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“They Said They Would Kill Me And They Almost Did.”

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When SARS officers arrested Ugochukwu Oraefo, the 34-year-old sought to know what his crime was. As an alternative, what he acquired as a response from the vicious officers was a traumatic expertise that took 4 days of hospitalization to get well from.

Within the early hours of April 30, 2018, three heavy-looking males in a Toyota Camry 2.2 stormed my ALUCOBEST Aluminum Retailer within the southeastern Nigerian city of Ogidi. The boys wielded AK-47 rifles. 



My identify is Ugochukwu Oraefo. I’m 34, and a father of 5 kids. I promote aluminium roofing sheets, metra roofing sheets, stone-coated roofing tiles and different kinds of roofing supplies.  

That fateful day three years in the past, I used to be in my retailer with my spouse. The boys wielding the weapons instructed me they have been law enforcement officials. They requested me to behave as if I knew them and observe them. I used to be confused, so I refused. I requested to know if anybody had written a petition in opposition to me. They stated they’d inform me every little thing I wanted to know provided that I’d enter their automobile. 

All of it sounded fishy, so I refused –  once more.

Later, the three males recognized themselves as officers of the Particular Anti-Theft Squad (SARS) in Awkuzu, a city in Anambra. After I continued to insist on not following them, they started to assault me with their weapons. 

Quickly, involved individuals gathered. They requested what the issue was, however the SARS officers didn’t say what offence I had dedicated. As an alternative, they stated anyone who wished to know what my offence was must observe them to their workplace. I instructed the gang that I had refused to observe the lads as a result of for all I knew, they might be kidnappers.

I requested for an arrest warrant, however the SARS officers sarcastically requested whether or not I assumed I used to be the governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, for me to suppose they wanted to acquire a warrant from me.

“We’ll kill you when you fuck up,” they threatened.

I instructed them that it was higher for them to kill me there, within the presence of onlookers, than to take me away and kill me anyhow they wished, within the presence of nobody. By that, I appeared to have angered them the extra, as a result of they began beating me once more. 

One of many SARS officers instructed me he was a soldier, claiming that what they have been doing was ‘teamwork’. I requested what this supposed ‘teamwork’ was, however they solely continued to beat me. 

Later, the SARS officers gave me their telephone and requested that I communicate with their Officer in Cost (OC).

I had taken a sound beating by then and was not precisely within the temper to talk, however I pulled myself collectively and requested the OC what my offence was. The OC instructed me to cease asking “silly” questions and simply observe his males. I stood my floor and refused to conform, insisting that the OC let everybody know the offence they have been claiming I had dedicated. The OC instructed me to return the telephone to his males. I did as I used to be instructed. Sadly, the lads resumed beating me.

After a while, I started to collapse. I requested my spouse to name my lawyer, Justus Ijeoma. Ijeoma requested her to offer the telephone to the SARS officers, however they refused to talk to him. When the officers observed I used to be not prepared to observe them until they spoke to Ijeoma, they requested my spouse to name him once more. She did. This time, the officers instructed Ijeoma who they have been, and he agreed for me to observe them.

After we reached the SARS workplace, the officers threatened me. They stated they’d ‘deal with’ my stubbornness. 

They later took me to the yard of their workplace. There, they tied my palms and legs behind my again, then they introduced out a steel rod, which they put between my sure palms and legs. They positioned two heavy concrete blocks on my again, earlier than hanging me up.

They stated they’d ‘deal’ with me as a result of I used to be ‘spoiling’ their ‘present’; no matter that meant. They later requested me how a lot I used to be prepared to pay for my freedom. It was this request for a bribe that acquired me satisfied I had certainly been kidnapped. 

Burdened by the discomfort, I requested them how a lot they wished. I don’t bear in mind a lot of what occurred afterward, as a result of I handed out from being hanged for a very long time. They finally introduced me down and untied me, taking me to a cell.

Within the night of that very same day, they introduced me out and requested if I used to be prepared to inform them how a lot I wished to pay.

