Monday, 16 November 2009

Horror In 'IG's Detention Camp'

Tales of torture and extra-judicial killings are told of a detention camp at Force CID Area 10, Abuja, otherwise called IG's detention camp

By Emma Alozie

Located at the heart of Area 10, Garki, just a whispering distance from the popular UTC shopping mall, an artisan's haven, the Force CID headquarters never cut the picture of a torture centre, at least to a passerby. Though the structures are looking dingy and decrepit, an uninformed passerby would think that what goes on inside there is only criminal investigation. However, tales of woes emanating from there by unfortunate inmates of an illegal detention camp christened the 'Dump' by police officers in the station can only be comparable to the notorious Auswitz and Treblinka, Hitler's concentration camps during the second World War.

Directly under the office of the inspector general of police, it is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of investigating crimes, especially high profile ones. But like every other Nigerian project that radiates beauty in intention, it exudes the contrary in practice. The Force CID, Area 10 has carved a niche for itself in notoriety for torture.
As narrated by somebody who can be described as divinely fortunate to have spent just 24 hours in the torture chambers of the station, everything goes on inside the place. From extra-judicial killing to rape, accommodation racketeering to unusual torture – only few of those who enter there came out without a sour tale.

Originally, the facility was not meant to be a prison house for criminals, but today, it accommodates over 135 inmates in the most dehumanising of conditions. An inmate who has been detained in the 'dump' in the last six months from Anambra State said he was arrested for giving information to the police as always requested by the police. “There was a fire incidence where a rich man was implicated. The fire outbreak was not by accident but deliberately ignited by the rich contractor to cover up his misdeeds. As police investigation on the cause of the fire incident was ongoing, I volunteered information to the police on how the fire started and the agents the man used in setting the property on fire. The police actually arrested the man, but that was the beginning of my troubles,” the victim told this magazine. The case of arson was turned against him immediately after the police finished hobnobbing with the contractor. Before he could prove his innocence, the contractor had used his 'connections' to swiftly transfer the case from Anambra to Abuja where the 25-year old was detained.

Another inmate who has been in the detention camp for three years without trial said he was arrested on a trumped-up allegation of organising an armed robbery attack against his cousin. He said he was implicated by three armed robbery suspects who robbed his cousin three years ago. They claimed he gave them information that led to the robbery. He is the only one among the suspects still in the cell. The other three, according to him might have been summarily executed by the police.

Five brothers from Anambra State who have been at the detention camp for the past three months said they were arrested for confronting the man who bought their landed property from their uncle. The said uncle claimed he sold the property to offset the debt incurred during the burial of their father. They have since renounced the ownership of the property after police torture at the cell.

The IG's 'dump' has a way of making an angel confess to a crime he never committed. According to a victim who spent 24 hours in the cell, many of the detainees have a ring-like mark on their ankle. This is a mark of brutal torture by the police officers at the station in order to extract information from suspects. The suspects, according to him are normally hung on a suspended torture stake for hours with handcuffs. Any suspect that proves a tough nut to crack is hung upside down for up to 24 hours and at all costs, the 'truth' must be extracted from such a suspect. And once a confessional statement is gotten from a suspect, it is tape-recorded or the suspect forced to make a handwritten statement. The inmates confess that many have been extra-judicially exterminated in this manner on several occasions.

Investigations also revealed that some inmates are just used as cover up for main criminals. One of the leaders in the detention camp said that most people paraded by the police for committing one crime or the other is just a ruse to divert attention and make people believe that the police is working hard. “These are people taken from different detention camps, people who are detained on account of one allegation or the other and paraded as criminals. What happens is that when a high profile crime is committed and the police seem to be at a loss on what to do, they quickly arrange for inmates who they would parade as the culprits,” the inmate said.

They not only parade them as criminals, they use them to implicate other innocent people to make money off them. Some inmates revealed how the police sometimes handcuff them and take them to the nearest mechanic workshop or shop to readily point at one innocent person as the one who bought a stolen good or an accomplice with whom he went to rob a man the previous week. The police would promptly arrest the so called accomplice knowing that at least some money would be used to bail him from the police station.

There are policemen in the station whose job is simply to twist cases and turn it against a complainant as long as the price is right. The extent of brutality meted out to a victim depends on how much the person that wants such victim punished can afford to pay. The least amount officers in the station would accept to transfer cases from state command to Area 10 is half a million naira.

A routine check on the detainees is carried out every morning. One inspector popularly called 'Action' is said to be notorious in asking: “how many people died today” whenever he carries out inspection on the detainees. He is said to revel in seeing suspects wriggle in pain; his sadism is only comparable to the men of the inquisition era.

The camp is said to be strictly out of bounds to newsmen, lawyers and human rights activists. Many lawyers have been brutalised trying to secure bail for hapless inmates. They hide under the umbrella of office of the inspector general to meddle in cases that should have been settled within a state command.
Emmanuel Ojukwu, force public relations officer, FPRO, was not available when Newsworld went to seek for his comment. His second in command however, declined to comment.

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