Mr. Bello Akubuokwu, an Abuja based Estate Manager, has told his police brutality story.
The man, on Wednesday, narrated before the Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and other Units of the Nigeria Police Force, how he was shot and abandoned by the Police in 2019.
Akubuokwu who gave his testimony at the inaugural sitting of the panel which is headed by a retired justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, said he was shot while he was on his way to the bank.
According to him, the incident occurred on July 22, 2019, the day Police clashed with protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, otherwise known as Shiite sect.
Narrating his story before the Justice Galadima led 11-member panel, the victim, said: “It happened on July 22, 2019, after I got a text message from IBTC bank at Area 11 in Garki, to come and update my records.
“From Mararaba where I stay, I stoped at the Court of Appeal to connect to Garki through the Police Headquarters. That was in the morning when people were going to work.
“Then I heard a bullet. I didn’t know what was happening, but all of a sudden I started feeling pain and blood started gushing out.
“I asked what was happening and was told that Police were shooting at Shiite members.
“I managed and dragged myself with the blood to the police office, but they didn’t allow me in. When I was there, they brought bucket of water which I poured on the wound.
“From there I was adviced by passersby to go to hospital. On getting to Garki hospital, people with bullet wounds were too much and there was no space.
“I was then directed to the National Hospital. When I initially got there, I didn’t see much people with bullet wounds. But before long, police brought more people in a truck that had various bullet wounds.
“It became serious that I could not get bed space again. I was however treated and I left.
“The following day at Mararaba, the left hand where the bullet passed through had swollen up. The pain was so much and I could no longer go to the hospital, so I arranged with a private medical practitioner close to my house to be coming to my home to give me treatment”.
The victim told the panel that he was incapacitated for about two months owing to the bullet wound on his left arm.
“I am an estate manager and it was not easy for me to go out to fend for my family. The pain and suffering I went through was so much.
“I could not afford the service of a lawyer then. I was therefore very happy when I heard about this panel, so I decided to bring my case for justice to be done to me.
“I want the panel to please look into my matter for justice to prevail. At least to be compensated for the pain and trauma I passed through”.
Counsel to the victim, Mr. Frank Tietie, who held brief of Mr. Chino Obiagwu, SAN, applied for prompt and adequate compensation for the injury his client suffered.
Mr. Tietie further tendered some documents in evidence that included medical report from the National Hospital in Abuja, the index card of the victim, prescriptions that were given to him, as well as his medical bill.
The lawyer said his client is seeking monetary compensation to the tune of N25million for the injury, loss of earnings and trauma he passed through.
When he was further questioned by members of the panel, the victim, insisted that the source of the stray bullet that hit him, came from the Nigerian Police Force.
“It was the day Shiite members were protesting at the National Secretariat in Abuja.
“After I was hit by the bullet, the closest place I could run to for safety was the Police secondary school close to the Force Headquarters.
“When I got there I met some Mopol, they asked me what happened and I told them that I was hit by a bullet. Though I passed through the gate, the Police officers did not allow me into their office.
“Fortunately, from X-ray that was carried out by the National Hospital, I was told that the bullet passed through my arm. It did not lodge into my skin”.
Mr. Akubuokwu told the panel that as an Estate Manager and private business man, he makes over N200, 000 every month.
Asked if the National Hospital demanded Police report before he was treated, the victim answered in the negative.
Meanwhile, the panel adopted all the documents that were annexed to the hand-written petition dated October 26, and marked them as exhibits A to G.
Chairman of the panel, Justice Galadima (rtd), subsequently adjourned the case till November 16, for continuation of hearing and for the Inspector General of Police, IGP, who was listed as the sole Respondent in the petition, to enter his response.
“Today’s proceeding is to be made available to the Respondent accordingly”, Chairman of the panel held.
Though a second petition that one Mr. Francis Ogbaji lodged against SARS, FCT Command, its former leader, ACP Mantu, State CID FCT, Commissioner of Police FCT Command and the IGP, was called up, the panel however adjourned it to November 17.
The panel directed the petitioner to regularise his papers and ensure that all the Respondents were served.
Police was not represented in any of the proceedings on Wednesday.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, disclosed that the panel has extended the two weeks window for submission of complaints.
He said the extension was to ensure that Nigerians have unhindered access to services of the panel.
“The closing date for submission of complaints will now be open. It is noteworthy that as at date, the panel has received about 150 complaints of human rights violations against SARS and the Police from across FCT and the six geo-political zones.
“Complaints keep pouring into the Commission every day for the panel”, Ojukwu added.
In his goodwill message, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, said the Federal Government would readily implement recommendations of the panel.
Malami, who was represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata, SAN, expressed confidence in the capacity of members of the panel to thoroughly investigate reported cases of Police brutality and make appropriate recommendations.
“My office will continue to work in synergy with the NHRC to ensure that anybody indicted or that has prima-facie case established against him will be given expeditious prosecution”, Malami stated.
He said proactive actions are on top gear to charge some SARS officers that were indicted in previous investigative report by the NHRC.
On his part, Chairman of the instant panel, Justice Galadima, said his team would abide by the rule of national justice so as to be fair to every party before the panel.
He, however, warned that the panel would not encourage any form of reliance on technicalities.
“It is of fundamental importance that justice is not only done, but that it is manifestly seen to have been done”, Justice Galadima added.