From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
THE joy of every married woman is to get pregnant and bear children without delay. But the case of Mrs. Damilola Adegbite, an Ibadan-based petty trader, was different. She waited for 10 years before she could conceive and just before she was delivered of the baby, the worst happened. She allegedly lost the baby to police brutality.
Trouble for her started when she had a confrontation with a police woman who allegedly slapped her. She was also said to have been slapped several times before another cop kicked her and she landed on concrete floor with a heavy fall. One of the policemen allegedly marched on her stomach with his boot several times and she became a vegetable instantly.
At the time she was beaten black and blue, she was carrying a four-month pregnancy and she was 29 years old. The alleged brutalisation led to the termination of the pregnancy, which was the first she would have after 10 years of marriage.
This was the allegation levelled by Damilola against some policemen at the Akobo Divisional Police Headquarters in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The incident reportedly occurred on Tuesday August 11, 2015 at the police station. The woman was said to have been beaten to stupor on the allegation that she slapped a policewoman. But Damilola insisted that the allegation was untrue.
she was later taken to a private hospital, Abijol Maternity Home and Welfare Clinic, near the police station and a few days later transferred to Oyo State Hospital, Adeoyo, Ibadan. The two hospitals confirmed that she had a miscarriage.
The medical report by the Abijol Maternity Home and Welfare Clinic stated that Damilola was brought to the clinic at 7:20p.m on August 11, 2015 unconscious “with the history of being arrested by the police since morning. No food given.”
According to the clinic, Damilola’s husband said she lost her pregnancy earlier on the same day and she was still bleeding when she was rushed to the clinic. She was placed on admission and was said to be coughing and tried to convulse.
“She was given IV fluids, pain reliever, injection to stop the bleeding and antibiotic. Other treatments were given to make her comfortable. She was discharged in the evening to the police station.”
Two days later, Damilola was taken to the Oyo State Hospital by the police. She was admitted with number 1117/8/15 and spent eight days at the hospital. The hospital confirmed that the police brought her for confirmation if she had a miscarriage on August 13, 2015. The state hospital stated that she was managed as a case of post-abortal despair, following accidental termination of pregnancy.
Damilola had been taken to the police station in connection with alleged destruction of property in a tailoring shop beside the house she resides with her husband, Musbau, and other tenants. Three among the occupants of the house were arrested by the police on the case. But Damiliola said that she did not have hands in the alleged destruction.
According to her, two of her neighbours were later identified by the complainant as those who removed the signpost in front of a tailoring shop.
During an encounter with Saturday Sun, Damilola, now 30, recounted: “On that day, a policewoman came to our house in Akobo in the morning. She wore uniform and she met me where I was cooking food. She walked up to me and said I was under arrest. I asked why and she said I would get the details when I get to the station.
“So, I quickly called my husband on phone to inform him about the development. He asked me to give the policewoman my phone so that he could talk to her. But she refused to collect it and left.
“Then, I told my husband what she did and he said I should round off whatever I was doing and report to Akobo divisional police headquarters. So, I quickly finished the cooking and took my bath. I did not eat. When I wanted to set out for the station, the policewoman came with another policeman and they took me to their station.
“At the station, I sought to know why I was arrested, and I was told that I would be detained. I sought to call my husband. When the call connected, I only said ‘hello’ and that was the last thing I heard before they started beating me.
“When one of my neighbours saw the way the policemen were beating me at the station, she shouted that they were beating a pregnant woman. The comment angered the policemen and one of them used his booth to march my stomach several times. I was dragged to the cell thereafter and I did not eat till very late in the evening.
“My husband came to the station and he saw me bleeding from my private part and losing my strength. All his efforts to let the policemen see reasons why I should be taken to the hospital proved abortive as they insisted he was lying and I should die in the cell.
“A prominent lawyer and a retired Chief Judge of Oyo State also intervened, but they did not release me to go to hospital. My husband told me I fainted. But I woke up at the hospital in the evening.”
Saturday Sun gathered that the police also dragged Damilola before a Chief Magistrate Court I, Ibadan North-East Local Government Area, Iwo Road, Ibadan on the account that she allegedly assaulted two police officials. The case was marked MNE/82c/2015. But she was not charged based on the allegation for which she was arrested.
