Barely five years after a farmer, Segun Elegbede, died in the custody of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abeokuta, the Ogun State police command said the corpse would be exhumed.
This was contained in a letter with reference number, CR:3100/OGS/X/DI/VOL.3/349, from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), Ogun State Police Headquarters, Eleweran, Abeokuta.
Segun Elegbede was said to have been arrested by men of the SARS operatives at his Ajibawo residence in October 2016 in an operation led by one ASP Adeyemi Ganiu.
The police had accused the deceased of being one of those who “attacked the SARS operatives” when they visited Ajibawo to arrest some suspected criminals in possession of fire arms.
Our correspondent learnt that Segun was arrested and detained at Magbon, Abeokuta, but he died few days after his arrest.
Consequent upon this, the wife of the deceased, Fatimo Elegbede, through her counsel, Barr. Femi Aina, had written several petitions to the police authority in 2016 and 2017, seeking justice for her husband.
The petitions, it was gathered, prompted the office of the Inspector-General of Police to order the Ogun State command that the family of the deceased be contacted for a post mortem.
However, the police had released the corpse to a nephew of the late farmer one Sunday Elegbede, who was said to have hurriedly buried same without an autopsy.
In her persistence to get justice, the widow, a corn seller, filed a petition before the Ogun judicial panel on police brutality in November 2020, alleging through her counsel, Barr Aina of John & Co (UK) Lawyers, that the “SARS operatives killed my husband and prevented me from getting justice.”
While speaking before the panel, the former Officer-in-Charge of SARS in Ogun State, CSP Ubah Adams; the Investigating Police Officer from the State CIID, ASP Aina Morenikeji and the O/C Homicide Section, State CIID, CSP Olufemi Olabode, all affirmed that they did not carry out the necessary investigation because Sunday led the deceased’s three children, Tosin, Titi and Gbenga to Eleweran, Abeokuta to demand for the release of the corpse without a post mortem.
The police officers said they took no further action on the case because Sunday came with an affidavit, wherein he confirmed that Segun was involved in illegal possession of firearms.
But, in his evidence before the panel, Sunday, who claimed he could neither read nor write, said he didn’t go to court to sign a ‘paper’, neither did he tell the police not to carry out a post mortem.
He confessed that a sum of N1million was given to him by the police after the corpse was released, saying he took N200,000 and shared the remaining among the children.
Having been confronted by the panel on why they failed to carry out the order of the IGP, the police appeared to have reopened the case, telling the wife that there was the need to exhume her late husband’s corpse.
According to the letter signed by the same CSP Olabode and addressed to the widow, it was said that: “This office is investigating a case of death in police custody involving the above-named deceased person (Segun Elegbede).
“In the course of investigation, the need to exhume the remains of the deceased person became the fact-in-issue.
“Consequently, you are requested to come and interview the DC/SCID Eleweran, Abeokuta to finalize the arrangement for exhumation as requested, please.”
Reacting on Friday, Aina said he had in 2016 warned the police that Segun’s body should not be buried without an autopsy, alleging that the officers released the corpse without his knowledge.
“In 2016, I told the police to preserve the body for autopsy, as the family solicitor. But they went behind me to release the body to one Sunday Elegbede, who collected one N1million.
“I told their Commissioner then that they would have to exhume the body one day. Police need to know that I am not going to leave them alone until they do the right thing.
“All those officers who shot Segun Elegbede dead must face prosecution. No one is above the law,” the lawyer stated.
On her own part, the widow said, “It is sad that five years after, police now want to prolong our anguish by exhuming my husband’s body. How I wish they listened to our Lawyer then. We have managed to expose all their cover-ups before the EndSARS panel. I wonder what exhumation of his skeleton will add. We have to wait for a pathologist’s advice, according to my lawyer.
“They took my husband alive, five days later he died in their custody. This is five years after, they want me to come and see his skeleton. What a shame!” the woman grieved.