Ndukwe Ekekwe was a burgeoning businessman. The 35-year-old dealt in phone accessories in a shop at the popular Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos. He was a wholesaler with a large client base – people came all the way from the North to buy from him. He was doing well, hustling diligently to cater for his family, especially his aged parents.
But all of this would change, suddenly, beginning from a fateful Friday.
It was specifically Friday, February 16, 2018. While leaving home for his shop – which had just just taken delivery of brand new stock – four officers, led by a certain Hamza Haruna, accosted Ndukwe. They had him taken to a police van, which drove off. The arrest was swift and without an explanation.
At a point, the officers stopped the van at Igando to have a discussion among themselves. Ndukwe decided to use the opportunity to take out his phone and make calls. ¨When I brought out my phone, one of them (officers) saw me,¨ he remembers. ¨He (the officer) collected the phone and started beating me up, tearing my clothes in the process.¨
The officers took him to the SARS office in Ikeja, where they tortured him all night, then all day Saturday, right till the evening.
Ndukwe says he was taken back to his shop that Saturday, where he saw some unidentified men loading his new stock into a waiting van.
As he later found out, it was not a loading, but a looting.
“The leader of the men told his people to keep me busy so they could loot my shop,¨ he says.
“They then took me to the next floor, located above my shop. There, I felt a sudden push, and that is the last thing I can remember.¨
Ndukwe was in the air. Then on the ground. In a split second. A violent crash. A loss of consciousness. He had been pushed off the first floor and fallen to the ground.
“I was in the village on Sunday afternoon when I got a call that my son had been arrested,¨ Mrs Ekekwe, Ndukwe´s mother, recalls.
“I took a night bus to Lagos from Abia state. It took me three days to find him at the Police College Clinic in Ikeja. He had been dumped there, cuffed to the bed with no treatment, and only being fed cold yoghurt.¨
Mrs. Ekwekwe arranged for an ambulance to take her son from the Police College Clinic to a private hospital in Ilupeju for tests.
The test results came out, revealing the serious extent of damage done to Ndukwe. He finally got admitted to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba.
“I have been the one taking care of him ever since that time,¨ Mrs. Ekwekwe laments. ¨His life has been turned around. His business has folded. We have spent all we have to get him treated.¨
Seeking justice, Ndukwe and his mother appeared before the Doris Okuwobi-led Judicial Panel of Inquiry in October 2020.
“The police have tried many tactics to get the case thrown out, including alleging that my son jumped by himself while trying to escape arrest,¨ Mrs Ekwekwe says. ¨They even presented a video to show he jumped, but they ended up incriminating themselves.”
After several adjournments and delays by the Nigerian Police, the Investigating Police Officer who had led the arrest of Ndukwe finally appeared before the Judicial Panel.
The panel had earlier registered its displeasure with the Police for the delay in providing the IPO, whom Ndukwe identified as Hamza Haruna.
During his appearance, Haruna alleged that his team had been tipped off about Ndukwe having ammunition and stolen goods in his store. But he could not back this allegation with evidence, nor could he justify why Ndukwe was arrested, tortured and robbed of his goods.
Haruna’s appearance and statement was a miracle: for the first time since the ill-fated incident three years ago, Ndukwe and his family got to at least know why the police had come after him.
While appealing for justice, Mrs Ekekwe lamented on how the ordeal had crippled her son’s legs and life as a whole, and how her family had exhausted all their financial resources on getting him treated. She pleaded with the authorities to help get her son back on his feet.
“He is my only son, our breadwinner,¨ she said, ¨I just want him to walk again, so he can get his life back. It hurts to see a very hardworking young man lie down helpless everyday.”