‘Arrested,’ detained and branded an armed robber, journalist seeks justice
A freelance journalist, formerly with The Oracle Today newspapers and volunteer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Ojo Council of Lagos State, Ireto Temofeh, has accused policemen attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in the state of “kidnapping” and detaining him for five days on trumped up allegations.
Temofeh, in a petition to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), dated June 28, this year, titled, ‘How I was kidnapped by some members of IGP Intelligence Response (IRT) Police: A call for prompt redress,’ and received and acknowledged by the Central Mail Collection Office, Department of Finance and Administration, Abuja on June 30, which was copied the Police Service Commission, alleged defamation of his character is seeking justice.
Recounting events leading to the incident, he said: “On Friday, June 16, I received a phone call from my lawyer, Ken Akpom, that a man called him that he was interested in buying my mother’s flat at Plot 86, Block 171, Flat 4, Iba Housing Estate, Ojo, Lagos, which she told me she wanted to sell because she needed the money for her business and I had advertised in The Oracle Today newspaper and some online social media.
“So, I left my family at home in Ijegun and went to meet Akpom at Ikotun. When I saw him, he spoke with the supposedly interested buyer again on phone and told me that the man said he was coming from Ogun State and I should wait for him at Igando bus stop.
“He gave me the phone number (07053523XXX) of the supposed interested buyer and told me to call the man and called with my number, 07031028XXX.
“When he arrived, I noticed another man with him and both were in plain clothes. They asked who owns the flat and I confirmed that it was my mother’s. They told me to enter their car and take them to the flat, which I did.
“After seeing the flat, they said I should take them to my mother at FESTAC Town, so she could show them proof of her ownership of the property.
“While driving out of Iba, I said it would be better to go to FESTAC by following the straight road to Iyana-Iba and taking the Mile 2-Badagry road, but the man driving the vehicle said he would prefer to turn back at the U-Turn before LASU and go through Ejigbo to FESTAC. I reluctantly agreed, but when he got to the U-Turn, he started turning the car to go back.
“Suddenly, another vehicle blocked us and three men jumped out with rifles, forcefully dragged me from the car into theirs, with registration number FST 277 AX.
“One of the men in the car (Afolabi) also entered the car. They collected my phone and told me not to make noise, otherwise they would kill me. I asked why they were kidnapping me, they first ignored me, and then two of them wearing reflective jackets handcuffed me. They told me they were policemen. I asked why they were carrying me away like kidnappers, especially when I had committed no crime. I begged them to let me go, but they told me I was a kidnapper (like Evans) and an armed robber.”
“One of them introduced himself as ‘Inspector Osha,’ Afolabi showed me a Police identity card, another introduced himself as Sergeant Omotimehin and also showed me a Police ID. Osha told me to confess that my name is “Randy” and that I am a kidnapper and an armed robber who lives in Magodo.”
He said as they passed Iba Police Station at Adoff bus-stop, he begged them to stop and report to the DPO that they were taking him away from Iba, so that the Police there would be aware of what happened, while telling them he is a freelance journalist and was aware that according to Police procedure, they were supposed to report to the nearest police station within that jurisdiction so that if his family starts looking for him, thinking he had been kidnapped, Iba Police Station would be able to tell them what happened.
“But Osha hissed and told me that they were not going to stop and report at any Police station before taking me to wherever they were going to. He said he and his men were not under the Lagos State Police Command and were only answerable to the IGP in Abuja.
He alleged that he was taken somewhere in Ikeja, which he later identified as the office and detention centre of SARS and IRT, where he was told they had information that he was an armed robber and they were going to detain him.
“I begged them to allow me to contact my family and Editor, but they refused. When I told Osha to allow me to contact my lawyer, he said my lawyer is also an armed robber and criminal. He told me that a prisoner in one prison had identified me as an armed robber.
“He said that the prisoner had identified me as a member of his gang that robbed at the Lagos Airport and some banks in Ondo State between 2012 and 2015 and that he had been looking for me for a long time to arrest me.
“Osha said the prisoner also told him that the CCTV camera of one of the banks had captured my face while I was robbing the bank with my gang had given him my former name and address (which was the flat at Iba Estate).
