Mr. Ireto Temofeh
According to him, but for his mother and lawyer’s concerted efforts, he would have been dead by now.
According to the Delta State-born journalist, he had advertised the sale of his mother’s block of flats at the Jakande Estate, Iba, in The Oracle Today newspaper and on social media as instructed by his mother. He said he left his phone numbers and that of his lawyer, Mr. Ken Akpom, on the advert for prospective buyers to contact him.
His ordeal started on Friday, June 16, 2017, when, at about 1pm, he received a call from his lawyer informing him that a certain man had indicated interest to buy the property.
“My lawyer gave me the phone number 07053523386 as that of the supposed interested buyer and asked me to call him. When I called him, he confirmed that he was interested in the property and told me to wait for him at Igando. When he arrived about 30 minutes later in a small car, he was with another man and both of them were in mufti. They asked me who owned the flat and I confirmed that it was my mother,” he said.
He stated that after inspecting the house, they demanded to see his mother so that they could see documentary proof of her ownership of the property so as to be sure of what they wanted to buy.
He said as they left Iba for Festac Town, where his mother resides, a Toyota Highlander SUV overtook and blocked their way.
“Three men jumped out of the vehicle bearing long rifles, and forcefully dragged me into the Toyota Highlander with plate number FST 277 AX,” he said.
Temofeh said he was confused and afraid, as he could not understand what was happening. He became more confused when one of the two men who went with him to inspect the house at Iba joined his new captors in the jeep.
He was not sure if they were kidnappers or armed robbers. He said after they had collected his phone, he summoned the courage to ask them who they were and what his offence was. It was then, according to him, that they told him they were policemen. They also told him he was an armed robber and that one of his gang members in prison had identified him. He also alleged that they threatened to kill him if he tried to shout.
He claimed that not even his earnest plea to report his arrest at Iba Police Station so that his people would know his whereabouts moved his captors, as they plainly told him that they were not answerable to the Lagos State Police Command.
He continued: “They took me to the detention centre of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the IGP’s IRT within the premises of Lagos State Police Command Headquarters, and dumped me in a cell.
“I begged them to allow me contact my family or my editor, Mr. Felix Abugu of The Oracle Today newspaper, but they refused. When I told Inspector Osha to allow me contact my lawyer, he said my lawyer was also an armed robber and a criminal and that he would also deal with him.
“Inspector Osha then told me that a prisoner somewhere had identified me as an armed robber. He said the prisoner identified me as a member of his robbery gang that robbed at the Lagos Airport and some banks in Ondo State between 2012 and 2015 and that the CCTV camera in one of the banks captured my face while I was robbing.”
Assault and dehumanisation
He equally alleged that he was stripped naked, slapped several times and mocked by Inspector Osha and his team who wanted to see bullet wounds on his body as a proof of their allegations against him.
“I told them that I started my career as a journalist with The Sun newspaper in 2003 with Mr. Femi Adesina, now Special Adviser on Media to President Muhammadu Buhari, as then editor. I also told them that I had worked for Daily Independent, The Guardian as well as the New Telegraph newspaper before joining The Oracle Today, where I currently work. But all I said fell on deaf ears,” he said.
He alleged that he was thrown into the cell and abandoned to die because, for three days, from Friday, June 16, to Monday, June 19, 2017, nobody gave him food, neither was he allowed to contact his family. He was also not allowed to write any statement because he was not given an investigating police officer until Monday, June 19, 2017.
Temofeh said after he had written his statement, he was taken in the boot of the SUV to his house in Ijegun for a search.
“During the search, they took all the phones they found in my house, as well as my laptop and a cutlass, which I use to clear grasses in my compound. They also took away my Civil Defence volunteer uniform and identity card and some vital documents relating to my late father’s properties,” he said.
He alleged that Inspector Osha hit him several times on the head and back with the cutlass he collected from his house so as to make him say that he was not a Civil Defence volunteer but an impersonator, accusing him of using the uniform to rob.
He also alleged that Afolabi said he would kill him if he didn’t disclose the whereabouts of the original probate letters and documents, his mother’s original statutory marriage certificate and every necessary document that will make them deny their other relatives access to those properties.
“He also told me emphatically that myself, my lawyer, Mr. Ken Akpom, and my mother were robbers who denied other members of my family access to my late father’s wealth,” he said
While he was taken to his house at Ijegun and back to the cell, his family was still in the dark as to his whereabouts. He said it was on Tuesday, June 20m 2017, that Sergeant Omotemi Sunday informed him that his people had somehow discovered that he was there and that he would be allowed to see them briefly.
