By Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
A 38-year-old businessman, Afeez Mojeed, has narrated to the Lagos State Judicial panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, how police officers allegedly tortured him in order to have access to his bank accounts.
Mojeed, who disclosed this while being led in evidence by his counsel, Mr Kabir Akingbolu, stated that he was tortured by the Special Anti Robbery Squad of the Police to gain access to his bank accounts.
In his testimony, Mojeed, a real estate and haulage businessman, recalled how officers of the disbanded SARS police unit stormed his house at No 2, Prince Obi, Victory Estate, Ajah.
‘I was at home between 8pm – 9pm with my two-year-old and my mother-in-law, watching the television. My wife was in the kitchen cooking, then she was five months pregnant. I heard a big bang on my door, with someone threatening that either I open the door or it would be broken down. I became afraid, thinking he was an armed robber. Before I could summon the courage to open the door, they pulled down my door. I saw four-armed men on mufti and, without any explanation, they beat me to the ground. I kept asking what I did wrong, but they repeatedly slapped me across the face. They chained my legs while I was on the floor and handcuffed my hands to my back like a slave,’ Mojeed narrated his harrowing experience.
‘While they were doing that, one of the men pulled my wedding ring off my finger and picked my Tissot wristwatch on my table. They also pulled my wife’s ring off her finger, slapped her and asked that she bring a polybag; they led me into my room and took the sum of N280,000 while ransacking everywhere around my house.
‘The documents they took away included a Zenith Bank cheque book, Zenith ATM, Diamond Bank cheque, document of landed property’s, document for two shops, my ID card, my car particulars and car key – 2008 Honda Accord.
‘They marched me to the car, ransacked it and took away the sum of N50,000 kept in the car. They pushed my mother-in-law, who was carrying my son on her back into a gutter. They drove the car off. They alleged that my car was a stolen vehicle. They came in a wine-colour Sienna. We arrived at Lagos Police Command around 11 pm.
‘I was taken to a cell. They came to the cell the next day to collect passwords to the four phones they seized from me. They collected my wife’s phone but later returned it to her.
‘They also requested for my ATM pin, I gave them the wrong pin. They went and did not succeed. On their return, they presented a man – Edward Obina to me.
‘They told me I defrauded him of N97 million. Immediately, I asked Mr Obina how I defrauded him and he said he paid the money into my company account. I asked him to allow me to get my bank statement from where his deposit could be traced.
‘He later changed his statement that he rather paid the money to my cousin, Yussuf Olatunji Balogun. He said the money was to procure some earth-moving equipment. He claimed that Mr Olatunji said he paid the money to me and that the money was with me. He also said he had been working with Yussuf for the past two years.
‘Mr Yussuf has a business relationship with me. I buy properties for him and whenever he is in Nigeria I hand over the landed documents to him.
‘The said Obinna admitted he had never seen me and did not have any business dealings with me.
‘That night, after Obinna had left they took me aside and started torturing me for giving them a wrong password.
‘Due to the ferocious beating, I eventually gave them the password to my ATM card. On the 22nd, under the supervision of the then O/C SARS, Abba Kyari, I signed two cheques of N150,000 each from my personal account to a faceless person named Nurudeen Alabi.
‘On the same day, they brought me to Eco Bank, Ikota branch. They asked me to transfer the amount of N15 million to them. The account officer was suspicious and didn’t approve the transaction.
Thereafter, they took me to Diamond Bank, Ajiwe branch, and I was asked to transfer the sum of N41 million to Mr Obinna. They later took me back to Ikeja, where I was tortured and hanged precariously with a rope and my hands tied to my back before taking me back to the cell after I regained consciousness.
‘Around midnight, they took me out with some inmates to unload three corpses from a Hilux bus. They threatened to waste me if I didn’t comply.
‘On the 23rd, they took me back to Diamond Bank. Before getting to the bank, they took me to a boutique, bought me new clothes and cleaned me up a bit. Obinna Edward drove behind us in his car. On getting to the bank, the police officers and Obinna sat down in the banking hall as though they were customers.
‘Thereon, I transferred N41 million to Obinna. I was taken back to Ikeja Police Command and they meted [out] another [round of] torture on me while asking me to sign an undertaking that I willingly transferred the money to Obinna.
‘On the 24th, I was taken to an unknown Zenith Bank branch, where I transferred N800,000 to the same Mr Edward Obinna and they asked me to sign another cheque of N150,000 in favour of Nurudeen Alabi.
‘They made a video of him, directing me on what to say. All the cheques were backdated. If not for my lawyer and wife, they have the documents of my landed properties with them and could have sold them off.
‘After they had finished with me, they put a call through to my wife to terminate the representation of my lawyer and promised to resolve the matter.
‘I was in their custody for 18 days before I was taken to court for arraignment before a magistrate who granted me bail on the same day – 31st.
‘After my release, I visited Ajeromi General Hospital, Ajegunle. One of my ears brought out brownish-like puss and I have distorted vision,’ he narrated.
However, earlier at the commencement of the proceedings, the police counsel, Mr Nosa Watson Uhumwangho, complained to the panel that the petitioner’s counsel, Mr Akingbolu, had engaged in media trial by granting an interview to Arise Television on the matter.
He added that he had concluded the matter on television by preempting the panel, knowing that it is subjudice.
‘He has said a lot on my boss, Abba Kyari, on social media. We were not served. It is what we saw on social media that made us put appearance on this matter,’ the police counsel said.
Counsel to Obinna, Debo Adeleke, who aligned with Uhumwangho, stated that his client was stupefied to hear that he is being branded as a police agent after been swindled of N97 million.
In a counter-reaction, Akingbolu argued that the panel is a public institution and journalists have their ways of getting information.
‘We cannot deprive them from having access to the matter. Upon our filing a petition before the panel, journalists heard and we were contacted for our comment, which we actually did.
‘However, if my learned friends or the panel see it as inappropriate, we are saying, as responsible citizens, that we will do nothing to taint the integrity of the panel or bring it into disrepute of any kind,’ he argued
In a bench ruling, Justice Okuwobi ruled that the complaint made by Uhumwangho and Adeleke was a violation on the ethics of the profession, but having regretted his action and taken an undertaking not to repeat such, the panel would overlook it.
The judge held that ‘it is without any doubt that such conduct is mostly inappropriate. Mr Akingbolu is cautioned. We expect an apology to the panel and other parties.’
Subsequently, Akingbolu applied for an adjournment on the grounds of bringing relevant documents to back up their claims
Police counsel Uhumwangho did not oppose the prayer.
Similarly, State, Panel and Chief Edward Obinah’s counsel aligned themselves with the position of the police counsel.
The Panel Chairman, Justice Doris Okuwobi, adjourned further hearing till January 19, 2021, for the continuation of witness evidence.