, had uploaded a picture of the deceased, claiming that he died as a result of severe torture by some military officials.
Several media platforms, including this website, confirmed Mr. Adesanya’s report though family members of the victim.
Mr. Oyekan was first tortured at his apartment located at 10 Prince Jamiu Oyebade Street, near Car Wash bus stop in Ogijo, Ogun State, and thereafter bundled into the premises of the 174 Battalion, where he was further tortured, according to a narration by his wife, Glory Fagbayibi.
Mr. Oyekan had suffered fatal injuries from the torture that led to his untimely death.
The deceased was said to have delayed payment of his rent for a month, leading to frequent confrontations between him and his landlady, Olabisi Odugbe. It was gathered that Mrs. Odugbe and her son, Tunji Odugbe, invited the soldiers to deal with their tenant.
Ms. Fagbayibi stated that she and her husband were in their room when four soldiers, led by the landlady’s son, barged into their apartment and descended on her husband. She said that after assaulting her husband, the soldiers bundled him into a van and drove him to 174 Battalion Barracks at Ogijo, where he was further brutalized.
According to the widow and other sources in the area, the landlady’s son, invited his friend, Godswill George, a soldier from the Ikeja Cantonment, to deal with Mr. Oyekan. Mr. George then mobilized soldiers from 174 Battalion to join him in the assault that ultimately killed Mr. Oyekan.
Another member of the family explained, “I went with my cousin’s wife to 174 Battalion. When we got there, we were shocked to see how my cousin had been disfigured due to the beating he had received. I saw my late cousin hung on a tree, being beaten by two soldiers.”
Meanwhile, at the time the Army issued their disclaimer, the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed to a SaharaReporters correspondent that Mr. Odugbe had confessed to contracting his soldier friends to torture his mother’s tenant.
We Don’t Know If We Would Ever Get Justice
Seven months ago, Adenike Fatai would have thought getting justice for her dead sister, Kudirat Adebayo, would be easy.
The mother of two was killed in an arbitrary act by an officer of the Nigeria Police Force on April 5, 2017. On the fateful day, Mrs. Adebayo was at her makeshift shop, preparing the day’s sales, when a stray bullet struck her head and killed her.
Eyewitnesses informed SaharaReporters that some policemen accosted two persons they sighted on bike, whom they suspected must have been engaging in fraudulent internet deals, and ordered them to alight. The suspects allegedly refused the police officers’ orders and they resorted to shooting sporadically in the air. Regrettably, one of the bullets strayed to Mrs. Adebayo’s shop and took her life almost instantly.
The woman might have died in vain. According to the first son of the deceased, Ayobami Adebayo, all efforts to get justice for his mother have yielded no result.
“We have written to the governor [Akinwunmi Ambode] and the State Assembly but we have not got any reply even yet.
“In fact, the new DPO of Olosan Police Station, has stopped picking up my calls. We have been shut out, and we don’t know if we will ever get justice for my mother,” he said.
Our correspondent who visited Olosan Police Station gathered that the culprit police officers, whose indiscretion led to the death of the 50-year-old woman, might have been transferred to other division.
The new DPO of the station told SaharaReporters that the case had been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Yaba, Lagos. However, a police officer who was called in by the DPO to request details of the transfer told his boss that although the matter had been transferred to the state CID, the two culprit officers, Eniola and Augustine, had been transferred out of the division.
SaharaReporters also visited SCID but the OC provost said to be in charge of the case declined to give any updates on the matter. She referred our correspondent to the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO).
The PPRO, however, was not in when our correspondent visited his office, but his assistant, Iheneachor Ifeanyi Omuta, said he was new at his post and had no details of the matter. He promised to find the case file and to relay the update later.
Lieutenant Colonel Kingsley Samuel, an Assistant Director of Army Public Relations, speaking at a press briefing held at 81 Division Headquarters, had said the Army would constitute a Board of Inquiry (BOI) to investigate the attack on Mr. Enikuemehin, whose eye was gouged by brutal soldiers, and promised to give a report of their findings in three weeks.
