For the family of Kehinde Omotoso, an Ibadan-based cloths seller, the last one month has been one of anguish, fear and bitterness following his death in police custody for an offence committed by his nephew. The family members, including his cousin, Jelil Rasak, arrested and kept with him in the cell, speaks with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE on their experience.
In the last one month, the family of Kehinde Omotoso, a cloth seller popularly known as Akede at the popular Bola Ige International market (new Gbagi market) in Ibadan, has been in anguish over his death in police custody at the Iyaganku police station over an offence they vouch he knew nothing about and the seeming conspiracy by officers of the anti-cultism unit and the Criminal Investigation Division to cover up their complicity in his death and tarnish his image.
For the family, the police action is a great injustice that has created a wound that can never heal as the man left seven children and a 95-year-old mother, who are now left without a benefactor. Their pain stems from the fact that Kehinde would not have died if not for the injustice of the police in arresting him for the crime allegedly committed by his aunt’s son, Kabiru Lasisi, and making him go through untold physical and emotional torture while he was starved and subjected to terrible conditions in the cell.
Since the early hours of July 17, when policemen from the State Criminal Investigation Department and Agugu Police Station stormed the residence of the deceased and his family at Ifedapo Street, Alajameta area of Ibadan, the family’s joy has turned to sorrow and the tears are yet to dry as they have been unable to get closure or collect the corpse to bury their dead. Succour, however, seems to be on the way to get their demands met as a nongovernmental body, the Akin Fadeyi Foundation (AFF), owners of Anti-corruption Skit, Not in My Country, has taken over the matter after being informed on its Flagit app.
AFF contacted the Afe Babalola Chambers and a lawyer was assigned to take on the case. But while the police insisted that the corpse was being kept to conduct investigations, the family took turns to debunk this, claiming they were the ones that refused to take the corpse because the police was trying to play a fast one on them.
Our experience – Rasak Jelil
Rasak Jelil, a caterpillar driver who was arrested alongside the deceased and was kept in a cell with him, has this to say about their experience and the situation that led to his death.
“Kehinde was my elder brother and we lived in the same house. We were arrested together over a matter we knew nothing about. On Thursday, July 16; that is during the night of July 16 to the morning of 17, around 12.30am, we started hearing gunshots near our house which has no fence and we heard the area security man shouting thief, thief while passing by our house.
The noise woke us and suddenly there was heavy banging on our door. We were scared because we thought it was the thieves, but we summoned courage to ask who was there; they said police, and demanded we open the door, using their gun to bang it.
So I opened the door and asked what they wanted, they asked where is Kabiru? I asked ‘which Kabiru?’ and they used the batt of the gun to hit my chest and pushed me inside, ordering me to lie flat on the ground.
“Kehinde Omotoso was also told to lie down after they hit him on the head with gun. They searched the house and they didn’t see anything incriminating or Kabiru.
They handcuffed Kehinde and myself and took us to their car parked at the junction, they came in five vehicles; two commercial buses, one station wagon and two patrol cars, part of those given to them recently by the Oyo State government. My sister was asking from which station, they didn’t answer her. They took us to Agugu division which was the nearest to our house, but they did not allow us go down. There I saw a police officer called SOJ, he came with them to our house and he told one of the CID officers ‘good job’ and the officer asked, ‘can we go?’ he said ‘you can go’.
“They took us to Iyaganku Police Station around 1.00am. Those arrested that day were six in number from different homes. They threw us into the cell without telling us what we did. When we asked, we were told when we get to court, we would know our offence. We met 126 people in the cell of around 15×15 feet, and we were six, so we were about 132 people in that little space. There was no chance to sit or lie down comfortably, because we had to maximize the space so no turning around. On Friday morning, around 9.00 am, they took me and Kehinde to one office to write statement. We said we didn’t know what the allegations were, so we couldn’t write statement. They intimidated us that they would shoot us in the leg.
“They asked us questions on things we knew nothing about, under duress. They asked us if we knew they fought in our area and killed someone. We said we didn’t heard it as rumours. They wrote the statement themselves; they didn’t allow us write.
They asked when last we saw Kabiru, and we told them he left the house months earlier. We were forced to sign the statement and taken back to the cell around 10.00am. We begged them to allow us call our family members to tell them where we were being kept but they answer us. We were not allowed to see anyone or talk to family, and because we were arrested while sleeping, we didn’t have money on us. So, we didn’t eat or drink for five days. On Monday evening, they took us out again and took us to the Officer in Charge of anti-cultism unit and he asked if we were ready to tell them Kabiru’s whereabouts. We repeated that we didn’t know where he was and they said when we got to court, we would explain that.
