Motolani Samson was sitting on a chair, worriedly watching her sleeping daughter, Adaeze Samson, when our reporter got to her house on October 10. Just as our reporter was completing her interview with Motolani, Adaeze’s eyes fluttered open.
The 21-year-old 400 Level, English Language major student, looks pale and weak. She is still convalescing after her attack by policemen from Meiran Police Station, Lagos State.
Adaeze stared sleepily before finally focusing on the reporter. Motolani told the story of how Adaeze, her only child, narrowly escaped from the valley of the shadow of death.
According to her, on October 3, a policeman, popularly known as Pastor, attacked Adaeze and repeatedly banged her head on an iron burglar-proof until she collapsed and lost consciousness. After Adaeze lost consciousness, the policeman, simply bent down, collected her phone and walked away, leaving her unconscious frame on the fold tiles floor. According to Motolani, that Adaeze is alive today was nothing short of a miracle.
She said: “It was God that saved my daughter. She’s our only Child. If she had died, what would I have done? At what age? The man that rushed her to hospital was a total stranger. The doctor told him to take my daughter away, that she was dead.
If not that Maryam, her colleague, raised the alarm, Adaeze would have died on that floor. Adaeze repeatedly convulsed and when she finally opened her eyes, she just stared into space, with tears streaming down her face. It was God that saved my daughter.
Everyone that called me in our community to commiserate had had an encounter with the police over their demands to surrender phones. And these things happened to their children. This must stop! These men must be brought to book. The DPO has been supportive, she even gave us N10,000 to help with the medical bill and she had been pleading on behalf of her men. She has been visiting Adaeze.”
The attack on Adaeze was carried out on October 3, just as Nigerians in different parts of the world, with hashtag #EndSARS, were protesting and demanding for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. The protesters protested against police extortion, torture, unlawful arrests, harassment, unlawful detention and extrajudicial killings.
People in Meiran, who witnessed and heard about the attack on Adaeze, said it was a litmus test, which proved that the police, not just SARS, demanded to be reformed. One would have expected the members of the police personnel to lay low in their human rights violation even as the protests continued to rock the nation. But the attack on Adaeze underscored the truth that many of them just do not care and can’t change.
Recalling the incident of that fateful day, Motolani said Adaeze left home to her beauty saloon, where she was an apprentice, learning how to make pedicure and manicure. She decided to take to the vocation following the continual long strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Adaeze and her colleague, Maryam, were at the Saloon at about 9am when they heard an altercation. It is pertinent to mention that the saloon is close to Meiran Police Station. In fact, it is just a wall that separated the building housing the saloon from the police station. Adaeze was inside the saloon cleaning, while Maryam was outside, washing the towel when they heard the noise. She stepped out to know what was going on.
Motolani said: “Adaeze said that she saw some policemen harassing a lady, asking her to surrender her handbag to them. She refused, asking them why. There was a heated argument and the policemen repeatedly slapped the girl. Just as Adaeze was urging Maryam to enter the shop because she feared the situation could escalate, a man approached her. He was in a mufti and wore a bathroom slipper. He didn’t introduce himself. He just walked up to her and ordered her to surrender her phone to him. She asked who he was and why he wanted her phone. He suddenly grabbed her blouse and pulled, her breasts popped out, right there in the public. She ran into the saloon and the man followed her.”
The saloon has an inner office, where clients wash their hair. The policeman chased her into the first office and followed her into the inner office. When Adaeze got there, there was nowhere to run to anymore. The policeman, blinded with rage, grabbed her head and slammed it against the iron burglar-proof of the inner office door.
Adaeze, speaking weakly, took the narration from her mother. She recalled: “Everything is still blurry. He kept hitting my head against the burglar-proof. I remembered that I kept shouting and asking, what he wanted with my phone. He didn’t introduce himself and never presented any identification. I even thought that he wanted to rape me. The last thing I remembered before losing consciousness was falling down. I couldn’t remember what happened after then.
“But before I fainted, some policemen, who were in uniform and armed came into the saloon. They addressed him as ‘Pastor,’ and urged him to make sure he collected my phone. It was because of the policemen that I realised that he is a policeman. As he repeatedly hit my head on the iron door, I grew weaker, everything became white and I fainted. I heard Maryam screaming. I heard that after I was rushed to the hospital, the DPO went to our saloon to ask Maryam to give her the password to unlock my phone. She told them that she didn’t know my password. They then dropped the phone.”
Asked if she was video recording the policemen when they were harassing a lady for her handbag, she vehemently denied it. She added: “I didn’t snap or video record anything. The place where they were harassing the lady was far from our saloon.”
Motolani said she got to hear everything that happened from Maryam. She was told that other policemen joined Pastor in hitting Adaeze. Maryam screamed, asking them not to kill Adaeze, but the policemen allegedly pushed her aside.
“The policemen left Adaeze on the floor, unconscious. As they were leaving, one of them said that when she was done with pretending, she would get up,” said Motolani.