It has been 19 months since Mr. Enikuemehin lost an eye to Nigerian Army personnel, but the BOI has failed to produce its report as promised, nor has the victim been compensated for damages.
Mr. Enikuemehin told SaharaReporters that he has written to the Nigerian Army twice already, but has not seen any progress on the matter.
“When I first wrote to the Army headquarters in Abuja through our lawyer, the Chief of Army Staff replied and said he needed two months to conduct further investigations, but when I did not hear again from the Army after about seven months, I wrote again, but this time they just ignored me. I have not gotten any response from them since my second letter.
“One of my eyes is totally gone. I cannot see with it again. I even paid my hospital bills myself; nothing from the Army,” he lamented.
SaharaReporters gathered that the Army might have promised to set up an inquiry board simply to put to rest the negative publicity the incident was generating for the Army. Our correspondent who visited 81 Division to seek information about the outcome of the BOI set up over year ago discovered that the Army could have swept the incident under the carpet, as no one seemed to remember the incident.
Two of the soldiers who spoke with our correspondent said they were newly transferred to the division, as were many other officers in the division. Lieutenant Colonel G.M. Daudu, however, promised SaharaReporters that he would seek the findings and recommendations of the Board of Inquiry.
Similarly, the Ogun State police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, told SaharaReporters, six months after the murder of Mr. Oyekan, that the police were still awaiting the decision of Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) on how to proceed with prosecution.
“The case has been charged to court and the suspects are currently in prison custody while we are waiting for the DPP on the case,” he said
But contrary to the PRO’s claims, a cousin to the deceased, who pleaded not to have his name printed, said one of the suspects, the landlady, has been released.
“The landlady has been released. I am not sure if the son is still in police custody but I am sure the mother has been released. The matter has not been charged to court, and if it has, we don’t know about it. How would they charge the case to court and not inform us [the family]?
“We heard they were taken to the Magistrate Court for bail or something. I know that magistrate courts do not handle murder cases. So, if that is the court they are talking about, I would not know.”
He narrated the ordeal he and other members of the family had to endure before his cousin’s corpse was released to them.
“We did not get his corpse until it had started to decay because Olabisi Onabanjo University Hospital did not do the autopsy on time. We paid for the autopsy but they did not do it. It was later they said they needed to do a scan on him before the autopsy. We had to pay for that too.
“On the day of the scan, there was no ambulance to carry the corpse to the lab. I hired a bus and carried my cousin with my hands. I did same thing when they finished with the body. It was a horrifying experience for the whole family.
“Until now, even though we paid for the autopsy, we have not been given a copy of the result. The hospital said they would not give us the result since it was the police who brought the corpse to them.
“We do not know what the police are doing about it. All they keep telling us is that they are investigating,” he said.
The question on the lips of the victims’ family members is whether they will ever get justice for their maimed and murdered relatives. Justice for Mrs. Adebayo, Mr. Enikuemehin and Mr. Oyekan seems not only delayed, but forgotten.
It is trite that actions speak louder than words. Though the Assistant Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command spoke about the importance the police attach to human life, the Force’s actions toward the death of Mrs. Adebayo, similar with the Army’s action, suggest that civilians’ lives are of very little value to them, if they are of any value at all.
The Lagos State Assistant PPRO spoke loftily of the police’s prompt responses to issues regarding loss of lives, particularly of innocent persons like Mrs. Adebayo, but this appears to be an undeserved praising of the police department’s accolades. If that were not the case, would not the investigation of such a sensitive issue be readily available at the PRO’s office?
Just like the soldiers at 81 Division, the Lagos State Police spokesperson also claimed to be new in office, hence he would need to consult with officers in charge of the case.
A popular maxim states that it is impossible to talk about peace without addressing the cause of justice. Similarly, it would be impossible to attain societal progress without giving justice to causes of humanity. These slain and maimed civilians deserve justice for the evil done to them.