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January 19, 2021

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Nigerian soldiers flogged me, cut my hair for having dreadlocks

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A footballer in Nigeria said some soldiers flogged him in the middle of a highway because of his dreadlocks and then used scissors to cut his hair.

The incident happened on January 2 in Sapele, Delta State, South-south Nigeria, the footballer, Idukeh Kingsley, told PREMIUM TIMES, Tuesday.

Mr Kingsley who plays professional football in Nigeria said he came home from Lagos to celebrate the New Year with his family before the incident.

Mr Kingsley is with Karemex Football Academy and hopes to someday play professional football outside Nigeria. He has played for Delta Star Football Club and the Baton FC of Owerri.

The footballer said he, with a female friend inside his car, met some soldiers – over four of them – at a security checkpoint along Ajogodo Road, before Access Bank, Sapele.

Some police officers were also at the checkpoint, he said.

The soldiers, he said, were punching the driver of an SUV that was in front of his car.

“It got to my turn, they (the soldiers) started screaming dada (dreadlocks). In my mind I was like, are these people okay? Is this their first time seeing a guy on dreads?

“They asked me to come out of the car and lie on the ground. I asked one of them why should I lie on the ground? What is my offence? And that was when he flogged me with a wire. I lied on the ground and the flogging continued,” Mr Kingsley said.

“I was asked to open the trunk of my car, they checked it and asked me to park properly. That was when they told me to go to one that cut my hair. I even told him that I’m a footballer but he didn’t listen. Aside from being a footballer, my hair has other significance, reason I keep dreads.”

The footballer, Idukeh Kingsley, before his dreadlocks were cut off by Nigerian soldiers in Sapele, Delta

Mr Kingsley said one of the soldiers said to him, “This is a new Sapele, you people must comply by force”.

Afterwards, the soldiers ordered him to pack the pieces of his hair from the ground and then go away.

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The footballer said he has been traumatised by the incident.

“I have never been involved in anything like this before. So because of the shock I couldn’t get any information about the officers or the battalion.

“My mind is messed up. I couldn’t even go to church because my hair is rough. My mom has been thanking God since last night that it didn’t go beyond that,” he said.

The police in Delta State said they were not aware of the incident.

“The police were with them, I heard they even took some innocent guys to the police station the next day. So I feel somehow going to report. They might shun me or even try to lock me up,” Mr Kingsley said, explaining why he did not lodge a report with the police.

A spokesperson for the Nigerian army, Sagir Musa, did not respond to calls and a text message asking for his comment.

Nigeria has a poor human rights record under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, as several of the country’s citizens are frequently brutalised by security officers without any hope of getting justice.

PREMIUM TIMES reported, in November, how an unidentified soldier assaulted a commercial driver and threatened to kill him for overtaking his car on the Abuja-Kaduna road, North-central Nigeria.

Some soldiers in Ibadan, Nigeria’s South-west, were caught on camera in November flogging one woman in public whom they accused of “indecent dressing.”

Still in Delta State, soldiers in October reportedly forced a medical doctor to swim in the mud for “violating curfew.”

“This madness shouldn’t go unchallenged. It infringes on the right to personal liberty and human dignity. An aberration under local and international human right law,” Festus Ogun, a human rights lawyer, said of the alleged assault on the footballer.

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