Row over death of businessman in police custody

By Editor on 20/06/2020

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The late Godwin Chukwudi Julius

What led to the death in custody of a Lagos businessman, Godwin Chukwudi Julius? Why did the police ignore doctors’ advice that he should be granted bail when it became obvious that his health had deteriorated in custody? These are posers the family members of the 48-year-old father of four want the people in charge at the Anti-Fraud Unit of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos to answer in the interest of justice.

The bereaved family of the late Julius, a native of Isu, Nwangele Local Government Area, Imo State, also urged both the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu and the Lagos State Police Command to probe the circumstances that led to their son’s death.

The family wondered why their son was denied adequate medical attention despite advice from two ‘police’ doctors, even at the point of death.

The late Julius, an importer of goods from Europe, was arrested on May 22 for alleged complicity in a case of fraud with one Obinali Osuwoke. He was arrested alongside his bereaved wife, Ogorchukwu, who was later released in the evening of the same day. He however died in police custody on Saturday June 6.

The family spokesperson, Mr. Nnamdi Akano, said the police detained the late business man in spite of obvious signs that he was seriously ill.

Nnamdi said: “He was an importer, a breadwinner for his family with a young wife and four children who are now left to bemoan the crude fate that befell them and a future without their beloved father.

“My brother was arrested on May 22. He was accused of fraud/forgery with one Obinali Osuwoke.  He explained to the police during interrogation that the money found in his bank account belonged to one of his friends. He subsequently took them to the person through which the money came into his account (Osunwoke).

“When he was taken into custody, he explained the whole situation to the head of the SCID, Mrs. Yetunde O. Longe, a Deputy Commissioner of Police. The woman wanted to release him on bail so that he could come whenever he was needed, but her deputy, one Mr. Oketunji, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, refused, saying that granting him bail would jeopardise investigation.

“As a family, we are bitter and we are calling for an investigation. Why did they ignore doctors’ advice to take our brother for proper treatment until he collapsed and subsequently died? Why was the advice of the doctors not heeded to release him on bail so he could seek proper treatment in a hospital? Why did the police suddenly release the second suspect immediately they saw that our brother died, after their initial insistence that freeing him on bail would jeopardise the case?

“Now that they have hurriedly released the second suspect after killing our brother, won’t the release of the second person jeopardise the case? We want answers to why the police held our brother and watched him die. We want the Inspector General of Police to order a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of our brother and why he was denied medical help when it was obvious he was very sick.”

 

Julius’ widow, Ogorchukwu, also demanded justice over her husband’s death in police custody, noting that the wrath of God would visit the officers for maltreating her husband till he died.

She said: “My husband was hale and hearty when he was taken away by the police to SCID. I was arrested with him but they later released me in the evening of the day because we had locked up our four children at home while we were being arrested, and there was no one to take care of them in our absence.

“We pleaded with the ACP Oketunji, who is in charge of the Fraud Unit, to consider my husband’s health. My husband was hypertensive and he was sleeping on bare floor with exposure to stench from the cell. So, he started coughing and his health deteriorated.

“Even the doctors who tested him at the instance of SCID said he should be released on bail because of his deteriorating health, but the police, especially ACP  Oketunji refused, leading to my husband’s death in custody.”

Recalling the events that led to Julius’ death, Osunwoke said: “I was arrested a day after my brother, Godwin Chukwudi Julius, was picked up. I was with him throughout the period of his detention until he died.

“I was picked up on Saturday, May 23. From the first day we were arrested, our family members came for our bail, which was turned down by the police. The case was directly under ACP Oketunji.

“My people then approached Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Longe, who is the head of SCID.  When they met the woman, she said she could not do anything and that the police should be allowed to do their work. That was how we were detained.

“First, the cell was overcrowded. People were collapsing right inside the cell. While we were still in detention, three people slumped. They brought them out but we didn’t know what happened to them subsequently because we were inside the cell.

“There, detainees slept just anywhere they found space, sitting, standing or kneeling down until the next morning. We were lumped together with murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping suspects, among others.

“Right from when he was detained, my brother (Julius) had been complaining of ill health to the Investigating Police Officer (IPO), Mr. Adebowale. To be honest with you here, the IPO was very good to us. He did everything he could to help my brother after he found that he was hypertensive.

“After some time, he complained of feeling feverish and kept on complaining that he was not strong. The IPO relayed the complaint to his immediate boss. He told his boss that my brother was not feeling well. The IPO was instructed to take him to a nearby drug store opposite the Anti- Fraud Unit’s office.

“We took him to the pharmacy, they checked and gave him some drugs, including antibiotics. He paid about N3,000. He was brought back to the cell. But his condition did not improve, rather, it got worse.