“At that point, Kehinde who was already weak because of hunger and the condition in the cell begged them to give us a week to look for Kabiru. They said that meant we were ready to show them his whereabouts and took us to another officer and told him that they had threatened us and we had agreed to produce Kabiru. The officer said they should look for a photographer to take our picture and take one of us home to look for Kabiru’s picture to declare him wanted. While we were being taken back to the cell, we met one of my bosses that came to do something. He asked what happened and I told him we didn’t know what was happening since we were arrested; that we had been there since Friday and we didn’t commit any offence. He told his lawyer to meet the IPO. It was the IPO that explained to the lawyer that Area Boys fought in our area and killed someone and that Kabiru was one of the Oodua People’s Congress members OPC that fought and we were arrested because he’s our family member.
“We were returned to the cell. On Monday night, Kehinde was in too much discomfort and stomach pains. I understood it was because he used not to fast; he usually ate on time and never played with his stomach. So I told him to hang on because we had no money and our family couldn’t find us to bring us food, that God would see us through. We went to bed and he was already dead.
How I knew he had died
There was no space so we were sandwiched together; some would stand, others would sit in between each other’s lap and the older ones would lie with one side very close to each other. There was no breathing space or opportunity to turn and change sides. Because of his age, he was allowed to lie down. In the cell, we had an elder called state; he arranged us at night and checked us all in the morning. So, on Tuesday morning by 5.00 a.m, while checking on people, he discovered Kehinde was dead and called us. We found he was dead and already stiff, so we shouted and the police came and we helped in taking the corpse out to the car. They said they were taking him to the mortuary.
They took me back to the cell without allowing me call our family, so around 3.30pm, people in the cell said I was not safe that I should do everything to ensure my family knew what was going on. So, I started screaming like a mad man that there was a ritual that needed to be done for such deaths else everyone that touched the corpse would die in 24 hours. I was screaming so much that the officers got disturbed and I was taken out to the OC who asked if I was mad. I reiterated that our family must be told to avert further deaths. So, they gave me Kehinde’s phone to call our family head. Immediately, he picked the phone, the police snatched the phone from me and walked out. I later learnt he told our family head that I was ill in their custody and had been rushed to the hospital and they should come immediately.
“When our family got to the station, the Police told them that it was Kehinde the was dead without telling them how or where he died. The family asked that they should allow them post my bail and I was granted bail the next day while the Police decided to liaise with our unlettered sisters to make arrangement to collect the corpse by signing an affidavit that has contentious content. The founder of Akin Fadeyi Foundation, who my brother already reported to in order to demand for justice asked to see a copy of the affidavit.
“So my brother asked our sister to get a copy of the affidavit and leave the corpse till the next day. They didn’t want to give her but she stylishly got the photocopy and told them she was not carrying the corpse that day because it was late. She brought the affidavit that Friday. We realized what the police did when we saw the affidavit. The police arrested an innocent man, wasted his life with inhuman treatment and lied that he was a murderer. We forwarded the affidavit to AFF and they took up the case. I am saying it categorically that the five days of terrible treatment, starvation, terrible condition in the cell, and using the gun to hit him on the head by police killed my brother. He stayed five days without food and I stayed six days in the cell without food.
“The police have been threatening me. After the recent Eid celebrations, the IPO called that I must come on Monday at 10am. I told them to inform the lawyer that the foundation got for us. They called my lawyer and told him if I loved myself, I must come to the station because on the day I was granted bail, they insisted I must produce Kabiru as agreed in one week else they would arrest me again because even if the family of the man that died in the fight said they were not interested, the police was set to go on with the case and anyone they arrested would be the one to answer for the offence. But the lawyer said I should not go because I cannot be prosecuted for someone else’s offence, that that is not the position of the law. They can only invite me, not arrest. They have been calling other family members to tell me to report and threaten them. This is the reason I left home to hide.
Police killed my brother, trying to cover it up – Demola Omotoso
“I am Ademola Omotoso, a meat seller and the elder brother of the deceased; the first child of his parents. I live in Lagos. On the Thursday they were arrested in the middle of the night, I received a call that Kehinde and one of our family members were arrested. I told them to go and see them at the police station to enable us know what was wrong and what to do, but the police did not allow anyone see them till Monday. Even the lawyer we briefed wasn’t allowed to see them till my brother died before dawn on Tuesday. I was called between 2pm and 3pm on Tuesday that the police used Kehinde’s number to call. We sent two people to the station where they were informed that he had died.
“I was the one that insisted we would not collect the corpse until I knew the cause of his death because I must have an explanation for our aged mother. I want to see those that arrested him and subjected him to inhumane treatment before I know our next line of action. Kehinde did nothing wrong, he committed no offence. You can go to Gbagi and ask about his personality. On why a family member signed affidavit that we weren’t interested in autopsy, they were expecting me to arrive when the police coerced an illiterate family member, a woman that sells herbs at Oje market, to sign an affidavit already prepared before I came. But when I came and saw what the police wrote in the affidavit that my brother committed murder and died while investigations were on, I said no; he committed no offence. They came to look for Kabiru Rasaki, a family member who wasn’t around, they arrested two of our family members instead.