“I told him I have never been in hiding and I was known publicly as a journalist and if he had actually been looking for me for a long time, as he claimed, he was obviously lying, because I was publicly known.”
“They took me to one part of their offices and told me to undress to confirm the bullet wounds I have on my body. I told him I have no bullet wounds, but he forced me to strip naked and started slapping me and laughing at me as I stood naked.
“I told them I started my career as a journalist at The Sun newspaper in 2003, and worked for Daily Independent, The Guardian, New Telegraph, and now The Oracle Today.
“They dumped me inside Cell 3 in the evening of Friday, June 16, after a certain Supol had signed the paper for my detention and after searching my pockets and collecting my drivers licence, First Bank ATM card and the keys of my house till Monday, June 20, without money or food to eat and without being allowed to call or contact my family or anybody for that matter. They refused to allow me write a statement and also refused to give me an Investigating Police Officer (IPO).
“I even asked them to take me to their boss or to any senior officer who could at least hear my case, but Osha refused and told me that his “oga” was not in Lagos, but in Abuja. There were over 70 men inside the cell and I almost starved to death.
“On the morning of Monday, June 19, a policeman who was reading the roll call of detainees asked my name. I told him and he said he was giving me an IPO, Supol Balogun, whom I never met, but later in the afternoon, Omotimehin came and took me out from the cell to the car park, where I saw Osha and other members of their team waiting.
“Osha opened the boot and pushed me inside, saying they were going to search my house. “They searched without finding anything, took all the phones they found, my laptop, a cutlass I used to cut grass, my civil defence uniform and ID and some vital documents relating to my late father’s properties.
Osha hit me on my head and back with the cutlass he stole from me. He also slapped me several times saying I had been using the uniform to rob and they vowed to kill me if I didn’t disclose where the original documents of those Probate Letters and documents my mother and I used in collecting money from my late father’s bank account at Union Bank Plc, as well as releasing my mother’s original marriage certificate and every necessary document that would make us deny our other relatives access to said properties.
Temofeh stated that on returning to IRT/SARS office at Ikeja, they took him out the vehicle’s boot of their vehicle and threw him back into the cell.
“In the afternoon on Tuesday, June 20, Omotimehin came and took me out of the cell again and told me that my people had discovered that I was here, so he took me behind the cellblock where I saw my brother with another man. From there, Omotimehin took me, my brother and the man, who I later discovered to be a lawyer, upstairs to see one Supol Philip.
“Osha told Philip that I am was an armed robber and he had made a video call with a prisoner inside a prison, who confirmed me as an armed robber. Phillip then asked if there was anyone who could identify me as a journalist and I told him Adesina could identify me.
“Even as Supol Philip was interviewing me, two journalists walked into his office and one of them, Taiwo Jimoh, a crime reporter with New Telegraph, identified me as a former colleague.
“Before sending me back to the cell, Philip told Osha in the presence of the lawyer (Ugochukwu) to speed up investigation and allow my family to bail me if he has no evidence against me. But Osha told Phillip that he was going to physically bring the prisoner, who had identified me as an armed robber for the prisoner to physically identify me.
Osha told Supol Phillip to give him two or three days to bring the prisoner down, saying he would write to Nigeria Prisons to release the prisoner so that he could come physically to identify me.
“That was also the day they bought food (a plate of rice) for me for the first time since I was detained. On Thursday evening, they told me to call my people to inform them to come and bail me by 10am the following day, Friday.
“After waiting in vain for Osha to bring the prisoner to identify me, Phillip gave the go ahead for me to be bailed.”
“I was bailed by my Surety/Guarantor, Chief Lawrence Okpako, in the presence of Ugochukwu, in the evening of Friday, June 23, after a lot of ‘drama’ and serious threats to my life from Osha, who refused to allow my surety to take me away if we did not give him N200, 000 (Two hundred thousand naira).
“My surety raised the sum of N70, 000 and together with my lawyer, they negotiated with Osha before I was released.” He said Osha refused to return all his things. Temofeh reckoned that his ordeal might not be unconnected with s family dispute over his father’s estate,
Shortly before he was redeployed, Owoseni told The Guardian that he had ordered investigation into the matter. “I am aware of the matter and I have asked the X-Squad to investigate the allegation by the petitioner.