Special Report by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
On the 6th day of March, 2020, Hamilton Osarhenrhen Obazee, 44, father of four children took his phone to a nearby hotel, known as Megon Guest House in Benin City, Edo State capital to charge it.
A few days prior to his untimely death in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Benin, there had been frequent power outages. Whilst at the Megon Guest House charging his phone, members of SARS raided the hotel and arrested everyone there including Hamilton.
After two days of searching for him, his sister, Lady Mercy Obazee got wind of the release of those who were arrested at the hotel, but Hamilton was not among them.
According to her, the owner of the hotel was able to ascertain the whereabouts of all of his staff who were arrested by the SARS through a tracking device attached to one of his employees’ phones.
Armed with this knowledge of the whereabouts of her younger brother, Lady Obazee then went in search for him at the State headquarters of the Nigeria police in Benin City.
At the entrance to the police premises, Lady Obazee said, she was made to part with a princely sum of money before gaining entrance. While there, the police refused to have any dealings with her, insisting that her brother’s matter was already in court.
Armed with this information, she procured the services of a lawyer to defend her brother against whatever charges that may have been levelled against him.
Lady Obazee told journalists that while at the state police headquarters, a policeman appealed to the lawyer not to reveal to his clients that Hamilton was already dead, and his body deposited at a private hospital, known as Osula Hospital in Benin City.
Her personal investigations revealed that while in police custody, Hamilton was alleged to have been severely tortured for two days, with his hands and feet tied, and was denied food and water.
Lady Obazee has since then taken up the fight to bring justice to her brother – in the form of police taking responsibility for the burial of Hamilton Obazee and further upkeep of the four children he left behind.
The ages of the children range from 12, 8, 6 and 2. But justice has been elusive for Obazee. Till date, she has employed three lawyers, each asking for sundry sums to send letters of petition to the police high command.
The Obazee case, and indeed several other cases of alleged extrajudicial killings have caught the attention of respected civil society groups in Benin City.
One such organization, the One Love Foundation, an NGO in the vanguard of the protection of the human rights of Nigerians recently embarked on a peaceful protest against police brutality and sundry cases of killing of innocent Nigerians.
On Tuesday June 9, 2020, together with some other Civil Society groups, including the Talakawas Parliament, headed by Mr. Kola Edokpayi, One Love Foundation marched to the Police headquarters where Hamilton was allegedly tortured and killed by the police.
Part of the contents of a letter delivered to Johnson Kokumo, the newly redeployed commissioner of police during the peaceful demonstration said: “in recent times, a few examples of heinous crimes in our state include the rape and gruesome murder inside a church of a 22-year old Miss Vera Omozuwa, 100 level Microbiology undergraduate of the University of Benin, the kidnap and murders of Bar Osobase Iyoha, Hope Ediagbonya, a former Edo State Commissioner of Youth & Sports.”
In another strongly worded statement during the peaceful demonstration, One Love founder, Patrick Eholor who addressed police representative, Valentine Kanayo Uzuegbu said that cases of extrajudicial killings in Edo State were becoming too frequent.
“Edo people are peaceful and law abiding, and therefore the police must not take this peace-loving disposition for granted. Over here in Nigeria, our lives matter just like it does in the case of George Floyd.”
“We are therefore here as well to tell the police that there are too many killings. They are getting too many please. Part of our message to the police is that henceforth, if they kill any one Edo person again, they would have to kill us all thereafter.
“Enough of the police brutality and oppression. If the police are not being trained, equipped and given the incentives to do their job, Edo people are not the cause. We are tired of the police transferring their frustration on Edo people,” Chief Patrick Eholor said.
Even though police representative Uzuegbu promised to look into the issues being canvassed by the protest, Lady Mercy is not convinced. “The police are not our friend. They killed my brother who was in their custody and without informing us, sent his body to the mortuary.
“What kind of police tortures and kills those it arrests and hides their bodies? After they killed my brother, they asked me to come make a statement. Can you imagine that? I wish I could just jump on that policeman who was making those statements during the protest and tear him to pieces,” she said in tears.
Less than a month from this protest, Alltimepost.com published a story relating to the extra judicial killing of suspects in police custody. In that story, SARS operatives arrested two robbery suspects and allegedly had them summarily executed.
When the Edo state government heard about this, it summoned the former police commissioner Tanko Jimeta, who claimed that the suspects were still alive.
Alltimepost.com correspondent, Mike Osarogiagbon, doubling as a freelance journalist for the Nigerian Observer, who covered the story was also invited to government house to give ‘clarifications’ on the source of his story.
Mike was ‘detained’ in government house for five hours, and subsequently suspended by The Observer who working with the authority in one of the worst media cover-up of the 21st century.
Part of the issues that Alltimepost.com sought, inter alia, to unravel with the alleged summary execution of the suspects in that case included the following:
Why did the Observer retract the story of the alleged killing of the suspects when the police could not show proof that the allegation of extra-judicial killing slapped on them was false?
Prior to publishing this story on the latest alleged police extrajudicial killings, Alltimepost.com made spirited efforts to get both the Police image maker, Chidi Nwabuzor and the newly posted police Commissioner Babatunde Kokumo to either refute or confirm these weighty allegations.
None of them picked up their calls. Mr. Nwabuzor did not respond to text messages from Alltimepost.com, lending weight to strong suspicions that the police are indeed perpetrating an organized pogrom on members of the public and systematically working to undermine the rights of citizens under the law.
Many are of the view that newly-posted Edo State Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo knows his onions in Edo State, having first served from 2017 to 2019. Kokumo assumed duty as new CP last week.
This latest allegation of extrajudicial killing is unequivocally another test of his integrity in his second coming, even though it happened prior to his redeployment.
While the June 9th 2020 protest lasted, he sent a lieutenant instead of using the opportunity to personally assure Edo citizens of his resolve to put an end to the subject of the protest.
After US police knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, leading to his death, international outcry has seen police kneeling down publicly to try to mollify American citizens.
In Edo state, and with the rampant cases of extra-judicial killings, the police would do well to heed the warnings of the convener of the protest, Patrick Eholor, that it is only a matter of time before citizens take to the streets enmasse to take the laws into their own hands if they continue with their brazen disregard for human life.
PHOTOS from the protests: