MEMBERS of the Ogun State judicial panel of inquiry set up to investigate abuses by the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit have been told how one taxi driver was detained for seven months for daring to ask policemen to pay their fares.
Following a month-long nationwide protest against the brutality of the Sars police unit, the Nigerian government was forced to scrap the division. Forced by the weight of public opinion, the government asked state governors to set up panels of inquiries in their states to investigate claims of abuses by the Sars units.
In Ogun State, the panel of inquiry heard the testimony if taxi driver Mayowa Ayodele yesterday, which shocked everyone in attendance. Mr Ayodele revealed that he was illegally detained by police officers in the state for seven months because he demanded transport fares after they got into his taxi.
He explained that four police officers chartered his vehicle on March 7, 2018 but refused to pay. When he questioned them about payment, they allegedly kept him in custody and later charged him to court for pipeline vandalism.
In his testimony, Mr Ayodele named two of the officers who perpetrated the act as Buhari Yusuf and Ehimere Anthony. he added that he could not remember the names of the other two policemen.
Mr Ayodele said: “I took them from the Mowe area to Magboro and back to Shagamu. After the ride, I requested my money, which was N4,500 but they refused to pay me. They said they were working for the government. After tough arguments with them, their superior ordered them to lock me up.”
He added that he was locked up at the Motor Traffic Division of Shagamu Police Station. Mr Ayodele said he spent 16 days there before he was charged with pipeline vandalism at the Federal High Court in Oke Mosan, Abeokuta.
Thereafter, he was remanded at the Oba Prison, located in the state capital, Abeokuta, where he spent seven months while on trial. Mr Ayodele’s counsel, Kayode Aderemi, told the panel that his client was charged along with eight others for pipeline vandalism.
After being arranged in court, they were all discharged and acquitted. After being released, Mr Ayodele then had to face another uphill battle to get his taxi back as the vehicle had been seized by the police.
He said: “When I got back to collect my car, I met another boss there at the Motor Traffic Division. He said I had the effrontery to come ask for my car and he ordered them to lock me up again. I spent another four days there before my lawyer came to bail me.”
Mr Ayodele claimed that the vehicle which he purchased for a sum of N1,050,000 was his only source of income and his wife had long left him due to his financial condition. In his reaction, the chairman of the panel, Solomon Olugbemi, asked Mr Ayodele to return for further testimony on November 30.