- .Suspects are detained, beaten and tortured by taskforce -Victim
- .Alaba union, Police deny knowledge
By HENRY OKONKWO
WEEKS ago, some aggrieved members of the Fancy and Furniture Dealers’ Association Section (FFDA) at Alaba Int’l market, Lagos, led by Abu Elvis Nwabugo, accused the market leaders of running an illegal detention camp. They alleged they were tortured and illegally detained for belonging to the opposition camp.
Although the various market leaders denied that such a cell exists, victims who recounted their experiences alleged it does and that the camp is being managed by an established taskforce.
Findings also show that some years back, market unions such as Alaba have detention rooms where they lock up thieves and hoodlums nabbed around the market before they are handed over to the police. Such a person could spend days in the market cell and later handed over to the police if they are not able to recover the stolen goods by themselves.
Saturday Sun investigations however, revealed that unions like the electrical and electronic sections have since demolished their detention rooms and rented them out as shops. Anyone arrested is quickly handed over to the nearest police station which is situated within the market.
It was however, learnt from a victim that notwithstanding the claim by the Fancy and Furniture section of the market, an illegal detention cell still exist in the market.
According to the source who preferred to remain anonymous, the camps were created as a temporary place to keep miscreants before they are handed over to the police. “I was once a victim. My boss accused me of stealing his money and all efforts to convince him that I was innocent failed. Because he knew that if I was taken to the police station, he would be asked to provide proof, he ordered the task force to detain me overnight as a way to teach me a bitter lesson. I spent the night there with no toilet or food to eat. It was the next day that they released me and asked me to go. I would have reported the matter to the police but of what use would that be since I had no money to follow up the case.
“It is true that the initial cell had been demolished, but there are still empty shops they use as cells when the need arises. They used to beat people up in an attempt to extract information. Policemen also know about it because there was a time they were called to pick a man who stole money. They had tortured him and he confessed. It was when he told them that he had spent the money that they called the police. I am not saying that the taskforce should not exist, I’m only begging that they should be controlled to avoid dealing with nnocent person.
“In the market, anyone can write a petition against you and the taskforce will come and pick you up immediately.”
Another former apprentice in another market, simply identified as Emeka said that he was locked up at Balogun market, Lagos Island when he was serving his master. “Normally, when you are getting close to the end of your apprenticeship, if you have a wicked boss, he will find one crime and accuse you. I served my former boss for five years and when it was three months to my graduation, he suddenly changed. “It was expected of him to help me establish a small business after graduation. I was not lucky because my former boss set me up. I spent two nights in that detention camp in Balogun market. He reported me to the task force and I was arrested. I was kept in the same room with touts and thieves. It was horrible. It was after two days that I was transferred to Lions building police station where I had access to a lawyer.
“I was later released when my former boss could not produce any concrete evidence why I should be charged to court. This happened in 2013. After my release, I relocated to Alaba market and started all over again. They will deny it but it’s still there, the only difference is that there is no particular room designated for such. They can push you into an empty store and lock you inside there and pretend that they could not reach the police to get you. I am not against that, all I am telling them is that they should not detain innocent persons.”
In ASPANDA market, Saturday Sun gathered that they do have a taskforce whose responsibility it is, to enforce the law. “We cannot rely completely on police to restore law and order in the market. In the past, we had a temporary detention cell where suspects are kept before they are handed over to the police. To avoid any form of illegal action, the market union wrote and a police station was built in the market.
“It is strictly union matters that we manage over here. We are guided by the constitution and if it is a criminal case, such a person will be handed over to the police immediately. If anyone was ever tortured, then, such a person must have resisted arrest initially. I guess he was tortured while our taskforce men were trying to stop him from running away. All those people peddling such rumours might be criminals,” a source at theASPANDA market said.
Also describing such claim as lies, the FFDA said that those behind the allegation are mischievous elements hell-bent on fomenting trouble in the market.
Reports had it that Fancy and Furniture section of Alaba market is recovering from a prolonged leadership tussle following the impeachment of the former chairman, over allegations of embezzlement of union funds.
It would be recalled that a fortnight ago, the former chairman allegedly led a team to Area E Police station, Festac to plead with the authorities following claims that they were being witch hunted by the current FFDA union leaders, and have been marked for torture and detention.
One of the protesters, Izuchukwu Ojukwu told newsmen that he was a victim of the illegal detention cell of the FFDA leaders. He admitted he had tasted the brutal force of the market leaders because he was supporting the factional leader-Abu Elvis during his father’s burial. Another victim, Silas Umeh, reportedly alleged that he suffered the same fate as he was also assaulted by thugs acting under the instruction of the FFDA leaders. He alleged that he was also detained in the illegal cell for hours before he was taken to the Ojo Police station.
Reacting to the allegations of torture and illegal cell, Emeka Mozoba, the Chairman of the FFDA described the accusations as blatant lies woven by shady and idle persons. He vehemently denied claims that the FFDA operates a detention camp.
According Mozoba, Abu Elvis was impeached as chairman in 2014, over alleged embezzlement of the union funds. “We don’t run detention camp here or anywhere. The question you journalists should ask him is whether he had a detention cell when he was in charge? He’s just spreading these spurious allegations after refusing to come forward to render account of how he spent the union’s money.
“He has reported us to Iyaloja, Area E Police Station, the SSS at Shangisha, the Force CID at Abuja, even the Commissioner of Police. Each time they call us to meet, Abu would not show up. He has been on the run from the market since.”
On how they manage to maintain law and order in the market, Mozoba explained the market has a taskforce which is guided by a constitution. “We have our court and there are sanctions meant for anyone who breaks the law. For instance, your shop could be sealed if you fail to pay your electricity bill. As soon as it is confirmed that such person was involved in any form of theft or criminality, the person will be handed over to the police immediately. We do not torture or keep people overnight in the market,” he said.
The FFDA chairman further told Saturday Sun that those that accused the union of torture and detention are idle persons employed by Abu Elvis. “Izuchukwu was my apprentice. I know him well. And I can tell you he doesn’t have anything doing. So Elvis gives him and his type, N2000 or N5000 to tell all sorts of lies against the union.”
When contacted, the state police spokesperson, Badmus Dolapo said that the command is not aware if such cells exist in any market in the state. “The command is not aware but anyone with useful information should come forward and give us clue to help investigation as the command will beam its searchlight towards such.”