From Tony Osauzo, Benin
A woman, Rita Okungbowa, demanded N20 million compensation on Monday from the Edo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry for victims of SARS and Related Abuses over the alleged death of her husband in the hands of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
She told the panel that the operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad invaded their house eight years ago and whisked her husband away and his whereabouts has remained unknown to her.
Mrs Okungbowa explained that her husband, Prince Osayande Okungbowa, a Bini movie director, was tagged a kidnapper and was taken away by the men of the disbanded SARS and that every effort made to find the prison where may have been interned has proved abortive, adding that even when she displayed his photograph before other inmates, they all denied seeing any person like him.
She said she had no other option than to conclude that he may have been killed by the men of the disbanded SARS.
‘On the 12 day of September, 2012, the SARS came to my own house and picked my husband, they alleged him to be a kidnapper,’ she stated.
‘My mother-in-law and I went to the State Criminal Investigation Department and immediately I mentioned the name of my husband, they drove us away. They did not allow us to see him.
‘The next day we also came but they did not allow us to also see him.
‘So, one of the police officers then told us that they have taken him to court and, thereafter, to prison.
‘So, I asked which of the prison, they said the white house (that is the maximum Correctional Centre at Sapele road). We went there, we did not see him, we went back to the station, but they later referred us to Oko Correctional Centre and we did not see him there.
‘So, I decided to take a lawyer, and when we got to the station, the OC then asked, who is in charge of the matter, they told us one Sergeant Esezobo was the Investigating Police Officer, IPO.
‘When we asked for the Esezobo, they said he has gone to the canteen and we went to the canteen and immediately he saw us, he ran away.
‘So, I have been going to the police station to search for him (my husband) and I have not set my eyes on him for the past eight years and because of that I decided to approach the panel so that they can help me ask the disbanded SARS where they kept my husband.
‘It is now eight years and some months.
‘The panel should help me to tell them to provide my husband if he is still alive and, if he is no more, the panel should compel them to come and settle me.
‘They should pay me N20 million because I have been passing through hard times. Look at my two kids, they have not been going to school for a very long time.
‘In fact, even house rent, I can’t pay. I sleep in the church, Celestial Church of Christ, that is where I normally stay because there is no money to rent a house.
‘I don’t have anything doing, I go out to wash people’s clothes just to survive, is that not painful?
‘They should settle me with N20 million so that I can start a good business and to also take my children back to a good school,’ Mrs. Okungbowa told the panel.