“While in the cell, we didn’t wear any clothe; we only wore shorts. We slept on bare floor. Despite the drugs, he was still complaining of ill health.

“Penultimate Wednesday when our family members came to SCID, we told them his condition was deteriorating.  On that same day, the police took us to court to get an extension of the period of our detention. The court asked us to come back last Friday.

“When the police lawyer read what they were asking for, our lawyer explained to the court that we had been detained for more than 15 days for an offence we could be given a bail. The lawyer also drew the court’s attention to the precarious health condition of my brother, but the judge gave the police permission to detain us for another 21 days.

“Immediately we came out from the court that Friday, his condition became worse. The IPO saw the condition when we returned to SCID, Panti, and called his boss again, explaining the condition of my brother.

“When his boss came upstairs to where we were, he asked them to call somebody I presumed to be a doctor. He asked my brother what was the problem and my brother started explaining.

 

Row over death of businessman in police custody - The Nation Nigeria

“The medical personnel they called said mere looking at my brother, he was not strong.  He said he was not going to examine him, not to talk of treating him. He asked the police officers whether the offence was bailable. The officers said it was bailable and he advised that he should be allowed to go home and treat himself.

“The only thing the man did was to examine his eyes.  The IPO’s supervisor met us there, took the medical personnel out for a private discussion. My brother was subsequently taken to a hospital at Obalende, Lagos Island. The hospital at Obalende rejected him.

“From there, they took him to another hospital in Yaba. I didn’t go with them. After about 40 minutes, they came back. That was between 6:30pm and 7pm on that Saturday.

“The IPO called his bosses. When they came, a senior policewoman shouted that the deceased should be taken to a Police Hospital at Falomo. She also instructed that I should go with them and hold my brother.

“When we got there, they called the doctor that was to examine him. After the doctor examinined him, he said that he was not going to admit him because his breathing was not normal. The doctor also asked if the offence was bailable and the IPO said it was bailable.

“The police doctor at Falomo advised that they should free him on bail, so that he could see his personal doctor for proper medical treatment.  The doctor told them categorically, ‘Please, do not put him back in cell. Don’t put him in a crowded area.’ The doctor also prescribed some drugs.

“When we returned to SCID, Panti, the IPO went upstairs to inform DCP Longe about the situation. He came back to tell the officers on duty  that DCP Longe instructed that we should be detained in a place they called ‘Open Cell’.  It is not the main cell.

“Those at the counter said they had no such instruction from their boss. When we got inside the cell, I sat in the open place. They wanted to take us inside and I was complaining to them that DCP Longe gave instructions that we should not be taken in there because my brother was sick, but the policemen did not listen to me. Instead, they asked if I was the one to teach them their job.

“My brother was trying to explain with difficulty when the officers hit and pushed us into the main cell. After some time, one of the officers on duty instructed that my brother should come to the open cell. I told them to allow me to come out since I would be the one to monitor his condition, but they refused.

“I was able to be observe him through the gate to the main cell. Throughout the night, he was snoring and coughing. I was hearing the noise.

“Around 3 am, convinced that he was seriously sick, the policemen asked for his IPO and we told them. They asked me to come and stay with him. Around 6 am when those on morning duty took over and it was time for head count of detainees, they also asked who my brother’s IPO was and I told them. They called him and he came around 9 am.

“We were brought out and told to dress up. My brother was shaking feverishly and breathing with difficulty. They made a call to ACP Oketunji and requested that we should go home because of his condition.  He instructed that he should call our relatives but that my brother should be rushed to Military Hospital at Yaba.

“They brought a car. I was holding him. While on our way, ACP Oketunji was calling, trying to monitor the condition. I was also calling my people.

“When we got there, it took about one hour to get his details. It was not treated as an emergency. This was between 10:30 am and 11:00 am. My brother was breathing with difficulty and sweating profusely.

“They went and brought an oxygen tank and put an oxygen mask on his nose. He took a deep breath, slumped and died. The doctor tried to resuscitate him but later pronounced him dead.

“After some time, they came again, removed his face mask, brought something like cotton wool, pushed a long medical tool into his mouth and brought it out. They also asked me to open his nose. I told them that nobody should come and tell me that he is COVID-19 positive. He was not.”

Contacted, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr Elkanah Bala, said Julius was detained on court order for his complicity in a fraudulent transaction, but he took ill and died.

‘From the brief I got (from SCID), he was detained on court order on the allegations of using federal government documents to defraud an international organisation.

“He took ill in custody and was referred to an isolation centre for Covid19 patients at Yaba, where he died.”

 

 

Source Culled from The Nation

Posted on June, 20 2020

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