A new investigative report has revealed how a suspect who was arrested and paraded over a high-profile kidnapping, has allegedly escaped from custody.
The last time Oluwaseyi Adesuyi was seen alive in public was on July 5, 2013, when he was paraded as a suspect before journalists in connection with a high-profile kidnapping.
Since then, like a mirage at dusk, he has completely disappeared without a trace.
The police, which arrested and paraded him, are unable to say what happened to him. They cannot produce any record of his arrest. He did not escape from police custody. There is also no evidence he was charged to court. Nobody knows his whereabouts.
His family has searched for him at every police formation that mattered in Lagos, Ondo, and Abuja but has come out with absolutely no information about what happened to him.
Oluwaseyi, a dropout from the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, traded in used mobile phones and laptops at Alaba International Market, Lagos. On June 2013, as he was driving around the Okokomaiko area of Lagos, he was accosted by men of the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit of the police, who arrested him and impounded his Nissan Pathfinder SUV.
The police claimed he had bought a laptop stolen from Kehinde Bamigbetan, then chairman of the Ejigbo Local Development Council (he is the current Lagos State Commissioner for Information) who was kidnapped two months earlier.
Mr Bamigbetan was released a week later by his abductors after paying an undisclosed amount as ransom.
For three days, Mr Adesuyi did not return home. Nobody knew his whereabouts. His mobile phone was switched off. Worried at his sudden disappearance, one of his friends called his parents, who live in Akure, some 310 kilometres north of Lagos, to ask if they had seen him.
His parents had not seen him in months before then. They were terrified. But as deeply devout Christians. they prayed and hoped that something terrible had not happened to him. They checked with his siblings who were in Lagos at the time, but no one had a clue of his whereabouts.
The Adesuyis searched for Oluwaseyi at police stations and other places they thought he might be for several days without success.
Someone suggested they should check at the SARS office at Ikeja. They did and found his name on a register of arrested suspects. But at that point, their luck ran out of steam.
The family said the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) handling Oluwaseyi’s case was identified by an alias: Jamaica, which most of his colleagues called him. Members of SARS hardly wear the conventional police uniform. They are mostly dressed in mufti or branded SARS T-shirts and vests without name tags.
Several weeks after the family’s repeated visits to SARS office without being allowed to see Oluwaseyi, Mrs Adesuyi received a call from a man who said he was detained in the same cell as Oluwaseyi but for a different offence.
The man told Mrs Adesuyi that as he was being released from detention, Oluwaseyi had begged him to call his family. He also instructed them to speak with one of the officers at SARS office, who he believed will help secure his release from detention.
“So, we called the number they gave us, and the man said he will help us. But he said that the phone they sold was an armed robber that got it and the vehicle he got, it was an armed robber that owns it,” she said.
She said the policeman who did not identify himself, demanded a bribe of N200,000.00, to help them secure the release of their son. They said because they were desperate to see Oluwaseyi they paid. But after paying, the policeman tried to squeeze them for more money.
As her tired voice cracks with emotion over the phone, Mrs Adesuyi reminisced about her son, wondering what has become of him. She said of all her children, Oluwaseyi was most easy going but added that he has always tried to make something out of his life.
When this reporter visited the SARS office at Ikeja, where Oluwaseyi was last seen, for information about his whereabouts, he was told there was no way of knowing.
The head of SARS in Lagos, Peter Gana, a chief superintendent of police, said he only resumed this July and that he was the fifth head of the unit since 2013.
When asked to check the unit’s record since the name of the suspect was known, Mr Gana said the unit did not keep proper records of arrests.
Mr Gana explained that he makes copies of cases he is directly involved in and takes them to his house because of the poor storage facility at the SARS office. He further explained how the unit could not find the record of a case that was investigated in February 2018 before he resumed.
Mr Gana, however, suggested that this reporter should reach out to the head of SARS in the state in 2013, Abba Kyari, for information about Oluwaseyi’s whereabouts.
When reached for comments, Abba Kyra, who is now in charge of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, said he cannot remember the case in question.
SARS was set up as a unit of the police to combat some of the most violent crimes in the country. However, the unit has endeared to itself a notoriety that is hard to shake-off due to the highhandedness of its officers. SARS operatives have been accused of harassment, extortion, torture and serial extrajudicial killings and other human right abuses.
Last August, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was virtually forced to order an overhaul of the unit’s operations following weeks of social media-driven protest, tagged #EndSARS, calling on the government to scrap the units.
He said the best way to solve the problem is a sincere reform of the police that includes a custody management system that will ensure that people arrested by the police do not disappear without a trace.