“Can I take care of his seven children and aged mother alone as the only surviving child? I am also struggling because things are not as it was before this COVID-19 pandemic. I want the matter thoroughly investigated; those responsible for his death persecuted and compensation given to his family to allow his children find their feet and get justice. This is why I reported to Akin Fadeyi Foundation because I saw (police) were determined to cheat us and tarnish our brother’s reputation after killing him.
I want to know what killed him and how it happened – Khadijat Omotoso
“I am the first child of the late Kehinde Omotoso. What I can say is that there was a day fight broke out between Area Boys and members of Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) at Ogbere Idi Osan. A day after that, I was involved in an accident but on the third day, I was told that they had arrested my father. I asked what happened and they said the police were looking for Kabiru. I asked whether Kehinde Omotoso isn’t different from Kabiru Rasaki.
“They said the police said if we wanted to see them, we should come to the station, I couldn’t go out because I was taking care of my injured leg so I sent some of my siblings. But when they got to Agugu Police Station, that is the jurisdiction our house falls under, they said they were not there
“They started looking for them around before getting to Iyaganku days later. They didn’t allow anyone access to them for three days, but on the third day, the family sought the service of a lawyer who told them on Monday that he saw both my father and my uncle that was arrested with him and they were fine and doing okay. It was after my father’s death that I discovered that the lawyer lied because my uncle said they didn’t see him or anyone. But by Tuesday, I was called that my father was dead. He was healthy; nothing was wrong with him before his arrest. I went to the family head to confirm what happened and he said he had gone there to get him released on bail but met something else; that our father had died in police custody.
I want to know what killed him and how it happened. They spent five days. Police did not give us any explanation. In fact, they didn’t allow them call home. The police only used his phone to call and inform the family of his death. I want Nigerians to help so that we don’t suffer unduly, my father’s killer must not be allowed to go scot free. We reported to the Akin Fadeyi Foundation and the foundation took up our case and handed it over to the Afe Babalola Chambers to prosecute.
Death traceable to reckless, unbridled act of brutality has no place in decent policing – AFF
“Our position is on this issue is clear and unequivocal. We have drafted several press interviews in this regard. The Nigeria Police should know that life is sacred and death is so final. Every death traceable to reckless and unbridled act of brutality has no place in decent and effective policing. It’s crude, lawless and unacceptable. Arresting Kehinde Omotosho and his relative, Jelili, as placeholders for a target suspect was unlawful and runs at variance with the law. Hitting Kehinde Omotosho on the head with the butt of the gun, and incarcerating him for days without food or trial led to his death. All officers who perpetrated this act must be arrested and made to face the full wrath of the Law. Kehinde Omotosho also left a lot of dependants, including a 95-year-old mother. The police must commence an immediate conversation as to how this family will not suffer in vain.
“There’s no escape for Nigeria Police acts of corruption and brutality again as Nigerian citizens can now report them on FlagIt Technology App from the Akin Fadeyi Foundation. It’s the App where Mr. Kehinde Omotosho’s illegal detention and death was reported. Perhaps we should start a campaign that says, “Nigerian lives matter”.
“Our Police institution must stop constituting itself into such a ghoulish monster, beating tragic drums from its theatre of horror and orchestrating a dance of the macabre from a grossly flawed system.”
We will conduct autopsy to determine cause of death – Police
Speaking on the development, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the police didn’t just arrest the suspect, adding that an incident happened at Agugu area where somebody was killed. He said operatives attached to the Agugu Police State actually began investigation into the case before it was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Iyaganku.
SP Fadeyi said in the course of investigation, a suspect was traced to his place of residence but he was not around and that brought about the need to arrest those close to him so that he would come forward to state his position on the murder case.
SP Fadiyi said, “What led to the arrest was a case of murder, but people are not talking about that. The person who was killed also has relatives and they also depend on the police to bring those who killed their loved one to justice. So, when the man was arrested, he fell ill in custody and he was taken to the police clinic for treatment before he died. We have also said we will conduct an autopsy to determine what led to the death of the man so that people won’t say he was killed by the police.
“The command is also investigating all these; however, a non-governmental organisation has written a petition to the command and the Commissioner of Police is already investigating the case. The truth of the matter, however, is that why the victim was arrested was for a case of murder and he was not the only person arrested. After becoming sick in custody, he was taken to the police clinic for treatment.
“It is unfortunate that some individuals and organisations are making it look as if he was just picked up and detained. The police were investigating a murder case, which is not a simple case, so they should realise the person who was killed also had family who looked up to the police to apprehend those who killed their loved one and the man who died in the police clinic was arrested in the course of an investigation into a murder case.”
Nigerian Tribune investigations revealed that the petition written by Toyese Owoade, a barrister from the Afe Babalola Chambers, is already getting the required response as the family members have been invited to the police command at Eleyele with the lawyer and they have written statements in support of their petition and investigating team has asked their lawyer to submit a copy of the affidavit in contention.
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