IG Queries Lagos CP Over Torture Of Journalist

Owolabi-Arase
The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, has ordered an investigation over claims of torture by a Lagos-based journalist last Friday, which was published by Punch on Monday.

Aproko247 reproduced the said report on Monday and from what we learnt, authorities of the Nigeria Police have contacted the journalist to apologise for the treatment meted out on him by their men. Below is the report published by Punch on Tuesday concerning the query sent to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni.

Following the PUNCH publication, it was learnt that the Force Headquarters, Abuja, reached out to the journalist and ordered a full-scale investigation into the matter.

A top police source said the IG had given the Lagos police boss 48 hours to investigate what happened with a view to arresting the culprits.

The source said, “The IG has been briefed of what happened to the journalist last Friday and he has given the Lagos CP 48 hours to investigate this and give him a report. The Deputy Commissioner of Police at the SDCI has also been ordered to call the journalist to verify his claims and see if he can identify the policemen that tortured him.”

Owolabi confirmed to PUNCH Metro that the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abayomi Shogunle, had contacted him and apologised over the incident.

He said, “The Force Deputy PRO called me over the phone. He continually asked about my health and told me how sorry he was.

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“He asked if I got the names of those policemen who assaulted me and I gave him the only name I could pick, Isiaka.

“I, however, told him I could identify the others by their faces. He told me my phone number had been forwarded to the CP and he should reach me before the end of today (yesterday), to invite me so I could further assist with their investigation.”

However, activists who spoke to our correspondent on Monday said an apology was not enough.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Mike Ozekhome, said the police must pay damages to Owolabi while the policemen who carried out the alleged crime must be jailed.

He said, “The apology is good because it is an acceptance of wrongdoing but it is not enough. They must compensate him monetarily. They must also penalise the officers that were involved so as to serve as a deterrent to other trigger-happy goons within the system.

“The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, who is a lawyer, knows the importance of protecting the sanctity of human life.”

Ozekhome decried the increase in police brutality and extra-judicial killings but attributed them to bad political leadership. He said any policeman that kills must be charged and killed in accordance with the law.

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Another activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said extra-judicial killings and police brutality had increased under the present administration.

He said the impunity of politicians was rubbing off on policemen. He said Owolabi’s ordeal in the hands of policemen could be likened to the torture of a blogger, Emmanuel Ojo, who was allegedly arrested on the orders of Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, for publishing a story against the governor’s wife, Olufunso.

Adegboruwa said the police institution must stop seeing itself as a ‘force’ but as a service-oriented agency.

He said, “When it is clear that a citizen has been denied his fundamental human rights, an apology is not enough. The constitution states in Section 34 that nobody must be treated in a degrading and inhumane manner. It states that nobody must be subjected to torture such as flogging and beating and that once that happens, it is an assault and the only remedy is exemplary damages which is meant to teach the officer involved a hard lesson.

“So, an apology is an insult. There must be damages and they must be deducted from the salaries of those involved and not just from the purse of the Nigeria Police.”

Another activist, Mr. Fred Agbaje, commended The PUNCH for dedicating two pages daily to report and expose police brutality and misdemeanours.

Agbaje said most policemen were not happy with the government and were taking their anger out on the people because they had no easy access to those in power.

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He said, “The press must continue to be an uncompromised mouthpiece of the people against all forms of brutality against the helpless people. If not for the critical role the PUNCH has played over the years, how many of such cases would have gone unnoticed?

“The IG is a lawyer and knows the importance of human rights including freedom from arbitrary punishment. The IG has every opportunity to make the needed change. He should quickly investigate the matter and anyone found wanting should be punished.

“Apologising to the journalist is not enough. If the matter is taken to court and a case of brutality is established against the police, it attracts a substantial amount in damages.”

The National Coordinator, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, Okechukwu Nwanguma, said police brutality and corruption remained shocking despite attempts by the IG to restore sanity.

He said the Police Service Commission must look into crimes committed by policemen instead of the police institution investigating itself.

He said, “Police cover up their colleagues who are responsible for abuse and this is where a civilian external oversight mechanism, such as the PSC is important.”

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