How I was assaulted by police, woman tells judicial panel

SARS: Lagos Judicial Panel sitting

Ms. Nkemakolam Okpara, one of the two women seen in a viral video being assaulted by some police personnel in Lagos during the #EndSARS protest, has narrated to a judicial panel events that led to the the alleged incident.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okpara, 27, was led in evidence by her counsel, Mr. Ridwan Oke.

She told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for  Victims of SARS Related Abuses that the alleged incident occurred on Oct. 12 during the protest at Ojuelegba/Surulere area of Lagos.

She said that she was beaten by police personnel in Surulere.
Okpara testified that she went for a job interview on that day after which she decided to join the protest which was disrupted due to sounds of gunshots.

“I ran back toward Area C Police Station in Surulere and I was standing at the other side of the road when policemen started coming out.

“I tried doing a live video on twitter because of safety especially as everyone was running for safety,” she said.
Okpara said that while she was making the video, a man in a white attire approached her and asked her to stop, adding that  when she refused, he tried to snatch her mobile phone.

She said that she noticed that he had a gun and that he was a policeman.

According to the witness,  another policeman joined him and told her to follow them.

“I refused and they dragged me and one of the girls, who I was standing with, to the police station. I did not resist them but they were dragging me with force.

“We crossed over to the other side, to the police station, where there were so many policemen and they started beating me.

“This was not ordinary beating, they were slapping, punching and kicking me.

”My phone fell down and they smashed my phone because they felt that I wanted to put the video on the internet.

“They dragged me to the police station and continued beating me. I lost control of my body. I managed not let go of my phone because that was all I had,” Okpara said.

The petitioner said that one of the reasons she joined the protest was because she hated police brutality, testifying that when she was 12 years old, she and her sister were locked up in a police cell.

She alleged  that the beating in Surulere became worse and that five female police officers joined in brutalising her and the other lady.

She said she was not allowed to make phone calls call or contact her family members but was told to go to the counter and  asked to take off some of her clothes.

“There was no privacy, I had to take off my bra in front of a man sitting there. After taking off my bra, a policeman who wasn’t satisfied began beating a guy and the other lady with a broken stick.

“He went out and came back with anger and started hitting me with his gun. When he realised what he was doing,  he started hitting me on my abdomen with his boots,” she said.

Okpara said she was dehumanised by the police personnel.

She said that she and the unidentified lady she was arrested with were jointly detained in a police cell.

Okpara said she was asked to make a statement and was taken back to the police cell.

“Some other guys were taken upstairs and I saw Desmond Elliot, a man from government and lawyers who came to defend me.

“The man from government who came with Desmond Elliot said a video of two ladies being arrested and brutalised was trending online. That was how I got to know about the video.

“Desmond Elliot gave me N6,000 to find my way home. It was raining heavily.
“I could not get a taxi, I was crying and  traumatised, I walked to Tejuosho from the police station,” she said.

She added that she had to book a hotel room because she could not get a taxi to take her home in Ikorodu, Lagos.

Okpara said the police personnel who allegedly assaulted her had yet to be brought to book, adding that orderly room trials that were supposed to take place on Oct. 16 and Oct. 30 did not hold.

She said that she was given N200,000 by the divisional police officer to take care of her medical expenses.

She said that she and the police signed an agreement  that the money was for her healthcare and not settlement.

NAN reports that  Okpara through her lawyer tendered some photographs, medical reports and her damaged Nokia phone to the panel as exhibits.
Justice Doris Okuwobi adjourned the case until Dec. 4 for further hearing. (NAN)

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