27-year-old car dealer, Benson Obode, was allegedly beaten to death while in police custody in Edo state. According to leadership, Benson, a young businessman who sold cars to eke a living, was arrested by a team of armed policemen from Lagos command accompanied with some officer from the Edo State Police Command on May 21st over allegations that he was an armed robber.
Efforts by family members and their lawyer to reach him while he was in police custody according to his elder sister, Mrs Osawaru Izeyi, failed as they refused him to gain access to a lawyer or see any family member. They were later to find out that his corpse was deposited at Central Hospital Benin mortuary few weeks ago.
According to his sister:
“He (Benson) passed the night in my house and in the morning, he swept the compound and left to his rented apartment. I was later called on phone that people were holding him and when I got there, I saw his landlord and other people holding him down. I asked what happened and he said he doesn’t know but that they said the police came to arrest him but that he couldn’t tell what offence he had committed. Not quite long after, the policemen came back in a Toyota Highlander.
They wore earrings and dreadlocks. If not for the police colour on their rifles, I would have doubted if they were indeed real policemen. I asked them of what my brother had done, they said I didn’t have any right to ask them questions. I begged that they should tell me but they did not talk to me. One of them collected my phone. I had to go back home, dressed up and went back to the state command. We saw the policemen and tried to talk to them but they did not allow us to talk at all. We waited endlessly to see who could talk to us but nobody did. We went to see OC SARS here in Edo State but he did not attend to us too.
They only told us later that he bought a stolen vehicle and that he was an armed robber; I was surprised. He stayed with me for a long time and he never took my money. If he didn’t have money, he always requested from me and I would give him. The policeman insisted that he is a thief and that they are ‘scorpion SARS’ from Lagos. The next day, May 22nd, we went back with a lawyer since nobody was listening to us so that they could talk to him and if possible, see my brother so that we could ask him some questions.
But they did not allow the lawyer to talk to them. The lawyer waited and eventually, they said he was an armed robber but even then, they did not allow the lawyer to see him. He later told me “na lawyer you carry come, you go waka, you go tire.” I asked of what that could mean. The following day, May 23rd, when we got there, he said they had moved my brother to Abuja and we later called a lawyer in Abuja to help us search police stations there. He went there but could not see my brother. Later, the police told us again that they had taken him to Ikeja, Lagos.
My uncle who is a policeman went there and searched several police stations but did not see him. He is 26. He goes to Cotonu; buys cars and sell them with little gains. Sometimes, people send cars from abroad and he helps them to market them. He has never been linked with any act of violence at all and he never told me he had any issue with anybody.
They have been staying with me since our father died. Assuming he is a stubborn person, we won’t take it like this. I don’t know what to do again; we are tired.
My mother is in my house and she is worried. Once she heard any phone call, she would jump up and come to me to ask, ‘What are they saying about my son?’ Only yesterday, she said I should take her to Lagos. I asked her, ‘To do what?’ She said I should just take her there. We are tired and confused,” she said.
They were to be informed later that his corpse had been deposited at the Central Hospital, Benin by some policemen led by one Corporal Oniyon Musa some few weeks ago. This sparked off protest and outrage by family members including members of the civil society in Benin city as this was the second time a resident in the state died while in police custody. Recall some months ago, a staff of protea hotel, 27-year-old Chibuike Edeh, died while in police custody after he was arrested over allegations that he stole N48, 000.
The protesters stormed the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly, Edo Government House and headquarters of Edo State Police Command, demanding that an independent autopsy be carried out on Benson’s corpse to determine the cause of his death.
An elder brother of late Benson, Solomon, said his body was deposited at the morgue as Benson Agu instead of Benson Obode.
“Until now, they have not told the family anything. They broke the news to journalists in Lagos and not the family. We don’t know what has happened to our brother. How could somebody you arrest be mobbed? We saw him at the morgue that he was killed by torture and was shot. His landlord who was also arrested said my brother was tied and hung on a tree while blocks were placed on his chest. We have informed our lawyers.
They have written to the IGP and we are asking the police to produce our brother. They said the boy bought a stolen car but the complainant we do not know. How did he die?
The police should tell the family what happened.”