I requested them once more to inform me what crime I had dedicated at the very least. 

“You continue to wish to know what your offence is?!” they responded rudely. “Okay! No drawback.” 

I broke into tears at that time. I used to be bored with all of it. I pleaded with them to let me understand how a lot they wished so every little thing would come to an finish.

The SARS officers stated they wished 20 million naira. I provided to offer them two million. They weren’t happy. They mocked my supply, asking me if I assumed I had come to their station to promote crayfish. 

Because the negotiations continued, and with a few of their colleague officers there calling me a legal, the SARS officers took me again to the yard and threatened to tie me up once more. I pleaded and promised to extend the cash to a few million naira. 

Thoughts you, throughout the whole interval, the SARS officers didn’t enable anyone to go to me. My spouse continued to run my store whereas ready for my lawyer to return from his travels from his travels 

The officers, at some extent, threatened to kill me, believing that I used to be not prepared to pay the cash they have been demanding. 

They requested for my account quantity and I offered it. They then took me again to my cell.

The subsequent day, they introduced me out. They requested me if I wished to ‘die’ of their station. I stored pleading. The officers remained unmoved.

On the third day of my detention, which was Might 2nd, the three SARS officers that arrested me instructed me they have been going to take me to an undisclosed location the place they’d ‘kill’ me for being troublesome about giving in to their demand. I used to be blindfolded, handcuffed and pushed away.

The drive took nearly an hour. When the automobile stopped, the SARS officers introduced me down and, nonetheless capable of see barely by the blindfold, I spotted the place was in neighbouring Delta State, given the inscriptions on the signboards I used to be barely capable of see.

I additionally noticed a pit stuffed with water, which one of many three officers requested me to maneuver near. The opposite officers have been pointing their weapons at me. The commanding officer requested why I didn’t wish to give them cash. “I’ve given my account quantity,” I responded desperately. “I don’t have as much as 20 million naira.”

I requested them why they wished to kill me, however they nonetheless wouldn’t inform me what I’d completed. They solely stated they have been able to ‘end’ me. 

The commanding officer instructed the opposite officers to shoot me on the rely of three. I used to be damaged at this level. I wept. I begged. I requested them to take all the cash in my account and spare my life. All I had then was 5 million naira.

The officers, although, insisted they’d nonetheless kill me – however that they’d take the cash as effectively.

On the commanding officer’s rely of three, I shut my eyes and heard the sound of gunshots.

I regained consciousness to seek out out it had been a mock execution.

They took me again to their station, the place one of many officers requested if I knew the place I used to be. “Sure, Sir,” I bear in mind responding.

One other popped up and stated he wished  to ‘end’ me,  however their commanding officer, Sunday Okpe, requested them to  deliver me to him. Okpe requested the officers to go away after they introduced me to him. 

After I took a seat, Okpe requested how a lot cash I used to be going to offer him so he may save me from the grips of his males. I instructed him that aside from promising his males that I used to be prepared to offer all of them the cash in my account, I didn’t know what to do once more.

Okpe wasn’t moved. He insisted I give him “one thing tangible” so he may persuade his males to go away me alone. After I stated I may solely present 200,000 naira to that impact, he took offence and ordered me out of his workplace.

Fearful that I had blown a very good alternative to safe my freedom, I started to barter.

I instructed him I’d make it 500,000 naira. He refused. I upped it to at least one million, telling him I’d discover out if my staff had money within the workplace so I may entry it.

He appeared okay with it and ordered me to ensure the cash was delivered to his workplace bodily, as in opposition to a switch.

He then freed me so I may go and organize the cash.

On Saturday, Might 5, 2018, I went to see the SARS officers. I went within the firm of the daddy of an apprentice at my store, who additionally introduced one Andrew Modili, a neighborhood politician who wields some affect in our space. The officers instructed us to switch 5 million naira into the account of Modili. 

I truthfully have no idea how Modili later settled the SARS officers after we despatched the cash to his account. The officers didn’t enable anybody else to see them aside from Modili. 

