“Secret detention cell” in Lagos not state government facility – Task Force  

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The Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offence Unit (Task Force) has stated that neither the state government nor the Task Force maintains any secret detention cell in any part of the state. The Head of Public Affairs of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offence Unit (Task Force), Adebayo Taofik, speaking on behalf of the Chairman, CSP Saheed Olayinka, in an interaction with National Daily maintained that the Task Force operates from its headquarters at Ladipo, Oshodi. He also clarified that the Task Force does not make random arrests, specifying the parameters of profiling suspects before effecting arrest.

There were insinuations that a secret detention cell was sited in an outskirt of Lagos where suspected miscreants and hoodlums apprehended on the streets are detained allegedly by operatives of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment.  The secret detention cell was said to be purportedly located at the N.Y.S.C. Orientation Camp, Orile Agege, Iyana Ipaja, in the suburb of Ikeja, Lagos State capital.

Certain victims alleged that they were being detained there under deplorable conditions after they were arbitrarily arrested purportedly by operatives of the Task Force.

Some of the victims narrated their ordeals, which include torture and deprivation of their personal items on arrival at the purported secret detention cell.

The authorities of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offence Unit (Task Force), however, denied any knowledge of the existence of such a secret detention facility in the state.

Some of the victims spoke to this Reporter on condition of anonymity, narrating their ordeals and the operations at the alleged secret detention cell.

A victim who identified himself to be from Anike, Ohaza Local Government of Ebonyi State, said he is 19 years of age and a factory worker. His parents live in Ikorodu, Lagos State.

He narrated that he was walking on the pedestrian way along Awolowo Way, Alausa, Ikeja, with his friend at about 3.00pm on a Saturday, on their way to Shoprite to buy food when he was picked up and forced into a Black Maria, then, to the detention cell.

He said that one man came up to him on the way, asking him of a particular street around Alausa. He called his friend to inquire of the street, but the man held him shouting at him why was he calling his friend. The man, according to the victim, dragged him and pushed him into a stationed Black Maria vehicle and they drove off. He said that the operatives picked other boys on the road and took them to NYSC Orientation Camp at Iyana-Ipaja.

Another victim who said he is from Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, is engaged in photography and video coverage.

The victim from Ogun State said he was arrested while walking on the pedestrian way along Awolowo Way at Alausa on a Saturday at about 2.45pm.  He said that one boy and one girl were running from behind, but he did not know someone was pursuing them. The person pursuing the boy and the girl got to him, held him, and ordered him to enter the Black Maria packed nearby; “from there the journey to the secret cell began,” he said. When he entered the vehicle, he met other people inside the Black Maria. He said that they were driven to N.Y.S.C. Orientation Camp at Orile Agege, Iyana Ipaja. According to the victim, the operatives collected his phone, money – N1500 – and other things with him. They also pulled off his clothes and gave him an oversize cloth to wear. The same, he alleged, was done to some other victims at the detention cell.

The victim from Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, said he does not know where his father lives. According to him, his parents separated in 2011; while his mother returned to Kwara State, her home, the father married another wife and abandoned them.

He said that they were living at Ijaye Low Cost Housing Estate when his father and mother were still married. However, their house was demolished in 2013 during road construction when the Lagos State government was expanding the road. The house was owned by the mother. Since then, and the separation of the parents, he has been on his own. He was squatting with a friend at Alausa before the friend traveled out of Nigeria.  Thereafter, he has been sleeping under the bridge; he has been homeless.

This victim noted that the operatives on their way branched some places, picked other boys.

At the NYSC detention cell, he alleged that the operatives locked about 17 of them in one room.

According to him, they were locked up on the top floor of the N.Y.S.C building. He said that the police were downstairs guarding the building.

After the arrest on Saturday, he narrated that on Sunday, the operatives brought them out and asked them their names, then returned them to the cell. He said that they were brought out again on Monday, asking them what each did to be arrested, then, took them to welfare. “They brought us out, one man came and asked, “what did I do that they arrested me”, I said I did nothing. He kept quiet. Then, I asked him what did I do that they arrested me; he said my hair was looking rough, that was why they arrested me. They returned us to the cell,” he said.

He narrated that the cell was at a time thrown into pandemonium after somebody died. The death, he alleged provoked people inside the cell to protest, breaking things.

According to him, those inside broke the door and came outside but the gate was locked. So, they cannot escape, adding that the police were also on red alert. “The operators of the cell, called in the police and took them to Oshodi”, he said.

According to him, “The boys were angry because they heard three people died, they broke glasses and wanted to escape. “The people reinforced, called in more security personnel from Oshodi and took them away. “About 56 of them were taken to Oshodi; they slept in one cell.”