“Before sending me back to the cell on Tuesday, June 20, Supol Phillip told Inspector Osha in the presence of the lawyer to speed up his investigation and allow my family to bail me if he had no evidence against me. But, he told Supol Phillip that he would personally bring the prisoner to the IRT office, to physically identify me as an armed robber. He asked Supol Phillip to give him two or three days to bring the prisoner down to the IRT office,” he said.
Identification and bail
Temofeh said after Inspector Osha failed to provide the prisoner who could have identified him as an armed robber, Supol Phillip finally gave the nod for his bail.
He said: “Before I was bailed, Inspector Osha vowed that he would implicate and kill me or hang me. He made the threat in the presence of my surety and the lawyer and refused to allow my surety to take me away if my family did not give him a bribe of N200,000.
“Because of the threat, my surety raised the sum of N71,000 and together with my lawyer, negotiated with Inspector Osha, who accepted it before I was released.”
He said he was instructed by Inspector Osha to report at the Ikeja office of the IRT on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. He alleged that Inspector Osha refused to return his drivers’ license and ATM card even as Sergeant Omotemi Sunday searched the SUV for a long time before he found some of his phones, which were seized from him.
According to Mr. Temofeh, an unnamed police officer had confided in Chief Okpako that his ordeal in the hands of Inspector Osha and his team was really because of a land matter.
Who is after him?
Asked if he suspected anybody for being behind his travails Temofeh said some of his father’s relatives in the village and in Delta State were his prime suspects, even though he does not have evidence against them.
“In fact, those relatives that have been trying to deprive us of his property are presently occupying his house at Dolphin Estate in Ikoyi,” he said.
On whether his father had other wives or children out of wedlock, he also said: “My mother is his only legal wife. After he died, some of his relations brought somebody whom they claimed lives in London and tried to impose him on us as the first son of my father, but my father never mentioned such a man to any of us. My father had three sons, myself, my elder brother and my younger brother. We are the children of Mr. Henry Temofeh.”
On his lawyer’s relationship with the police, he said: “He has no relationship with the police. I believe they got his phone numbers from the sale of property advert I placed in the newspaper because I also put his number there.”
Asked if the police had dropped the armed robbery charge against him, he said: “The last time I went there with my lawyer, the IPO asked me to go and that if they needed me, they would send for me and that is the position now.”
Temofeh’s lawyer speaks
Akpom, who condemned the action of the officers narrated how his family members were able to locate him after they had searched through hospitals, police stations and even mortuaries in vain.
He said: “I released the numbers that contacted me for the property to one of Temofeh’s friends, who worked in a telecoms company. He was the one who discovered that the officers never called from Ogun State but somewhere on Igando Road and we were happy that the kidnappers were at Igando. We never knew it was the police that took him away.
“His mother then went to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the police but they told her that they lacked the facilities to trace kidnappers. They referred her to the IRT, which has the facility. When she went to the IRT office to report, she was asked to come back the next day. It was the next day that they told her that Temofeh was in their custody, framed up as an armed robber.”
He called on the concerned authorities to investigate the conduct of Inspector Osha and his team, saying: “It appears to me that those IRT men actually wanted to kill him. Their intention is something that government needs to look deep into because if it is not corrected, it may cause a lot of problems in this country. If two people are struggling over a property, they have the right. His mother is the legal wife but if there is an outsider, who feels that his father is rich and wants to possess; it is not by engaging the police.”
Having petitioned the IGP, the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, Temofeh said he hoped that justice would be done in the matter.
He also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the matter and ensure that justice is served.
Supol Phillip reacts
Reacting to the development, Supol Phillip, who is in charge of the IRT South -West, Lagos annex, said the matter was brought to his knowledge by one of Temofeh’s relations. He also said he was not aware that Temofeh gave anybody money for his bail.
He said: “By virtue of my position, the boys will bring any matter of this nature to my attention. But this matter came to my knowledge through the suspect’s relation; somebody who knows me. So, I personally interviewed him and I discovered that he was behaving like somebody who is not mentally stable. I say so because immediately after the interview and I ordered that he should be granted bail to a reasonable surety, so that proper underground investigation could be done, some journalist called me to confirm that the man is actually a good writer but he is having issues. They told me he has worked in so many newspapers, so I said he should be allowed to go. I am not aware if he gave money to anybody.”
On the position of the matter, he also said: “We are still doing underground investigation because the accusation was from a suspect already remanded in prison and not the police.”
He also confirmed that the accused has written petitions to the PSC in Abuja, the IGP and the Lagos Commissioner of Police and that investigation was on to unravel the facts of the matter.
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