By Bashir Hassan Abubakar
The last may not be heard of cases of dehumanization and brutalisation of civilians by uniform personnel of the Nigerian security forces. The latest was that of a 30 years old Man, Adamu Sodangi, resident in Rinjin Gani, a village along Bauchi – Jos road in Toro LGA of Bauchi State when alleged that he was dehumanized and brutalized by some personnel of the Joint Taskforce (JTF) stationed in the area for military operation against insecurity.
Adamu Sodangi who narrated his ordeal to Journalists in Bauchi at the NUJ Press Center on Friday, said that the incident took place on 28th of September while watching one of the matches of the EUFA championship league.
He narrated that, “On Tuesday, 28th September 2021. I was watching the UEFA Champions League at a public viewing house in Rinjin Gani, Toro L.G.A. of Bauchi State. Behind me, there was a man, just towards the end of the first 45 minutes of the game, he put his hand on my shoulder and pressed me down”.
He continued that, “I perceive the act annoying and possessing some element of malice, then I turned around and looked at him inquisitively without a word. The man said, “Yes, you are blocking my view!”. “How and what am I to do then?” I asked him. Then he said; no, he does not meant fight oo! I said I do not meant fight either. Then he said that I should reduce my height (not that I should shift fa). I told him I don’t know how, I can reduce my height, when it went further I told him that he came and met me there and I also told him that it’s not him that paid for me”.
“When it was time for the 15 minutes break, as I rose up to go out with my brother (who was sitting with me), the man also rose and followed after me, he then grabbed my arm this time around and said he wanted to talk to me. I told him I don’t want to talk to him. He persisted, then I freed myself and told him I have something to do he should excuse me, by that time people have started gathering, then I heard them saying to him “officer please sorry, please it is okay” (it was at that moment that I fully grasped that the man is some sort of a security personnel),” Adamu added.
He added that, “I told them I didn’t do anything wrong to him and that I’ll not apologize to him and left. At the commencement of the second 45 minutes, the man came back, this time around with others (I don’t know their number at that time, but I was later informed they were three), they were holding flogs and canes”.
Adamu Sodangi who is Mass Communication graduate further narrated that, “He pointed at me and one of them grabbed and drew me to follow them saying, “na you wan fight Soja ba? Muje zakaci ubanka” (there I realized that the man is a soldier)” he said. I told them, I am not going anywhere. The next thing I heard was floggings, punches and kicking from every angle”.
“They carried me up in the football viewing house and were taking me to their camp but I managed to force myself down, persisting that, I do nothing wrong to anyone and I’m not following them. They beat me up, to near death, in the presence of over 100 people watching ball in that viewing house”, he further alleged.
According to him, “They left after realizing that I was no longer conscious and dumped me inside a pond of mud water and returned back to their camp.
Nobody was able to stop them; except for few individuals that were able to plead to them not to kill me” .
He also said that, “A friend sent me details of the Nigerian military, personnel’s unprofessional conduct report contact and he also advised that I should complain to the Police, which I did.
” Meanwhile, someone in the viewing house went and informd their head (head of the Joint Task Force (JTF) of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU)) in Rinjin Gani. He came and confirmed what he heard and promised me that he will do something about it. I went to the Police at that night, the Police upon hearing my complain said that I should go to Magama Gumau to complain to one Captain (as they said) he is the head of the military in Toro local government”, he further said.
Adamu Sodangi who claimed that his left eye is still not seeing well due to the beating said that, “I told them I have no interest in reporting to him, I want them (the police) to pursue for my justice. They told me there was nothing they can do to me right now; I should come back tomorrow morning. That night I dialled the military personnel’s unprofessional conduct hot line and put a complain”.
“The next day in the morning, they called me back and requested for my name, address and where the incident happened. I after that report same to each of their four different Whatsapp numbers and also sent texts” .
He added that, “The next morning (29th September, 2021) I returned to the police station to file a complaint, the police asked me if I can write my statement by myself which I did. Then the policeman handling the case said to me, since I don’t know the name of the soldier, but I can recognize him. I have to go with him to the JTF camp of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit but he said we should go to Magama first, to see the Captain (the captain told us that he has been promoted to Major) and complain to him”.
“The Major, after hearing from me, started to ask questions like whose team is winning or losing. How was the arrangement of seats in the viewing house? Which to me are too embarrassing for the person of his age and credentials, he told me he felt bad about it and said to the police officer that he should call the JTF and tell them to meet at the police station the next day so I can identify the soldier”.
According to him, “On 30th of September, we met at the police station, one soldier (he’s the person sitting behind me in the football viewing house) one security and civil defence officer and three police men (all members of the JTF), we all converged at the office of the Divisional crime officer (DCO) of the station, with the DCO I and II (so I heard them said). I was asked to narrate what has happened and I said all as it happened.
“They asked him to narrate what has happened and he did. He boldly and unremorsefully went on saying to the hearing of everyone there, that even if he is “a civilian, packing shit” that what I did to him, he cannot take it. The police after that only managed to casually tell him that he was wrong, although me too I have my own to be blamed for”, he alleged.
Adamy Sodangi further claimed that, “Still, nobody has been able to show me where I went wrong, for what sin soldiers have to team-up to beat me, in the presence of over 100 people, at a viewing house, they started to preach to me about forgiveness and how every human is bound to err. I swear, neither the soldier nor any of the JTF men apologized to me in any way, not even with a gesture”.
On what he wants, he said that, “I insist that I want justice; I want the police to go ahead and file a prosecution. The police told me that they cannot prosecute him, because it is not possible to sue an officer on duty unless if he’s dismissed, for me to get to him I have to sue the Nigerian army and I said I want to sue the Nigerian army which they told me is a long process beyond their power”.
“I was told that what I needed to do now was to apply for withdrawal of the case from the police, so that I can proceed to the court. I was given a paper and pen to apply for withdrawal because they convinced me that that is the process. I was about to apply then I decided to call a lawyer friend to seek his advice, he told me not to apply for any withdrawal. I went back to tell them my lawyer said I shouldn’t withdraw the case that he was coming with me tomorrow”.
“The police have dismissed the JTF already and were in their car, about to go. It was on hearing about the coming of a lawyer the next day that they called the JTF personnel for a written statement. Later in the day, president of The Association of Nigerian Authors, Barrister Maiwada who promised to help after he leant of my ordeal asked me about what happened in the police station. He asked if I have the details of my molesters, I told him I don’t because they all arrived at the police station putting on sweaters”.
“He asked me not to worry and inquired whether the police have taken statement from my witnesses; I told him they haven’t, there he asked me for the address of the police station.
Friday 1st October was public holiday, there won’t be work. On Saturday (2nd October) in morning I received a call from the owner of the viewing house he requested to visit me. I asked him to come over to my house; when he arrived, he repeated the same plea he had been making to me to let the matter go. I thanked and promised him that I’ll look into it”.
He added that, “When he was about to leave, he told me that he was cautioned by the JTF to never let me into his viewing house again and that if he does, it is at his own peril” .
He declared that, “Please, let people know that, I have been sympathized with; I have been urged to leave everything in the hands of God and I’m very grateful for that love and concern. But people should know that I’m wallowing and suffocating in great pain over this abuse on my dignity and human right. I insist, I persist, I seek justice. My existence is under serious threat”.
At the State Police Command, the PPRO, SP Ahmed Wakili declined comment saying that he cannot say anything about the matter because it involved the military and only the military authorities can talk about it.
Also, the 33 Brigade Command in Bauchi declined comment because the issue concerned the JTF which comprises all personnel of the security agencies in the country with a Sector Command in Jos which can react to the allegation.