He alleged that the Oga at Oshodi [that is Chairman of the Task Force] asked them what they did, and they said they did not do anything for the arrest. He alleged that the Task Force chairman, then directed that they should be taken to court. The judge, he alleged, declared them guilty, announced punishment of one-hour community service, to be cleaning the gutter, and also pay a fine of N2,000 to regain their freedom.

“On Monday they took us to a mobile court. The people involved were between the age of 16 and 22; some were below 10 years. They said they gave us a second chance and said we should pay N2,000 and will serve one-hour community service, cleaning the gutter. They told us that either we pay the N2,000 or go to jail. Then, somebody came to rescue us,” he said.

The boy further alleged: “The Task Force said we should not go back to the NYSC camp to retrieve our phones, money and other things they took away from us, that those there do not know they have released us.”

National Daily investigation, however, tends to find that the Task Force may have been infiltrated by impostors.

We do not operate detention cell – Task Force

The Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offence Unit (Task Force), in an interaction to cross check the allegations, said the Task Force does not operate any detention facility, not even at the headquarters.

The Head of Public Affairs of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offence Unit (Task Force), Adebayo Taofik, on behalf of the Chairman, CSP Saheed Olayinka Egbeyemi, noted that this inquiry is a kind of privileged information to him from our side, adding that the office has never heard of the said detention cell in the state.  He disclosed that the Chairman of the Task Force has been enlightening the public to beware of impersonators of the Task Force personnel.

Taofik acknowledged that miscreants and hoodlums are being raided across the state in accordance with the mandate of the state government, adding that they are charged to court within 24 hours. He reiterated that the Task Force is not aware of the said secret detention cell at the N.Y.S.C. Orientation camp, adding that all arrested suspects are brought directly to the headquarters.

“It is privileged information from your side because I have never heard of that and I want to put it to the public, that there is nothing of such in our Unit.

“We do raid miscreants and hoodlums but in accordance with the laws. “Once they are raided, we charge them to court within 24 hours.

“And the government has made it easier for us that we have a court very close to the head office of the Task Force here at Bolade, Oshodi; we have another court at Ogba, focusing mainly on environmental issues.

“So, the issue of the N.Y.S.C. detention cell, I am not aware of that, and the Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force has made it part of an enlightenment campaign to the public to beware of impersonators.

“There are impersonators, we have persons that go around impersonating as officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment,” Taofik declared.

He said that the state government has specified the identity of members of the task force by providing sleeveless jackets as part of their uniform.

“We have been informing members of the public that if you are accosted by any policeman who claims to be an official of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment, he or she must have a sleeveless jacket with the emblem of the Task Force in order for them not to fall victim.

“We do not have any relationship with N.Y.S.C. Orientation Camp at Agege,” the Head of Public Affairs Unit said.

Taofik insisted that the Lagos State Task Force does not detain arrested miscreants and hoodlums. “Within 24 hours of arrest, we will charge them to court. At the court, some of them are given a fine of token amount, some are given community service.

“Even at the court, there is a counseling unit where officials counsel most of the boys, particularly, those that are young among them, because the law says below 18 years is a minor.

“When we find out from any of the boys what really led to loitering, we discovered that some of them are from broken homes. We have on several occasions resettled and rehabilitated such children with the parents.

“Some in Ibadan, Oyo, Ilorin, Kwara State; Abeokuta, Ogun State. We bear the cost of transporting officials to meet their parents, rehabilitate the child with the family and some of them are doing well,” Taofik highlighted.

He pointed out that there are some of the boys, at the expense of the Chairman of the Task Force, who are being trained at the Lagos State Correctional Centre at Ikeja, adding that the boys are doing very well. “So, on the allegation of the NYSC cell, the detention cell is not from the Lagos State Task force,” Taofik insisted.

The Head of Public Affairs revealed that the rehabilitation of the boys is handled by the Lagos State Government under the Ministry of Youths and Social Development.

Taofik further explained: “Those above 18 years, we charge them to court, those below 18, we send them to the correctional centre where they are handled by the government. That is the role we play.”

The Head of Public Affairs explained that after raiding, the chairman screens all the suspects that were arrested, enlightening that, “if you have proper identification, you would be released immediately, or probably you will be allowed to call your relations to come and identify you and once that is done, you are freed.”

He maintained that people are only arrested at identified black spots in the state, saying that the arrests are not randomly made. Taofik remarked that the suspects will claim they don’t have a home, that they are from outside Lagos and don’t have a particular place to stay. “But if you look at the marks on their body, and their hair style, you will have reasons to suspect they are criminals.

“While sleeping under the bridge, they are connected to criminals who introduce them into pick-pocketing, bag snatching and burglary,” he said.

The Head of Public Affairs maintained that no responsible government watches criminals overrun the state. He emphasized that it is necessary to pick out the criminals so that innocent citizens resident in the state will have peace and be secured. He said that the Task Force is doing everything possible to end the activities of the ‘One Million Boys’ and other urchins in Lagos State.