The family of Olalekan Oladiti has demanded justice for his alleged death in the hands of men of the Nigeria Police Force.
PUNCH Metro gathered that Olalekan, who was working as a sales representative for a yet-to-be-identified pharmaceutical store in the Shasha area of Alimosho Local Government, Lagos State, was accused of stealing over N1m from the proceeds of the drugs he sold to the firm’s customers.
In a bid to escape arrest, the 24-year-old allegedly fled from Lagos and hid in the family house of his childhood friend, one Ridwan Babalola, in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Olalekan’s boss, one Uduak Ekpenyong, got his guarantor, identified simply as Iya Ibrahim, arrested and detained for several hours.
However, through his girlfriend, Omowunmi Rajasat, men of the Lagos State Police Command tracked Olalekan down to the Power line bus stop in Moniya, Ibadan, where he was arrested.
But the story took another dimension when he was asked to take the cops to his hideout in the area.
PUNCH Metro learnt that Olalekan led the policemen to Ridwan’s room, but was later carried out and dumped in their patrol vehicle after being allegedly tortured.
Ridwan said his friend died in the custody of the police, adding that an eyewitness, identified simply as Daddy Anu, who was surprised that Olalekan walked into the room but was being carried out by the policemen, challenged them and was also assaulted.
He said, “We were at home making plans for what to eat when Olalekan told us he was going to pick his girlfriend at the bus stop, while I also left for the market to get what we were going to eat. The policemen had left with my friend by the time I got back, but a neighbour, Daddy Anu, said Olalekan walked into the room but was carried out and when he tried to stop them, the policemen assaulted him and pushed him away.
“Olalekan was tortured in the room and after the policemen took him away; my dad’s uncle informed me that my dad, Abiodun, told him that he died in police custody.”
Abiodun said Iya Ibrahim informed him of the death, adding that he got her number from the deceased’s mum after the policemen came to his house to arrest Olalekan.
Iya Ibrahim told our correspondent on the telephone that Olalekan, while still in hiding, appealed to his boss to release her when he learnt of her arrest.
“I was at home when his colleagues, who came looking for him, informed me that he stole the money made from the drugs he delivered to customers. But on that day, he just told me that he was going to work and disappeared. I was detained in a cell at the Afoka Police Station for hours before I was granted bail,” she said.
Ekpenyong said the amount stolen was over N1m, adding that he was dumbfounded when he learnt that investigation to unravel Olalekan’s whereabouts so as to recover the money allegedly led to his death.
He stated, “I am not happy about what happened; all I desired was to recover the money, but I was dumbfounded by the outcome, because he was a boy I loved and trusted so much. I employed him since 2017. In October 2019, when it was close to the time for cash collection for the sales made the previous day, we discovered that all his phones had been switched off.
“The money is over N1m, so, I had to report at the police station after 24 hours. But when the guarantor could not provide him in a week, we had to employ an independent tracker, who assisted us in tracking him to Ibadan, where he was arrested. I was told that he died two hours after he was arrested. But the representative I sent to identify him did not follow them to Olalekan’s house.”
The deceased’s brother, Olaide, condemned the policemen for subjecting him to inhumane treatment that led to his death without trial.
He said, “When Ridwan’s father told me that the police arrested my brother and tortured him to death, I was destabilised. They said he stole money but is there justice in killing him? Even those, who committed murder, are subjected to trial in court.
“Members of the family and I visited the police command headquarters, where we met with the IPO, who brought out his file and showed us the pictures of his corpse.
“But when we met with the state Commissioner of Police, I asked how my brother would die in their custody and they refused to inform us two days after. He calmed me down and said a post-mortem would be done to ascertain the cause of death. But while writing my statement, I realised that the IPO was hiding a picture from us and I asked if that picture would be included among the ones he would take to the court to get approval for the post-mortem and he said no.
“We told him to give us a letter so that we could see my brother’s corpse at the Adeoyo State Hospital’s mortuary, but he refused. I am suspecting that he is hiding something and I am calling on the government to help my family get justice.”
The Oyo State Police Public Relations Officer, Gbenga Fadeyi, said officers from the Lagos command tracked Olalekan down to Ibadan, adding that upon sighting the police, he collapsed and died of low blood pressure.
Fadeyi stated, “The police officers handling the case in Lagos State tracked him down to Moniya, in Ibadan through his girlfriend, Omowunmi, and upon sighting the police, he became unnecessarily apprehensive and collapsed.
“They poured water on him and rushed him to two hospitals on Iwo Road, where preliminary investigation revealed that he had low blood pressure; so, he was transferred to the University College Hospital, where he was confirmed dead.”
Efforts made by our correspondent to get a reaction from the PPRO in Lagos, Bala Elkana, proved abortive as his number was unreachable and he had yet to respond to a text message sent to his mobile phone number.
But a source, in the Afonka Police Station said Olalekan was not tortured, adding that the result of an autopsy on the corpse was being awaited to reveal the cause of death.
The source said, “His girlfriend, representatives of his boss and the tracker were in the room with him and he was asked to wear a pair of trousers, because he was in shorts. While doing so, he took a heavy breath, fell and thick saliva started coming out of his mouth.
“So, we rushed him to the Don Hospital on Iwo Road, where it was discovered that he had low blood pressure and was later transferred to the UCH, where he was confirmed dead. We are waiting for the autopsy report to determine the cause of death.”
Omowunmi told PUNCH Metro, “He walked into the room by himself, but when they were coming outside, the officers carried him and foamy substances were coming out of his mouth. I and the representative of the company were in the car while the police went inside with him.”