A writer and social media influencer, Gimba Kakanda, has relieved his experience in the hands of men of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) who molested him and two other persons after they were arrested at the end of a protest on Sunday in Abuja.
The protest was part of the ongoing nationwide civil action demanding the disbanding of a notorious police unit and ending brutality by the police, which started under the #EndSARS campaign on Twitter.
PREMIUM TIMES has variously reported how protesters came under attack by the police, and later by thugs, in the capital Abuja and other locations across the country.
This newspaper reported how the police teargassed a crowd of protesters who marched from Unity Fountain towards the police headquarters on Sunday morning.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, Mr Kakanda, who was part of the protesters that day, described the direct attack that followed as “traumatizing” due to what he called “close shave with death in the hands of the police.”
Mr Kakanda said he and another protester, Ibrahim Usman, were beaten up with clubs, leading to injuries.
In a statement on Wednesday, human rights group, Amnesty International said at least 10 Nigerians were killed in attempts to quell the increasingly popular protest.
‘How we came under attack’
Mr Kakanda said he and two others came under attack as they passed a police barricade to pick up their cars parked by the Ministry of Women Affairs headquarters, adjacent to the police headquarters.
“This was moments after the crowd was dispersed. So we begged someone to drop off my friend and I to pick up our cars. When we reached the first barricade and explained ourselves they let us in. We didn’t know it was ploy,” Mr Kakanda said.
Mr Kakanda said as they reached for the vehicles, they were accosted by armed policemen who swooped on them with a barrage of questions.
“I tried to explain myself and at that time I was on the phone with a friend who is a police officer himself. I was attempting to hand over my phone to the man talking to us when someone hit me hard with a stick from behind. They grabbed the phone and smashed on the road.
“There were a number of vehicles there aside ours. But these policemen went on rampage immediately by using knives to tear as many tyres as they could. They destroyed three of my own,” he explained.
After destroying the tyres, Mr Kakanda said the policemen turned to them with “merciless” beating using clubs.
“I was using my hands to protect my face and head and that was how they caused serious injuries on my hands,” he narrated.
“They dehumanised us as much as they could and kept boasting that they could have killed us and erased every trace of our existence.”
Threatened with SARS
Mr Kakanda said after the initial round of beating, the policemen then dragged them before their superior.
“The officer, an ASP, with the name tag “MB Shehu” was very hostile and was direct in his threats. He told us that we were lucky it was daytime that had it been it was at night they would have killed us.
“I’ll waste you right now and nobody can do anything to me,” Mr Kakanda quoted the police officer saying.
He said the police officer ordered his subordinates to take the two activists into the police headquarters for more beating before they hand them over to SARS.
“He asked us why we didn’t go to protest at the SARS offices instead; when Ibrahim tried to explain that the Force headquarters was the right place for such action, they started slapping him again,” Mr Kakanda said.
‘How we were saved’
Mr Kakanda said their first saving grace was encountering a senior officer with the name “Ibe King N”.
“When he saw us being escorted in, he was alarmed and asked the policemen about our identity. They told him that we were among the troublemakers protesting. To our relief and surprise the man frowned at their action and ordered them to take us to his office instead.
“When we were alone in his office he told us his intention to let us go but expressed fear that the same men could intercept us on our way out. So he asked us to make a call for someone who could come and take us out,” Mr Kakande narrated.
While this was going on, a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, arrived at the police headquarters demanding the whereabouts of Messrs Kakanda and Usman.
“The officers outside told her we were not in their custody. But she insisted. When the officer who was with us heard that he beckoned us and handed us over to her.”
The spokesperson of the police, Frank Mba, did not respond to repeated calls for comments on this story.