Our reporter went to the saloon where the incident happened to hear from Maryam. She said: “On that day, Adaeze was chatting, but the policeman called Pastor thought she was video recording them harassing a lady. Pastor chased her into the saloon. He kept asking her to give him her phone. A policeman walked into the saloon, asking what happened. When I told them that they had no right to enter into the saloon, asking for Adaeze’s phone, one of them said he would shoot me, while another said he would slap me. Pastor hit her head on the iron burglar-proof. When he was hitting her head on the burglar-proof, I was screaming, telling them that they would kill her. When she lost consciousness, I poured water on her, but she didn’t wake up. She was becoming stiff and was foaming. I noticed that her body was cold. I started screaming, calling people to come and help us. I tried to stop tricycles, many refused to help, but one man stopped. It was a struggle to get her into the tricycle because she was becoming stiff.
“By the time we got to the hospital, she was no longer breathing. The doctor said that we brought a dead body to her hospital. She said we should take Adaeze and leave, but the cyclist begged, asking her to first try her best. I was crying because I was scared and feared the worst. I did a video of Adaeze’s unconscious self at the hospital and sent it to our boss, who then forwarded it to Adaeze’s mother. Both of them later rushed down to the hospital.”
Motolani explained that when she received the message and saw her daughter’s unmoving body in the video, fear gripped her heart. Motolani said: “When I got to the hospital, the doctor told me that when Adaeze was brought in, she was already turning stiff, had no pulse and was forming. The doctor said that she had spent too many minutes on the floor. The doctor battled to save her from 9am till 11am. When she was not getting satisfactory response, her madam’s husband went to the Meiran Police Station and brought the Divisional Police Officer and three policemen to the hospital. The DPO asked if we were sure that Adaeze was attacked, that there were no marks on her body to show that she was beaten. I was shocked at such a statement. Did she want to see blood before she believes that my daughter was brutalised and almost died?”
Motolani said that because there was no response from Adaeze, the hospital referred them to the general hospital. When the police personnel wanted to leave, Motolani refused. She insisted that they should follow her and move Adaeze to the Orile Agege General Hospital. She made that demand knowing that the hospital might ask for a police report before attending to Adaeze.
She said: “The policemen used their vehicle and led us to the general hospital. The hospital attended to us and started treatment. My daughter regained consciousness the following day. We took her to foremost Radiology Consultants Limited, located at Surulere. She had a head CT-Scan, to see if there was an internal injury. She’s now complaining of her eyes. She can see us, but can’t see anything written. We have taken her to an eye clinic, where she was given drugs and eye drip. We were given a date for another appointment.”
Motolani said she had already told the DPO to report the erring policemen so that they would be dealt with and serve as a deterrent to others. “The DPO should not continue to beg or cover up for them. If we’re not careful, police will start coming to our houses to demand for our phones,” said Motolani.
Adaeze’s uncle, Wale Olaitan, based in Melbourne, Australia, urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to investigate the policemen and ensure that they were brought to book for attempting to kill Adaeze. Olaitan, said: “On October, 3, 2020, six lawless men of Nigeria Police Force from Meran Police Station, Lagos physically assaulted her for nothing other than reckless, unprofessional, and poor judgement of criminals masquerading as police officers. It was distressing listening to her traumatic experience in the hands of people that are mandated by law to protect her. While she was unconscious on the floor, the policemen took her phone and left the shop. No assistance in whatever shape or form was rendered. However, since the ugly incident happened, Ada had convulsed a few times, cannot walk without being supported by her mother or other family members, cannot see an image beyond some metres, and was still in shock from the traumatic experience.
“Ada told me that her major concern was the long-term repercussions of the incident on her health- psychological and physical wellbeing, her ability to return to university to complete the last semester of her degree, and her other future aspirations. Ada’s aunt, my wife and I are also concerned that Ada will not get justice she deserves as nothing concrete has been done by Nigeria Police on the matter other than superficial phone conversations with Ada’s mother and petty cash donation towards her treatment. The perpetrators of the crime are still roaming the streets looking for the next victims. We must stop these marauding beasts before they strike again. This impunity must stop.”
Our reporter also went to the police station to get the police side of the story. The DPO was beginning to dress up in her camouflage to meet the #EndSARS protesters, who were causing gridlocks on some major roads when our reporter walked into her office. She hurriedly explained that Adaeze said that she was pushed by her policemen, while her policemen had denied, saying that they only asked for her phone after they discovered she was video recording them while they were working. She concluded her story: “This is what both parties told me and I don’t know who or what to believe, especially since I was not there.”
The Executive Director of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Action Centre, Okechukwu Nwanguma, said: “This is just one more evidence of the many instances of rogue and lawless behaviour among police officers, not just SARS. No law empowers the Police to stop or accost anybody and demand to search his or her phone unless there is a complaint or report directly linking the phone to any specific crime. It amounts to harassment and an invasion and intrusion into the privacy of the person being so harassed.
“It is worrying that in spite of repeated warnings by senior police officers, many operatives on the streets continue to exceed the limits of their powers, violating citizens’ rights. Police officers are always looking for opportunities to extort money from citizens going about their legitimate businesses. This predatory behaviour must be stopped. Perpetrators must be punished to deter others.”
Dr. Tare Kendaboh explained the symptoms of Adaeze. Kendab oh said: “Blood clot in the brain or clot in the brain blocking one either the artery or vein, due to the strong force, which could have resulted in high electrical frequency in the brain, it also depends on the area of the brain. If it’s in the back of the head, she won’t be able to write, hold an object or to have fine movement of things. The convulsion is caused by the high brain wave frequency due to the head injury. If the frontal lobe of the brain is damaged which is not able to reason well or IQ will drop. She should quickly go for an EEG and CT scan.”