africa

My cousin lost memory, had brain tumour after SARS torture – Witness


Oladimeji Ramon

Proceedings at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing allegations of human rights abuses against men of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad continued on Tuesday with a businessman, Chukwu Vincent, telling the panel that his cousin, Basil Ejiagwa, who is now dead, suffered loss of memory and eventually developed a brain tumour after he was tortured by SARS operatives in May 2014.

Vincent told the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel that after struggling with failing health for six years following the torture by the policemen, his cousin eventually died last week on November 17, 2020.

He said Ejiagwa died in his village in Imo State, where he was relocated to from Lagos as his health continued to deteriorate and he became a shadow of his old self.

Led in evidence by the petitioner’s lawyer, T.O. Gazali, Vincent told the panel that his cousin was arrested in May 2014 while coming back from the Alaba International Market, Lagos, where he worked.

He said his cousin was picked up by policemen in the Igando area of Lagos and taken to the Igando Police Station where he was detained for five days and tortured.

Vincent told the panel that policemen at the division broke his cousin’s two legs with a “brick iron hammer”.

He said he was thereafter transferred to SARS office in Ikeja, where he was further tortured, leading to the fracture of his skull.

Vincent said when Ejiagwa was eventually released on May 31, 2014, they said that his head had been broken with the butt of a gun.

“Thereafter, he couldn’t walk anymore; he could not even remember certain things again,” Vincent said.

According to him, part of the things the victim could not remember was that he had placed an order for the importation of some goods.

Vincent said Ejiagwa was rushed to El-Shadai Hospital in Igando, but he was rejected and referred to the Lagos State General Hospital at Igando.

He said though Ejiagwa’s condition improved after some time and “he could walk and do certain things,” he later developed a brain tumour, which, according to him, was traced to the fracture of his skull due to the torture by SARS operatives.

Vincent said the victim later sued SARS and the Federal High Court in Lagos entered judgment in his favour and ordered the police to pay him N40m damages.

He, however, said since the judgment was delivered on April 16, 2019, the police had refused to honour it.

He said, “This thing happened in 2014 and he could not do anything, he could not go anywhere. It took five years to get the judgment.

“On behalf of the family of Bassil, I am appealing to this panel to help us enforce the judgment against the police.”

The panel admitted as exhibits hospital documents, including a bill of N1m and a doctor’s report; as well as the judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos awarding N40m damages to the victim.

Counsel for the police, Joseph Ebosereme, sought an adjournment to cross-examine the witness.

The panel adjourned till December 4, 2020.

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