In News by Oluwaseun Samuel on the 22nd, October, 2020

I Could not Stroll However Crawled With My Buttocks After SARS Males Brutalised Me

I Couldn't Walk But Crawled With My Buttocks After SARS Men Brutalised Me

Kofi Bartels

Kofi Bartels

On this interview with The PUNCH, Kofi Bartels, a Nigerian broadcaster based mostly in Port Harcourt-based reveals how he was nearly crushed to demise by operatives of the Particular Anti-Theft Squad and his efforts to get justice

You had been as soon as attacked by operatives of the now disbanded Particular Anti-Theft Squad. Are you able to recall what occurred?

On June four, 2019, I used to be driving in my space and heard somebody screaming in ache. The scream was so loud; I made a decision to park my automobile after noticing that the scream was coming from beside a bus parked on a avenue in my space. On getting out of my automobile, I observed about 4 policemen and two civilians beating up a boy who lives within the space. I later came upon that they had been all from SARS. They hit the boy’s ankles, knees and elbows with what they’d of their fingers, together with a 2×2 baton, weapons and machetes. It was clear the boy was in excruciating ache as he squealed every time he was hit.

After I noticed what was occurring, I simply couldn’t deliver myself to stroll away. The teenage boy stored shouting: ‘What have I completed?’ whereas they tried to power him into their bus. They had been beating the hell out of him. His mum is a petty dealer within the space and I knew instantly that the household wouldn’t be capable of ‘settle’ the officers. I made to go plead with them, however at a level hesitated and selected to take a shot of the bus and the quantity plate in order that I might monitor them in the event that they succeeded in taking the boy away.

What occurred afterward?

Whereas at a protected distance, I took some photos and commenced to movie with my telephone. After just a few seconds, one of many policemen observed what I used to be doing and commenced to strategy me. I shortly stopped the recording and made to elucidate who I used to be to the policeman. However he appeared not inquisitive about what I used to be saying and went for my knees with the heavy 2×2 baton he was holding. After relentlessly smashing my knees with the piece of wooden, the opposite cops joined him. I used to be given the beating of my life proper on the highway. They smashed my knees repeatedly with picket bars. Earlier than I knew what was occurring, I used to be dragged into the bus and handcuffed to somebody already seated within the bus, a younger man they’d picked up earlier.

The place did the operatives take you to after the torture?

I was taken to the SARS headquarters in Port Harcourt by which era my left knee had swelled up. The swelling was so unhealthy that I couldn’t stroll out of the bus. I needed to crawl out from the bus with my buttocks. I used to be dragged to a detention room and crushed extra mercilessly by the SARS officers, who took me there. About three others additionally joined in beating me. They took turns to slap, punch and kick me throughout my physique in a detention room, whereas I used to be struggling to face with the swollen knee.

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At least, six officers, separately, participated in beating me for what appeared like a few hours. At some extent, I misplaced listening to in a single ear as a result of punches and slaps. One officer swore that he would have ‘wasted’ me if his group had been the one which picked me up. I used to be informed to get able to be thrown into their cell, the place I might obtain the worst torture, together with sexual abuse by male inmates. I later came upon this was considered one of their torture strategies, sexual abuse on male inmates by different male inmates. A few them informed me to look at my again, saying that was my finish in Rivers State as a result of human rights points we deal with on radio involving SARS and the police usually.

What was the response of your organisation after the incident?

My then employers, Nigeria Data FM, ran the story of my abduction by SARS operatives for some hours that day however later pulled the story down due to strain from the police. The identical police paid an apology go to to Nigeria Data and promised to deliver the officers to justice, which hasn’t occurred until date going by the knowledge out there to me. I fairly a lot was left to hunt justice on my own. I dealt with my medical bills on my own and pursued the case with the police Provost Marshal on my personal.

Your encounter with SARS occurred final 12 months; what efforts have you ever made to get justice?

I filed a elementary human rights case towards the Federal Authorities and the Nigeria Police Drive on the Excessive Court docket in Port Harcourt in 2019. The case continues to be on however has progressed very slowly as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, which meant that the courts had been shut. Proper now, we’re ready for a brand new date for the listening to to renew within the matter. These joined within the swimsuit didn’t present up on the first listening to and the choose requested us to serve them once more. This additionally contributed to stalling the case.

