- A Taxify driver, John Otuchere, has accused SARS operatives of wrongful arrest and torture
- He says he was accused of stealing a passenger’s bag which was eventually found at the airport where she had apparently forgotten it
- Otuchere is demanding for justice and a N10 million compensation for his inability to provide for his family because of the torture
Operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos state Police Command have been accused of wrongful arrest and torture by a Taxify driver, John Otuchere.
The driver claims he was detained and tortured for allegedly stealing the bag of one Alice Isah; and is demanding justice for the violation of his human rights, Punch reports.
NAIJ.com gathers that Isah had called the Taxify driver on Sunday, July 15, to pick her from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and drop her off at her residence in Lekki Gardens Estate, after returning from a training in Dubai.
Otuchere said during the trip, he had been forced to park the vehicle and examine it, as it had developed a fault.
He said: “We were on the Third Mainland Bridge when my car started making an unusual sound. I did not stop because it was dangerous; so I managed it until we left the bridge.
“I eventually parked beside a RRS Patrol vehicle to examine the car. While examining the car, a guy crossed over from the other side of the road to assist me. I don’t know him, but he said he was a mechanic, and we discovered that only one nut was left holding the tyre to the bolts on the driver side.
“The woman (Isah) at this point got down from the car to observe what was going on. She saw that we had to unscrew one nut from the other tyres to fasten the tyre on the driver side to the vehichle. I gave the man N100 and he crossed back to the other side of the road before we moved on.”
He said the journey subsequently continued smoothly and they arrived at Isah’s residence, where he proceeded to offload her luggage from the vehicle and it was at that point she discovered that one of her bags had gone missing. Otuchere stated that he then offered to take her back to the airport to check if she forgot the bag there.
However, he claims Isah insisted that she personally put the bag in the boot of the car and accused him of conniving with the mechanic to steal her bag.
“She held me and started slapping me, calling me a thief. One of her neighbours and the estate’s chief security officer accompanied her, and I was taken to the Ogombo Police Station.
“The second day, when the policeman who investigated the case suggested that we searched for the bag at my house and the airport, she said he was supporting me and she petitioned the state Police Command and the case was transferred to Ikeja.
“Immediately I got to SARS in Ikeja, a policeman, identified as Omoleme, hit me many times with an iron bar to make me confess in the presence of the woman. He said he would kill me and nothing would happen. I was in tears because of the pain; my blood was all over the floor and I was told to pull off my dress and start cleaning it.
“I was taken to the man in charge of SARS; when I tried to explain to him that I was innocent, he ordered his men to hang me because I was not saying the truth. SARS cell is a graphic picture of hell; I saw over 70 people inside one room and immediately I entered, I was welcomed with several blows, slaps and kicks.”
He disclosed that it took the intervention of his lawyer before the SARS operatives agreed to search for the bag at the airport where it was eventually found.
Otuechere’s two fingers were reportedly broken during the torture, and he called for justice and compensation for being humiliated and tortured for a crime he did not commit.
He said though he was released, neither the woman nor the SARS officers have called to apologise. "I want justice; I demand a written apology from F-SARS and Alice Isah for wrongful accusation, detention and torture. I also demand N10m compensation for my inability to provide for my family because of the torture," he added.
On her part however, the passenger insisted that she never took the law into her own hand; but only got the Police involved so they could recover her bag, which contained vital documents.
She said she thought her bag got missing during the stopover on Third Mainland Bridge when the driver was checking his tyre.
“I was the one that went to the SARS to report. When they heard from me and John, they decided that we should go to the airport where the bag was found. I don’t know how to explain how I felt when I saw the bag at the airport. I did not torture him; I only reported the matter to the law enforcement agents because I wanted my bag.
“When we were leaving, they said we should bring our lawyers, so I went there with my lawyer and they exchanged addresses and phone numbers. I have been waiting to hear from my lawyer since then," she said.
When contacted, the public relations officer of the Lagos state Police Command, CSP Chike Oti, insisted that Otuechere was not tortured.
He said: “What happened was that a case of stealing was lodged against him at Ogombo division. Before investigation into the case could start, the complainant in the case moved it to another level of Police investigation, which is SARS.
“Through diligent investigation by the F-SARS team, the missing bag was recovered. The Taxify driver was subsequently released on administrative bail. I must tell you on good authority that throughout the period of the investigation, he was not tortured by the F-SARS men.
“However, it must be noted that the suspect was roughened up a bit by a mob. For him now to turn around to put any form of blame on the F-SARS men who worked hard to recover the stolen bag is most unfortunate.
“Meanwhile, investigation into the case is still ongoing and efforts are on to identify and arrest the mob that attacked him before he was handed over to the Police.”
In a related development, NAIJ.com previously reported that some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) were accused by an artiste, Richie Sunday aka Dollamachine, of unlawfully arresting and torturing him after accusing him of being an internet fraudster.
The 26-year-old musician stated that he was arrested in the Iyana-Oworo area of Lagos state around 12pm on Thursday, July 19, 2018, as he made his way to a supermarket to purchase drinks.
Lagos CP Tells Lagosians What to Do to Erring SARS Officers - on NAIJ.com TV: