Hamzat Haruna, a police sergeant, has told the Lagos judicial panel of inquiry that Ndukwe Ekekwe, a suspect, jumped from a building and was not pushed.

Mr Haruna led police officers who allegedly pushed Mr Ekekwe from a two-storey building, leading to a major injury.

Mr Haruna is a police sergeant attached to the Inspector General of Police’s Special Tactical Squad in Lagos.

He was brought to the panel by the police counsel, Cyril Ejiafor, in a matter where SARS officials allegedly pushed a victim down a two-storey building and left him with a damaged spinal cord.

Background

Mr Ekekwe, a 34-year-old businessman, had approached the panel on November 3 to narrate the ordeal meted on him by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Mr Ekekwe, who had shops at Alaba International Market where he sold accessories and other general items, told the panel he was arrested at his shop on February 16, 2018 “for crimes unknown to him”.

“I asked them what my crime was, but none of them told me, up till this moment, I don’t know the offence I committed.”

He told the panel that he “was tortured and brutalised within the 24 hours he was in police cell and the police took him to his shop the next day, where they broke into his shop, auctioned his goods and allow people loot many items”.

He told the panel that while he was shouting for help, “some officers took him to the second floor of the plaza where his shops were located, and he was thrown down the two-storey building.”

Mr Ekekwe said his spinal cord got broken due to the incident and he has since been moving around in a wheelchair.

Police witness’ account

Giving the police’s account, Mr Haruna said Mr Ekekwe was arrested on February 16, 2018 based on an intelligence report that he and some other suspects were “breaking into people’s warehouses and offices with dangerous weapons, arms and ammunition.”

He said “a team was mobilised and they moved to the scene, where the officers split as part of the tactics to effecting the arrest.”

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Mr Haruna said “while some officers tried to arrest him (victim), they were attacked by people in the market and the rest of the team moved in to rescue them and arrest the suspect”.

“We took him to the office and the injured police officers were taken to the hospital for treatment. We obtained Mr Ndukwe’s statement in English language under repulsion. In the statement, he denied being in possession of arms and ammunition and other dangerous weapons but he admitted being in possession of stolen properties.

“He mentioned some people’s name who bring market to him, the stolen goods,” the police witness said.

Mr Haruna said the suspect was taken to the Officer in Charge (OC), Police Admin, “where he also admitted possessing stolen goods but denied using arms.”

“As he mentioned those things Obayero brought to him to buy, electronic and phone accessories, he said they are in his shop. Detention order was signed and he was properly searched and detained in police custody.”

Mr Haruna made no comment on the allegation of torture of the suspect.

“On February 17, we moved the suspect out to Alaba with a warrant signed by the magistrate. When we got to the market, he called someone to bring the key and we searched and packed some goods,” the police witness said.

Mr Haruna told the panel that Mr Ekekwe said in his statement that he only had a single shop at the market “but when they got there, they discovered he had other shops”.

“While we packed (items of the suspect), we discovered he had two other shops. As police knew he had another shop, we asked for the key and he said he doesn’t know.

“As he noticed the police wanted forcefully unlock that shop, he run (ran) and jumped down from the storey building and landed on sachet water at the ground floor while he was handcuffed,” Mr Haruna said.

The police officer said “when the suspect jumped down, they suspended their operation and rushed him to the Police Cottage hospital, Ikeja where he was treated and, thereafter, referred to national orthopaedic, Igbobi.”

“While at the cottage hospital, the doctor that attended to him asked him why he jumped and he told him he was afraid because the police didn’t know he had other shops, unknown to him he was being recorded,” the police witness said.

Meanwhile, the police counsel, Cyril Ejiafor, said the police has a video of the confession of Mr Ekekwe to the doctor and are ready to present it.

The panel could not admit the video as exhibit because it was brought in a CD, which the panel has no facility to play.

Dorris Okuwobi, a retired judge heading the panel, ruled that the police counsel provide the video in a flash drive for viewing at the next sitting.

The case was adjourned till December 18.


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