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Sunday 16 May 2021

Nigeria Police falsely accused my boyfriend, tortured him to death and now threatening my life--Girl Friend

 Nigeria Police falsely accused my boyfriend, tortured him to death and now threatening my life--Girl Friend

The family of a Delta State University graduate allegedly tortured to death by cops over false gunrunning charge wants police authorities to bring those involved in the wicked act to justice, TESSY IGOMU writes Twenty-eight-year-old Ogehenetejiri Omiragua was optimistic that he would one day give his father, an amputee, the good life he deserves for struggling to train him in the university with the little he earned. 

Determined to accomplish this, the 2018 graduate of Microbiology from the Delta State University, Abraka, took to project writing for graduating students and teaching science subjects online upon completion of the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme in 2020.

Sadly, his life was cut short by personnel of the Rapid Response Squad in Asaba. His death has since left a hole in the Omiraguas’ house, as they have remained inconsolable.

Painful death

Sunday PUNCH reliably gathered that Ogehenetejiri was arrested on Thursday, April 29, 2021, alongside his girlfriend, Favour Michael, in front of a hotel and accused of gunrunning.

It was learnt that after he refused to admit owning a gun, he was reportedly beaten and bundled into a police vehicle and taken to the station.

Our correspondent learnt that after being allegedly subjected to hours of torture, he died from the injuries sustained from beatings by policemen.

However, it was discovered that despite the involvement of other cops, only one has been apprehended and detained by the Delta State Police Command.

Based on the development, the grieving family has developed a feeling of distrust and is demanding the timely identification and prosecution of those involved in the extrajudicial killing.

Beaten and left to die

Ogehenetejiri’s girlfriend, Favour, was the last person to see him alive and witnessed how he was brutalised by the policemen.

The graduate of Guidance and Counselling from the same university with Ogehenetejiri, fears for her life and has been in hiding since the incident occurred.

While speaking with our correspondent, the traumatised lady said sleep had eluded her as events of the penultimate day kept replaying in her mind.

Recalling how it all started, Favour said she travelled with Ogehenetejiri to Asaba from Agbor for a friend’s wedding, and while waiting for a friend in front of a hotel, they were arrested by policemen in a Toyota Sienna space bus.

She recounted, “Festus, a friend to Ogehenetejiri, was with us. We were waiting for another friend who wanted to attend the wedding and who had been calling to know our exact location. Unknown to us, his friend was in police custody and his phone was being used to track about 10 friends on his contact list.

“After his last call, a Toyota Sienna space bus stopped in front of us and some policemen pushed us inside and took us to a police station opposite the airport.

“They took Ogehenetejiri to their interrogation room, showed him a video of guns found on his friend’s phone, and told him to admit owning them. He insisted that he knew nothing about the guns and that he just completed youth service. The policemen, who were four in number, started beating him with a pestle, chain, wood and an electric cable.

“They tied his hands behind his back and removed all his clothes, leaving him with only his boxers. He was beaten to a point that he became too weak to sit down. He was just laid on the floor.”

Continuing, Favour said, “After torturing him for several hours, they requested his phones and demanded specifically for the smart phone he was using to chat with his friend.  “Ogehenetejiri told them that it belonged to me, and as I made to give them the phone, the investigating police officer called ‘Omonile’ slapped me across the face.  As he tried to hit me again, he was stopped by another officer.

 “When they saw that my boyfriend was too weak to get up, they carried him with his hands still tied to the back and dumped him inside the cell. His hands, legs and face were swollen from so much beating and kicking. No part of his body was spared.”

Favour said a few hours after he was dumped in the cell, other detainees raised an alarm that he was convulsing.

“The cell guard went to the gate of the cell and told them to leave him to die and walked away. On Friday morning, the detainees called on the cell guard to remove Ogehenetejiri’s dead body,” she said in tears.

Hysterical and concerned about her boyfriend’s state, Favour, who all the while was ordered to sit behind the counter, went to an office occupied by senior officers, to inform them about the development. “They were angry and locked me up in the cell for disturbing them. From the window of the cell, I saw four police officers put Ogehenetejiri’s body inside a car and drove off,’’ she said.

Released and threatened

Favour said when the policemen returned, she was given a sheet of paper to write her statement and was later told that her boyfriend was receiving treatment in the hospital.

She stated, “On Saturday morning, I still asked after him and I was told that he was stable. On Sunday, a policeman told me to contact my family members, so that I could be released on bail. But they gave conditions for my release – that I must not disclose the details of what happened at the police station to anyone. They also wanted my surety to take me directly to Lagos.

“They said I must not be found anywhere within Delta State and threatened to accuse me of gunrunning if seen.”

Favour also said her brother-in-law’s friend, who secured her bail, was threatened.

“They told him that he would be implicated if he didn’t take me immediately to Lagos and he was forced to sign an undertaking,” she added.

The young lady said the officers called and threatened her family members not to allow her to leave Lagos.

