Covid-19: Movement Restriction and the Need to Check Police Excesses – Lawyer Shares Horrifying Experience

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On April 30, 2020, a Lagos based lawyer Mr. Gabriel  Agwu, suddenly became sick and after speaking to his family doctor, needed to get some over the counter drugs. He drove out of his house at about 9pm to a pharmacy shop and on his way back, was accosted by men of the Nigerian Police Force who were enforcing the Lagos State Covid-19 curfew order.

The fact that Mr. Agwu was sick and on his way back from a pharmacy shop was not reason enough for the Policemen to appreciate that for every rule, there should exist exceptions. Mr. Agwu should have stayed back home regardless. Mr. Agwu was arrested detained, dehumanised and his vehicle impounded for “violating” curfew order.

Narrating his ordeal, Agwu, said that on April 30, 2020 which was a Thursday at about  9:00 hours,  to go and buy an antimalarial drug from the pharmacy. He said that he drove out shortly after to the Apple Junction axis of Amuwo Odofin area which was less than a kilometre from his house to get the prescribed medication from a pharmacy store by the junction.

“Having bought the medicine, I drove about 100 metres further to do a U-turn by the junction and head back to my house. Immediately I turned by the roundabout, I was stopped by some police officers and asked where I was coming from. I told them I just got a drug from a pharmacy and heading back home. They demanded to know why it was at that hour and I explained that my symptoms just became unbearable and I spoke to my doctor.

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“The officer I was explaining to asked me what I do for a living and I told him I am a legal practitioner. He simply beckoned on another uniformed officer who was wielding a rifle to enter my car and take me to the station.

“I obeyed them and drove with the officer to their police station which eventually was the Area ‘E’ Police Command in Festac.

“Immediately we parked in front of the station, the Area Commander jumped off a patrol van and instructed that I should be detained forthwith until the following morning.

“I was eventually detained as he instructed without any statement taken from me or any form of official documentation made in respect of the detention order. They immediately confiscated my phone and all pleas for me to at least inform my wife that I was being detained at the said station fell on deaf ears.”

Agwu said he  pleaded endlessly with one Seargent Shuaibu Enoch who was on duty to at least allow him communicate with his family to let them know his whereabouts, but it was futile.

“I was physically shoved into the cell where I was eventually detained overnight in the company of 13 other persons who were purportedly also arrested for allegedly violating the lockdown.

“It is noteworthy that as at the time of this arrest, there was no curfew in place in Lagos.”

The lawyer explained that he was detained in a one room cell at the Area ‘E’ Police Command of Lagos State Police Command (Festac) where he slept with other detainees literally lying on each other.

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“I began to wonder between me and our arrestors who actually violated the social distancing rule of COVID-19.

“Before I was detained, I was denied the right to remove my valuables from my car which was eventually taken to the Task Force premises at the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa.

“The following morning, we were conveyed to the CID Department at Panti Street, Yaba, Lagos. The mobile court didn’t sit on that day which was May 1, 2020 (May Day). Although I was fortunate to get administrative bail therefrom, about 70 other persons arrested from various points in Lagos were shoved into one ‘Black Maria’ Van (so much for social distancing) and taken to the Lagos State Task Force office at Oshodi where they spent three nights and were eventually arraigned on Monday, May 4, 2020.

Agwu said that he held his peace until after he read the executive order of the State Governor to the effect that all vehicles impounded in connection with alleged violation of the lockdown order should be released free of charge.

He said that upon getting to Alausa the next day, he discovered that his vehicle had been vandalised and all the valuables therein which they refused him to take out had been removed.

“I still held my peace until this morning when they began arraigning alleged violators of COVID-19 at the Task Force office at Oshodi. The sitting magistrate to our greatest dismay was ordering the payment of N50,000 as a precondition for the release of any vehicle impounded for allegedly violating the Covid-19 executive order(s).”

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Apparently worried by the high level of high-handedness, inhumane treatment and extortion, the victims cried out and decided that it was high time they told Nigerians what the Lagos State Government was doing to it’s residents in the name of COVID-19 lockdown enforcement.

Agwu who claims that his valuables like laptop, power bank, clipper bag, etc., were removed from his car, vowed to challenge his arrest and detention in court of law.

Culled: The Niche

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