Ndukwe Ekekwe, a telephone accessories dealer was not born a cripple. He was allegedly condemned into living without his limbs by operatives of the now disbanded Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), simply known as SARS.
Ekekwe, who is in his late 30s, could not hold his tears at the Lagos State Court of Arbitration where he seeks intervention of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up to examine allegations of brutality and high handedness by the defunct SARS.
Ekekwe said he was struggling like every young man, adding that from a meagre start-up capital of N100, 000 he started making millions. He alleged that his habit of dressing well and looking good might have triggered envy, which led to conspiracy with SARS to render him useless.
Earlier, he had testified and it was the turn of his mother but that could not hold because of the absence of the police lawyer. The man had been ill and could not be in court. The absence did not go down well with Ekekwe who said he had suffered tremendous inconvenience to come from his house to Lekki where the panel has been sitting.
Aside that, he also declared that he could not stay in an air-conditioned room, noting that doing that would have a great negative effect on his health. He informed that he had to borrow money from his friends for transportation as he had no source of income, since the time he was crippled by the police operatives.
In his petition, Ekekwe requested the sum of N15 million as compensation from the government. He said after FSARS operatives auctioned his goods and he was condemned to a life on the wheelchair.
“After their brutal torture and bodily injuries, I was initially rejected at a federal teaching hospital, before the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, eventually admitted me. I spent two months in Igbobi and underwent surgery on my spinal cord. Now, I cannot do anything on my own without the assistance of my mother or other people. As I am sitting here in front of the panel, I am wearing a diaper,” he narrated.
Ekekwe said his travails started on February 16, 2018 when FSARS operatives led by one Hamza Haruna invaded his shop in a two-storey building in the Alaba area of Lagos.
He recalled that the police team refused to disclose his offence, but the operatives insisted on arresting him, based on an alleged order from the Inspector-General of Police in Abuja.
Ekekwe said when he tried putting up a resistance, he was handcuffed and his legs were also chained, after which the FSARS operatives allegedly descended heavily on him. A crowd that gathered to see what was going on was forced to disperse when the policemen started shooting into the air, he narrated.
His words: “I was bundled into one of their waiting vans amid the beating. I was stabbed in the hand and also received injuries to the head as a result of persistent assault with gun butts. When they drove beyond Ojo Police Station, I started asking them where they were taking me. As I brought out my phone to make a call, one of them snatched it and smashed it.”
The trader narrated how he was taken to a “torture room” at the Ikeja Police Station where he was allegedly stripped naked and tortured till the next day. In his words, on the following day, he was brought back to his shop by some armed SARS operatives.
“They forced my shop open and started selling off my stock. When I protested, I was pushed down from he two-storey building. How I survived is still a miracle. I lost consciousness immediately. They later dumped me at a clinic at the Police College in Ikeja. After my family located me, I was denied treatment at the clinic. I was also rejected at a federal teaching hospital in Lagos before Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital agreed to rehabilitate me,” he said.
He regretted that the fall from the two-storey building left him physically and psychologically incapacitated. During his two-month stay at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Ekekwe said he had multiple surgeries on his spinal cord injury. He noted that though weeks of physiotherapy after the surgery had improved his condition a bit, he had lost the use of his limbs.
Ekekwe, who was brought to the Lekki Court of Arbitration, venue of the Lagos Judicial Panel, in a wheelchair, demanded a compensation of N15 million which he claimed was the worth of the goods he lost to the SARS brutality.
“After that incident, I ended up in this wheelchair. My life became difficult, as my mother was the only one carrying, bathing, cooking and doing everything for me. As I am sitting here, I am wearing a diaper. That is how miserable my life has become. To date, I still don’t know the offence I committed. Aside from the claim that it was a directive from above, nobody has come out to say this was what I did wrong,” he said amid sobs.
While admitting his petition, the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel directed the petitioner to produce his patient card of admission at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, pictures of him in bandages or plaster of Paris (POP), the doctors’ prescription lists, as well as his hospital bills.
His mother, Mrs Nnenna Ekekwe, lamented her frustration regarding the reversal of roles. She lamented that she had now been forced to devote the rest of her life to nursing her son all over again.
“It is not an easy task. Somebody who used to take care of me is now the same person that I am taking care of. The same buttocks I washed for him as a kid are the same I am cleaning now. How do you expect me to feel?
“It is like a football team. I am the goalkeeper, the striker and defender. I am the one playing all the roles. If not for Jehovah, God of tenderness, maybe I would have been dead by now. I brought him (son) here so that the whole world can see what they (SARS) have done and are doing to us,” she stated.