She said, “They held on to my phones, a Tecno and Nokia Torchlight. Before leaving, I gave a female police officer, Franca, who told me she had been taking food to my boyfriend in the hospital, N5,000 for his feeding. Unknown to me that he actually died on Friday.”

Favour recalled that they were driven to the motor park by the IPO, who waited until the vehicle left.

She recounted, “He drove us to the Asaba Park and put us in a bus headed for Onitsha. He insisted that we must board a night bus to Lagos.

“When we got to the Niger Bridge, I alighted from the bus. My surety was scared, but I told him that Ogehenetejiri’s family needed to know his whereabouts.

“I looked for a place to change my clothes and tied a scarf on my head. I boarded a bus to Agbor and consistently bent my head at checkpoints to avoid being spotted.

“In Agbor, I went to one of Ogehenetejiri’s friend’s house to tell them what happened and his family was contacted. They got a lawyer immediately.”

“The lawyer called me to confirm what they said and I told him that they were lying. I told him that Ogehenetejiri’s friend, Festus, was still in detention and that they broke his leg during interrogation. It was after that that they admitted to the arrest.”

Based on the development, Sunday PUNCH learnt that a petition was written by the lawyer to the Delta State Police Command. This prompted the release of Festus and the young man, who was used as bait for the arrest. However, when the lawyer demanded to see Ogehenetejiri, he was told that his body was deposited in the morgue on Friday.

It was learnt that his family was officially notified of his death and invited to identify his body. Our correspondent reliably gathered that based on information given to the family members by the mortuary attendant, the body was deposited in the morgue on Tuesday and not Friday as claimed by the policemen.

“He was killed for nothing. I was told the body had started decomposing and it looked as if it was buried,” Favour alleged.

Extrajudicial killings by police

According to a joint report to the Universal Periodic Review by Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action and Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria, the prevalence of extrajudicial killings has taken an upward swing, with reports indicating widespread disregard for human rights by the Nigeria Police Force.

The report stated that the police were responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances each year.

“The majority of cases are not investigated and culprits go unpunished. The families of the victims usually have no recourse to justice or redress. Many do not even get to find out what exactly happened to their loved ones.

“Amnesty International also recorded cases of suspects, who were tortured to death while in detention. In other cases, people are victims of enforced disappearances; the police tell the families that they were transferred to a different police station or released on bail, but have no documentation to confirm it,” the report stated.

Demand for justice

Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, the late  Ogehenetejiri’s younger brother,  Goodluck said the family might never recover from the shock of the loss. He said their father, an amputee, was hardest hit by the tragedy.

He said in an emotion-laden voice, “No son wants to see his father cry, but I have seen my father break down several times in tears. He is heartbroken. All we want is justice. I want those involved in the killing of my brother to be prosecuted. They must pay for shedding innocent blood.”

Goodluck said their father was amputated in 2015, the same year Ogehenetejiri gained admission into the university, adding that the incident did not stop his education.

“My father was determined. As I speak to you now, he has just one leg. He struggled to train my brother. Now that he graduated, he was killed by policemen for committing no crime. He was the first son and only graduate in the family. We saw him as a shining light and believed he would lift the family out of poverty. He promised to make my father comfortable. How can you struggle to train a child from primary school to the university, only for him to be killed like a common criminal? We want justice,” he cried.

Waiting for autopsy

A lawyer and human rights activist, Favour Ajuebor, who has been championing the call for justice for the deceased, said an autopsy would determine the next line of action. She said the Delta State Police Command had directed that an autopsy be carried out to ascertain the actual cause of death.

The lawyer said the family was informed that three cops involved in the extrajudicial killing had been detained and undergoing investigation.

“But in furtherance to the police investigation, they want the direct witness, the deceased’s girlfriend, to be available for questioning. I think thereafter, further directive will be given on the nature of the sanction. The report of the autopsy must corroborate and not conflict with the incident, so that it won’t be a loophole for the errant officers to be set free.

“I have confidence that those involved in the death of the young man will face justice. This case can’t be swept under the carpet, never,” Ajuebor vowed.

Investigation ongoing – CP

While confirming the incident, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State, Muhammed Ali, said investigation had commenced to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of Ogehenetejiri in police custody.

Speaking exclusively to Sunday PUNCH, he gave an assurance that once the autopsy report was released by pathologists at the Delta State General Hospital, Asaba, a full-blown investigation would commence and those indicted be charged accordingly.

He admitted that some other policemen were involved, noting that the cop allegedly linked to the death of the undergraduate had been detained.

 “Members of the family of the deceased were here, we interfaced with them and assured them that no stone would be left unturned in ensuring that justice is served at the end of the day. We have to ascertain the medical cause of death. If the policeman is indicted, he will be prosecuted and we are done with the case. That is the first determinant factor. From there, we can now move forward,” Ali stated.

When our correspondent asked why the other cops allegedly indicted had not been detained, Ali said investigation was still ongoing.

 “I am aware that more personnel were there, but the person that was linked to the death is the one we are holding accountable. Others are still under investigation. That is the position for now,” he added.


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