The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing allegations of human rights abuses against the disbanded police Special Anti-Robbery Squad on Saturday gave a cheque of N7.5m to a 40-year-old man, Marc Nwadi, unduly incarcerated for six years in at the Kirikiri prison without trial.
Nwadi had during his appearance before the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel recounted how his inability to pay a bribe of N10,000 to policemen in the Idimu area of Lagos led him to prison where he spent six years unjustly.
In her ruling on Saturday, Justice Okuwobi said “The petitioner was incarcerated in the prime of his life without justification for six years and was never tried or sentenced for any crime despite enduring a long six-year stay in prison and losing a vital part of his youth and opportunities.
“We hereby give an award of N7.5m in favour of the petitioner.”
The panel chairman also recommended that the Investigating Police Officer in charge of the case should be suspended for six months without pay.
Nwadi had told the panel that he was only 18 years old when he was picked by policemen at a bus stop in the Egbeda area of Lagos State in May 1999.
He said he had just completed secondary school education at the time and had the ambition of studying journalism.
He said he came from Abia State to Lagos State to look for his brother who was living then in Egbeda. But on getting to the address given to him at about 9.30pm, one young man told him that his brother no longer lived there.
He said the neighbours could not tell him where his brother relocated to and because it was already late, he begged a barber operating in the building to let him pass the night in his shop.
Nwadi said he got up the following morning at about 5.30am and headed for the bus stop with a plan to look for his uncle at Surulere.
He said he was standing at the bus stop with his travel bag and a polythene bag alongside other persons waiting for a bus, when a police vehicle suddenly appeared, stopped and policemen began to arrest people.
Nwadi said fresh arrest, he tried to explain and ask questions but was beaten each time he tried to speak.
He said he and five other persons, including some females, were eventually taken to Idimu Police Station, where one Friday, a policeman, demanded N100,000 from each of them.
He said soon, others were freed but because he had no money, he was kept in the cell and Friday came every day to beat him.
“It has been 20 years, you can still see those marks on my body. The marks have been a horror. Anytime I pull my clothes, my wife and children will be crying,” Nwadi said.
He said after weeks at Idimu Police Station, Monday called him one day and said he would be transferred to SARS office in Ikeja, except he could pay N10,000.
He said he lamented that he had no such money and was therefore transferred to SARS where the torture was even worse.
He said he was eventually paired with someone, tagged an armed robber, arraigned in court and sent to Kirikiri Prison where he spent five years.
“I can’t see clearly now; I am partially blind. I can also not hear properly because of many slaps,” Nwadi said, adding that it was a youth corps member, Eric Ugwuoke, serving in the Nigerian Prison Service, who listened to his story and eventually facilitated his release in October 2004.
“That is my ordeal in the hands of the Nigeria Police. It has been a long time but I cannot forget. They killed my ambition. After my O’ Level, my ambition was to study journalism. Since then, I have hated the Nigeria police; I don’t know what I will tell my children,” Nwadi had told the panel.