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'I was sent to prison for a crime I didn't commit' - Effiong Elemi-Edu


Effiong Elemi-Edu remembers that night in October 1995 well. It was cold when he left his home in a suburb of Lagos to buy suya for his wife. He had not got far when he heard gunshots and ran for cover.

When everything fell quiet, he emerged - determined to head straight home, his errand incomplete.

Then he heard the words that would change his life forever: "Stop there."

"I stopped," he remembers. "There were police officers, lots of them."

They asked the then 25-year-old storekeeper where he was going and he told them. But instead of letting him go on his way, the officers pushed him into their vehicle and accused him of being an armed robber.

"I didn't understand what they meant because I was not carrying any weapon on me, just the money I was going to use to buy suya," he says.

"They took us - myself and one other guy - to SARS [Special Anti-Robbery Squad] at Ikeja, where they kept me under a tree," Effiong explains. "Later, they came and took me to the 'theatre'. There, there were two drums filled with sand. I was tied like a goat, two of my hands at my back; they crossed an iron rod at my back, and then hanged me."

Wrong place at the wrong time

He remembers exactly how long he stayed hanging like that. "One hour, 20 minutes," he says.

"They tried to force me to admit I was an armed robber - they even shot me in the leg," he continues, revealing the scar on his left foot.

"I have never robbed anyone in my life. I was just a young man struggling to save money to get admission into a higher institution to further my education."

He hoped to study mass communication or business administration. But that was not to be, for an influential politician from Nigeria's oil rich Niger Delta, Alfred Rewane, had been murdered that morning - shot by unknown gunmen at his residence in Ikeja GRA, a few hundred metres from Effiong's home.

Effiong was in the wrong place at the wrong time - and little beyond that seemed to matter to the authorities.

"They held me for days," he says. "There was no phone at that time and there was no way for me to get in touch with my family."

"It was my wife who learned about it. I think the people who saw me when I was taken away told her. [Then she] travelled home to inform my mother."

The police had also picked up seven other men.

Tortured and forced to admit guilt

"They wanted me to copy a statement they had written to say that I am an armed robber and that? I conspired with the others in the murder [of Rewane]. I refused."

"They beat me till my face was covered with blood which was pouring from my left ear.? I didn't want to die, so I recopied the statement in my own handwriting. The statement is what they used in implicating us."

"As I was recopying the statement, the only thing on my mind was that I didn't do anything and that my God will let everyone know the truth. It was later that one of the? policemen came to tell us that he was sorry, that it was an order from above.?"

"Later, they charged eight of us with the murder of the man. I don't know the man, never heard of him. Those that I was charged with murder with, I had never seen any of them in my life."

After being tortured and forced to admit guilt, seven of the men were arraigned before a high court, and sent to Kirikiri prison to await trial. But when the men arrived at the prison, prison officials insisted that the police take them to hospital to have their wounds treated. Instead, they took them to a police station - where four of the men subsequently died, reportedly due to the injuries sustained while being tortured by the police.

"The torture and suffering were too much," Effiong reflects
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  1. I am so proud to say, "Fuck the Nigerian Police", the bad eggs among them in particular. I recall when such a thing happened to me years back but in a lighter mode.
    I just finished having a haircut at the barber's shop at about 8:45pm and on my way home, I was accosted by the police and they said it's for wondering at the odd hour. Really? Where has it ever been heard that 8:45pm is an odd hour, unless of course there is a curfew.
    They took me to the station and brought a statement that reads that I was caught wondering at around 11:20pm. They gave me a pen and a plain paper to copy that, which I did as I was so ignorant of the law and still a teenager. That was also the very first time I had dealings with the police and have always detest them on sighting them from a distance.
    They made me spend the night in jail just to collect a bail fee from me the next morning, which I suppose they used for their breakfast. Sons of bitches.

    Please note that the good ones among the police are exempted from my obvious anger on my comment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so proud to say, "F*** the Nigerian Police", the bad eggs among them in particular. I recall when such a thing happened to me years back but in a lighter mode.
    I just finished having a haircut at the barber's shop at about 8:45pm and on my way home, I was accosted by the police and they said it's for wondering at the odd hour. Really? Where has it ever been heard that 8:45pm is an odd hour, unless of course there is a curfew.
    They took me to the station and brought a statement that reads that I was caught wondering at around 11:20pm. They gave me a pen and a plain paper to copy that, which I did as I was so ignorant of the law and still a teenager. That was also the very first time I had dealings with the police and have always detest them on sighting them from a distance.
    They made me spend the night in jail just to collect a bail fee from me the next morning, which I suppose they used for their breakfast. Sons of bit****.

    Please note that the good ones among the police are exempted from my obvious anger on my comment.

    ReplyDelete

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