Had been you in a position to establish any of the SARS operatives who attacked you then?

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These, who had been a part of the preliminary group that kidnapped me, had been recognized and made to bear an orderly room trial on the Rivers State Police Command. I attended the trial and gave my testimony earlier than the Provost Marshall, however I don’t know what disciplinary motion, if any, was taken towards the SARS operatives. It was arduous to search out these, who joined in beating me on the SARS headquarters, however I gave the police their description. The data I’ve is that a few of them had been discovered.

 

You had been rushed to hospital after the assault; what went by your thoughts after the encounter?

I was involved about whether or not I might stroll usually once more, as a result of the ache was a lot that at some extent, I felt like my left knee would snap off from my leg. I had to make use of a neck brace for about two months as a result of of the ache in my neck. What scared me probably the most had been the nightly flashbacks I used to be having. It was nightmarish. I needed to seek the advice of a psychiatrist, who prescribed some medicine, which helped me enormously. It’s one thing I don’t ever need to expertise once more. For some time, I additionally skilled one thing like panic every time I noticed a policeman on the highway. Until this present day, my left knee hurts, despite the fact that I stroll usually and do different bodily actions. I nonetheless really feel ache within the knee.

Do you consider the court docket gives you justice after over a 12 months that the incident occurred?

The wheel of justice, they are saying, grinds slowly. The proof out there to the court docket may be very clear and I’m assured that justice will probably be served. This can be a take a look at case for human rights in Nigeria, particularly with the agitation occurring within the nation in the intervening time. Nigerians will see that they’ll belief the judiciary to guard their rights, and that certainly the establishment continues to be the hope of the widespread man.

How do you’re feeling with the scrapping of SARS?

The scrapping of SARS alone won’t make issues higher. The place will the SARS officers be redeployed to? Will they abruptly change their methods? Thoughts you, there are different police models which were accused of acts of brutality. A living proof is the demise of a Port Harcourt-based mechanic, Chima Ikwunado, within the detention of a unit referred to as Eagle Crack. His post-mortem report indicated that he was principally butchered to demise by the police. All these points that come up from the systemic corruption within the Nigeria Police should be addressed. What’s required is a complete overhaul of the Nigeria Police Drive.

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We stay in a rustic the place policemen should contribute cash to gas their patrol vans. That’s completely absurd. The place is all the cash being budgeted for safety going? No policeman ought to have to purchase even a pen. Till that occurs, the endemic corruption within the police gained’t go away.

As a journalist, you must count on such an assault as one of many hazards of the journalism occupation. Was your expertise with SARS approach out of your expectation?

I agree with you that journalists regularly face police harassment. It’s half of the job, but when these policemen, who picked me up had been of their proper senses, they’d have handled me in another way. I do know that the typical policeman won’t need something to do with torturing a journalist simply like that. As a result of they had been intoxicated, my pleas to them that I used to be a journalist fell on deaf ears. Journalists should obtain safety by the regulation.

How a lot will compensate in your nasty expertise within the fingers of the SARS operatives?

In fact, no amount of cash can compensate for all I skilled and nonetheless experiencing at the moment because of that incident. I used to be frightened for my aged father, who was resting at residence whereas gunshots had been being fired on my avenue. He heard concerning the incident although we tried arduous to cover it from him. He was being handled for stroke on the time. Think about him seeing his son within the morning trying regular after which within the night limping with a swollen knee and swollen face. I used to be frightened for him, however God stored him steady for us. Nevertheless, I’m searching for N650m in compensation. I consider that when the authorities are made to pay for crimes towards humanity by safety businesses, they may suppose twice earlier than harassing anybody. Officers of the regulation are supposed to defend and not assault us.

Will you at any level contemplate settling out of court docket if the police come begging?

Something is feasible. I’ll seek the advice of with my attorneys if such a suggestion is made. Until then, we are going to proceed to keep up the assumption that our courts can ship justice to the widespread man and we are going to proceed with the court docket case.

***

Supply: The PUNCH

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