Damilola stated that when she was discharged from the state hospital, Adeoyo, she was driven in a police car from the hospital under the guise of going for settlement only to be taken to a Magistrate Court.
In the case, the police preferred a two count-charge against her. She allegedly, on August 11, 2015, at 11:40a.m., at the Divisional Police Headquarters, Akobo, assaulted a policeman, Corporal Adeleke Adekunle. She allegedly got hold of his shirt during the process of bringing her to the charge room in respect of a case of malicious damage. Damilola was alleged to have committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 356 (2) of the Criminal Code Cap 38 Volume II Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000.
The second count charge against Damilola stated that she also on the same day at 11:50a.m., at the same place assaulted a woman Police Constable, Funke Borisanmi, by getting hold of her uniform and allegedly slapped her, thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under the criminal code.
Damilola was arraigned before the court, presided over by a chief magistrate, Mrs. N.A.J, Ogunbona, on August 20, 2015. She was granted bail in the sum of N10,000 and one surety in like sum. The case, which has been adjourned several times, will come up for definite hearing on April 6, 2016.
Damilola’s husband, Musbau alleged that Corporal Adeleke Adekunle, who alleged that she assaulted him, marched his wife’s stomach with his boot at the station. According to Musbau, “But for the help of God and my pro-activeness, my wife could have died on the day she was arrested. Before I got to the police station, she had been taken to the cell. I met her there and she could not stand up. She was bleeding from her private part. I quickly dashed out, got tissue paper and cleaned the blood. But in the evening, my wife did not have any strength again. She told me she was getting tired.
“I went out of the cell and approached the policemen that they should help in taking her to the hospital because she had lost a lot of blood. But they said she was pretending and if she wanted to die, she should go ahead. But I made many contacts, but none worked. Eventually, she was taken to a private hospital very close to the station. Her condition was stabilised there.”
The case was taken over by a non-governmental organisation, Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), which was contacted later by the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group(ISDMG) for information and action on the case. The group later addressed a press conference in Abuja on the matter and appealed to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to intervene. The ISDMG Executive Director, Chima Amadi, also appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to ensure that the victim got justice.
“The actions of the police at all stages breached legally established procedures for arrest and detention. The police breached the legal arrested must be promptly inrequirement that a person to be formed of his or her offence. The police also violated the victim’s constitutional right not to be treated in a manner that degrades her human dignity. By subjecting her to such malevolent treatment, the police already presumed her guilty and began to mete out punishment to her,”Amadi stated.
He further said the reason, which the police gave for their ‘unlawful arrest a n d maltreatment’ of the victim, her offence could not be anything more than malicious damage.
Amadi is also pressing that the police should tender a public apology to the couple and should compensate them, saying “reasonable compensation should be paid to the victim; seeing that no amount of money can bring back the couple’s lost child after 10 years of waiting.
“Adequate punishment should be meted out to the officers involved, and the information should be made public. The criminal charge brought against the victim should be withdrawn by the police.
“We urge the Inspector General of Police to also use this to demonstrate his commitment to wiping out abuse of power and brutality in the police. We urge the Executive Secretary, NHRC, to intervene in the matter and personally pursue this case to a logical conclusion by ensuring that justice is manifestly done.”
Meanwhile, the Head, Democracy and Human Rights Group of JPDC, Adenike Ibitara, told Saturday Sun that so far the commission had met with Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Mr. Leye Oyebade, two times, and the police boss told them that the orderly room trial of the accused police personnel had commenced, saying “though the outcome is not yet known to us. We have been told that when they conclude with that, they would let us know the outcome.”
She stated further that the police had asked JPDC what they wanted and they have placed three demands before them. One, the criminal prosecution against the victim – Damilola, should be withdrawn at the magistrate court level. Two, the officers involved in the alleged assault should be punished. Third, Damilola should be compensated.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Office for Oyo State command, Mr. Adekunle Ajisebutu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said the case was being investigated by a high-powered authority and as such could not comment on it.
He directed the reporter to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Oyebade, who later told Saturday Sun that the command was aware of the matter and he would address a press conference on it soon.