The police, which arrested and paraded him, are unable to say what happened to him. They cannot produce any record of his arrest. He did not escape from police custody. There is also no evidence he was charged to court. Nobody knows his whereabouts.
Arrested for allegedly buying stolen goods
The police claimed he had bought a laptop stolen from Kehinde Bamigbetan, then chairman of the Ejigbo Local Development Council (he is the current Lagos State Commissioner for Information) who was kidnapped two months earlier.
For three days, Mr Adesuyi did not return home. Nobody knew his whereabouts. His mobile phone was switched off. Worried at his sudden disappearance, one of his friends called his parents, who live in Akure, some 310 kilometres north of Lagos, to ask if they had seen him.
The Adesuyis searched for Oluwaseyi at police stations and other places they thought he might be for several days without success.
Someone suggested they should check at the SARS office at Ikeja. They did and found his name on a register of arrested suspects. But at that point, their luck ran out of steam.
The family said the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) handling Oluwaseyi’s case was identified by an alias: Jamaica, which most of his colleagues called him. Members of SARS hardly wear the conventional police uniform. They are mostly dressed in mufti or branded SARS T-shirts and vests without name tags.
“They said this person you are looking for is an armed robber. Just for us to see him, they said no way. Till today we’ve never seen him,” she said.
Several weeks after the family’s repeated visits to SARS office without being allowed to see Oluwaseyi, Mrs Adesuyi received a call from a man who said he was detained in the same cell as Oluwaseyi but for a different offence.
“So, we called the number they gave us, and the man said he will help us. But he said that the phone they sold was an armed robber that got it and the vehicle he got, it was an armed robber that owns it,” she said.
She said the policeman who did not identify himself, demanded a bribe of N200,000.00, to help them secure the release of their son. They said because they were desperate to see Oluwaseyi they paid. But after paying, the policeman tried to squeeze them for more money.
A mother’s cry for help
“He is gentle. He doesn’t fight. He is my third son. He was attending Adeniran Ogunsanya, but little time he said no mommy, he was no longer going. That was how he got himself involved in buying and selling. Both me and his daddy we had no interest in it. We didn’t like that he was even selling things at Alaba. But he said they get things from China they bring it in and they buy from them,” she said.
“God says he is not dead, and I believe him. What we want if for us to trace him to any prison yard so that I will go and see him. That is all I want,” she said.
When this reporter visited the SARS office at Ikeja, where Oluwaseyi was last seen, for information about his whereabouts, he was told there was no way of knowing.
“I cannot help you because you don’t have the name of the officers in charge of the case at the time,” he said.
“Proper records of arrest are not kept. If I take you to were statements are kept you will see that everything is placed on the floor and on top each other. Some of them are even soaked with water. The incident happened five years ago. Even if we see the file, I am sure it would be unreadable; water would have made the ink unreadable,” he said.
Mr Gana, however, suggested that this reporter should reach out to the head of SARS in the state in 2013, Abba Kyari, for information about Oluwaseyi’s whereabouts.
“Wallahi I can’t remember anything. It’s a long time. Why didn’t they look for him (a) long time ago until now?” he asked in an SMS.
SARS was set up as a unit of the police to combat some of the most violent crimes in the country. However, the unit has endeared to itself a notoriety that is hard to shake-off due to the highhandedness of its officers. SARS operatives have been accused of harassment, extortion, torture and serial extrajudicial killings and other human right abuses.
A rigged criminal justice system
“This just proves how dangerous the path is to having proper policing in a country such as Nigeria. A country with so much population and so much risk in terms of policing to the extent that people disappear at will and nobody cares. You cannot even time documents, you can’t even trace anything and get to an accountable process of identifying what could have probably happened to anybody. This puts everybody in danger.
“So, the criminal justice system by itself is dangerously rigged to the point where nobody is safe,” he said.
He said the best way to solve the problem is a sincere reform of the police that includes a custody management system that will ensure that people arrested by the police do not disappear without a trace.
“The reform that we are looking at must be holistic to the point where we have what they called custody management system where nobody would be detained without a proper record that anybody can trace from anywhere and that is the future for policing in Nigeria,” he said.