“That I am alive today is all thanks to God, it was a narrow escape from death”.
Those were the words of Barrister Sipe Olajide, who was allegedly tortured by men of the Nigerian Army within the Festac area of Lagos.
Olajide, a father of one was returning home in his car at about 2pm on Tuesday April 26, 2016 when he encountered a traffic caused by an army officer who had stopped a bus in the middle of the road. His offence was that he dared to plead with the soldier to move the bus on one side of the road to ease the traffic.
An eye witnessed said three other soldiers appeared from nowhere; “the man ran for his life but they gave him a hot chase, vandalised his car and beat him he became unconscious. But thanks to kind hearted Nigerians who rushed him to the hospital where he was later revived.”
Although discharged from the hospital, the Ogun born lawyer who also runs a clothing line, managed to speak to The Daily Times in his Festac home.
Amidst pain he narrates his ordeal in the hands of the soldiers. “On that day, at about 2p.m, I went out to buy water from a store beside Thrillers at 4th Avenue in Festac. On my way back at 23 road Junction where there is a Mobil Filling Station, there was traffic there. It was quite unusual because even when there are fuel queues, it does not affect other motorists as it has always been properly managed by the filling station.
“I looked carefully ahead and saw that the cause of the traffic was an army officer who had stopped a big white bus in the middle of the road. I was not too comfortable with the fact that traffic was building up, so I looked out my window and called out to the army officer to please allow the driver of the bus clear on one side of the road so that other motorists can pass freely.
“The soldier picked offence and asked who the person was talking, and who am I to tell him what to do? I then responded politely and said, Oga, I am not trying to teach you your job, but it is for the good of us road users that I am pleading with you to move the vehicle on one side. “He started insulting me; he called me an idiot and a bloody civilian. He then left the bus and started walking up to my car. For fear of not wanting any trouble with the soldier carrying a gun, I drove off my car as the vehicle he had stopped had now cleared off the road. As I drove off, I noticed the soldier was following me. I just kept driving and I made a bend at the junction and I saw another soldier holding a keg and I stopped; thinking he would ask me why the other soldier was after me.”
Little did he know he was in for big trouble as the soldiers started out with their first round of attack.
“Unfortunately, this other soldier immediately rushed to my car and started hitting my head light with his boot and my windscreen with the keg he was holding. The other soldier behind caught up with me and he used a knife to puncture one of my back tires.
Immediately I sensed this was trouble. I just drove off but looking from my side mirror, I discovered the two of them were mounting a bike. I had to drive a bit faster, all in a bid to run for my life. They continued following me and I noticed there were now four of them. But because I had one flat tire, I could not drive fast enough.
“When I got to 7th Avenue on 71 Road, I made a U-turn there and because they were coming at top speed, they could not make the U-turn easily. They then stopped at the junction and one of them shot directly at my vehicle and he missed it.
“Again, I saw him kneel at that position; he aimed and fire at my tire. It was at this point that I had to just stop because at this time people were all out looking at what was happening and I did not want anyone to think I was a thief on the run so I came out of my car. I then asked them what I did wrong.
“Immediately the four of them bounced on me, I was given the beating of my life. They used a big stone to hit my head, I was flogged severally with a fallen wooden pole, and one of them was even about to input his jack knife to his gun to fire at me when one of his colleagues stopped him.
“People tried to stop them, but they threatened to deal with anyone who came close. But thank God for sending a helper in the person of a Commodore who was passing and saw the scene. He stopped his vehicle, came to them and showed them his identity card and ordered them to stop.
“They then turned to my vehicle and vandalised it the more. It was some persons around who recognised me and said ‘that is Barrister, he is not a thief’; he was the one that rushed me to a nearby Mercy Gate Hospital on 71 road.”
When The Daily Times visited the scene of the incident, traders as well as those around were not willing to speak on the matter. One man however briefly commented on the issue; he noted that the soldiers were just too aggressive. “I really did not know why the man was pursued, but then even if he was a thief, does it mean he should be killed? If he had done anything wrong, the soldiers should have taken him to the police; after all, we are not in a military era.”
But the victim, though scared for his life, was not going to let the assault go unaddressed. He told our correspondent that his image and reputation has been insulted.
“ I have been humiliated and to some people who did not know what actually transpired, they would think I was a thief on the run. To this, I want the Nigerian army to apologise to me publicly, fix my vandalised car and then fish out the soldiers responsible for my ordeal and punish them accordingly.”
Although a complaint has been lodged at the Festac Police Division, a police source at the division however say the police cannot do much about the case; as only a written petition to the Nigerian Army will bring the desired result.