A 28-year-old lady recently became a victim of brutality after enduring an attack from some members of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit.
28-year-old Sewuese Matthew, a student of Business Administration at the Lagos State University, was allegedly brutalized by members of the task force after she was found doing a video recording of them while they were attacking a roadside vulcanizer.
According to her, she had come across the officials while they were harassing the vulcanizer around Durosimi-Etti drive, Lekki Phase 1, while she and her sister Lilian Ifemeludike, had gone to have their punctured tire repaired, and when they had tried to record the harassment with their phones, the officials pounced on them, beat them up thoroughly, leaving her with a broken arm and injuries on her face.
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“On Wednesday, February 8, my sister and I were going out of the estate in her car, when the car had a flat tyre. While we were at the vulcanizer’s place trying to fix the tyre, the task force officials stormed the area and packed wares displayed by the roadside.
There was chaos and some people were filming what was happening. I also tried to do so while my sister was pleading with them. A tall policeman among them walked up to me, snatched the phone and started punching me.
I ran to my sister, crying. He smashed the phone on the ground and she picked it. The officer and other policemen chased her and started hitting her until they collected the phone from her. I rushed there and pleaded with them to leave her. They punched me in the mouth, face and neck. I also broke my hand.”
Sewuese also said they had gone with the officials to their Oshodi office, and when they reported the incident to the chairman of the task force, SP Olayinka Egbeyemi, he condemned the assault.
“But when the officials appeared before the chairman, they told him a different story, saying we insulted them. The chairman then vowed to deal with us and we were detained. The next morning, they charged us to court in Ogba. I could not meet up my bail conditions that day, so I was taken to the Kirikiri Prison without my injuries being treated. I was released on Friday when the bail was perfected and I went to the Lagos Island General Hospital for treatment.”
Ifemeludike who happens to be a United Nations Women Empowerment champion, said the task force officials' conduct had breached their ethics. She said:
“What pained me most was the fact that they punched my sister in the eye. They could have arrested her if they felt she had done something wrong. Security operatives need to know when to use force and understand that they are dealing with humans. We were wrongly charged to court and my sister is still traumatised by what she went through in Kirikiri.”
According to the Public Relations Officer, of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Idowu Odebunmi, the association has planned a protest aimed at condemning the assault, on February 28. He said:
“Police abuse remains one of the most serious human rights violations in the world. There have been several reports of unjustified shootings, unlawful arrests, extortion, unlawful killings and rough treatment meted out to students, with the most recent being an unjustifiable attack unleashed on one of our female students, Sewuese Matthew.”
A spokesperson for the task force, Taofiq Adebayo, said they offended them by trying to do a video recording, as it contravened the laws of the agency. He also said Ifemeludike's phone was being kept as an exhibit.
“No responsible and responsive government will allow activities that contradict the state environmental law to go on. In the course of enforcing the law on the walkway on the estate, the machine of a vulcaniser was impounded. He had been warned several times not to position his machine by the roadside.
The ladies in question were not directly involved in the matter. But because they wanted to gauge the tyre, they intervened. One of them started filming with a phone. In enforcement, we don’t allow such. She was saying all sorts of things against the chairman and the state governor.
The case is now in court and the phone is still with the court as an exhibit. They were never assaulted. Members of the public don’t have the right to record enforcement agents performing their lawful duties without the permission of the authority.”