In the meantime, the officers took me to see Okpe, who requested to understand how he would obtain his agreed price of 1 million naira. I promised him I’d deliver the cash to his workplace on Monday, given the truth that his staff have been closing for the day and the subsequent day was set to be a Sunday. 

Okpe instructed me that he would let me pay on Monday, Might 7, due to Modili’s intervention.  He then warned: “No ear should hear what has occurred. In any other case I’ll end your loved ones, your total era and every little thing you may have.”

I promised to do as agreed.

At house, I didn’t speak in confidence to my spouse regarding my ordeal by the hands of the SARS operatives. I additionally refrained from her the amount of cash  I had invested in my freedom. I used to be afraid that if I did, she would inform others out of concern, which might have led to the information spreading. 

I additionally didn’t speak in confidence to Ijeoma, my lawyer, who at the moment was exterior Nigeria. I imagine that if I had instructed him every little thing, he would have referred to as the SARS officers to demand a refund – which might have put me in danger, because the officers may make a transfer to harm me earlier than Ijeoma returned from his journey.

I deliberate to inform Ijeoma every little thing when he returned, as I wished the SARS officers to pay me again in damages. 

On the morning of Might 7, 2018, I went to the SARS workplace and gave a million naira to Sunday Okpe, as agreed.

Happy that I had fulfilled my promise, Okpe gave me his telephone quantity, claiming that we have been now associates, and that I ought to name him anytime. He stated he puzzled how I had been in Anambra for years and never heard of him. He promised to supply me ‘safety’ from bother. I instructed him that I used to be not a legal; that I used to be engaged in a real, reputable enterprise, and so I didn’t anticipate to run into any bother.

Okpe later instructed me I used to be ‘fortunate’, and that I must thank my God, as a result of he had deliberate to pursue my household at my home and take every little thing I personal.

He instructed me he had heard I used to be a cultist, however I instructed him it was a lie, and that I do know solely God. He then revealed that SARS had appeared for me in a number of areas to arrest me, however had not succeeded. He stated that they had monitored me at my retailer so many instances. He additionally stated he was the one who had assured his males that my retailer was one of the best place to seize me.

After two months, my lawyer Ijeoma returned. I instructed him every little thing that had occurred. 

When he requested why I hadn’t instructed him all that had occurred, I instructed him I feared nothing however discuss would have come out of it. I used to be conscious of many individuals SARS had killed, whose households have been but to obtain compensation.

My lawyer and I wrote a petition to the Inspector Basic of Police (IGP) in Abuja. The SARS officers have been summoned to the headquarters of the police for questioning, the place they accepted that they had collected six million naira from me. They refunded the cash after a month, fortunately.

I later sued them for damages. However they by no means confirmed up.

I imagine the federal government doesn’t maintain SARS accountable as a result of they work for the federal government. 

My expertise with SARS messed me up. I spent 4 days within the hospital so as to get well from the bodily and psychological trauma I underwent of their custody. My legs and palms felt alien to me from all that beating. 

Life afterwards was powerful. A few of my retailer prospects stopped patronizing my enterprise after that they had heard about my arrest and detention, by no means bothering to seek out out what my supposed crime was. Some concluded I used to be a thief, whereas others believed I used to be a kidnapper. My fame was torn to shreds.

, people who find themselves arrested by SARS officers are sometimes painted as kidnappers and armed robbers by the general public, however I imagine the true kidnappers and armed robbers are the SARS officers themselves, who’ve poisoned Ogidi and Anambra State with their intimidation of harmless individuals. They’re heartless criminals who’re worse than the criminals they declare to pursue.

I’m an sincere businessman. I don’t steal.

Think about what would have develop into of my 5 kids if something unlucky had occurred to me in SARS custody. They wished to kill me, or at worst, make me poor. 

Thank God for saving me from their palms.

____

This story is a part of a multimedia venture by Tiger Eye Basis and media companions throughout Nigeria, documenting police brutality in Nigeria, and advocating for police reform.

 

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