On April 4, 2016, about 25 men armed with assault rifles stormed 37, Aje Street, Pleasure, in the Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos around 2:30 a.m. They banged the gate of the house repeatedly and when no one came out to open the it, they scaled the fence of the building in a commando style.
According to one resident, the entire event was so nightmarish that she pissed on herself. There were three buildings – two one-storey buildings and a bungalow – inside the compound. The armed men ordered everybody out of their apartments. They broke into the apartment of those that hesitated and ordered them to sit on the dusty ground inside the compound. Many of the tenants said they were beaten for either hesitating or for asking the men to identify themselves.
The armed men were not done. They continued to the apartment of the landlord, Mathew Sobiye, who lived on the top floor of the second storey building and ordered him out. When he hesitated they broke the asbestos ceiling of his veranda and tried to force their way into his apartment. They couldn’t. So they broke his front door and dragged the Septuagenarian out of the bed. The landlord, who refused to say his name, told PREMIUM TIMES that his blood-pressure rose to a frightening level that he had to see his doctor the morning after. For several days he had difficulty breathing.
Tenants and landlord thought they were armed robbers. They were not. They were operatives of the State Security Services, SSS, who were on the trail of Rilwanu Jamiu, one of the suspects who allegedly cloned the number of the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. The SSS thought Mr. Jamiu was hiding in the compound. Mr. Jamiu’s friend, Saheed Eyitayo, lives in the compound. They broke into Mr. Eyitayo’s one-room apartment, and when they couldn’t find Mr. Jamiu and didn’t get a satisfactory response of his whereabouts, several of the men allegedly descended on him and beat him until he was unconscious, some residents claimed.
“I overheard Eyitayo telling the DSS people that the person they were looking for did not stay with him. He told them the suspect was his friend and only visited him the previous day. But, his explanation did not convince them. They beat him mercilessly till blood came out of his face. We could not recognise him again,” a resident who asked not to be named said. Residents of the compound said he was laid facedown, handcuffed with his arms behind his back and his legs were fettered in chains and dragged into one of the buses the SSS operatives came in. They said he could barely walk when they took him away.
Throughout the terrifying episode, the SSS operatives did not say who they were neither did they present a warrant to search the house, residents said. The SSS operatives were led to Pleasure by Adejoke Ogunbona, the wife of Mr. Jamiu, who told PREMIUM TIMES that the operatives had broken into her Oke-Aro residence in similar manner and had assaulted her.
She said the men knocked down her door around 1:30 a.m. and ordered her and her two children outside. They took her 5-year-old son to a corner away from her and interrogated him, she said. Ms. Ogunbona said a soldier, who was with the SSS officials, took her to about three houses from her residence and started asking questions about her husband’s whereabouts. “About five of them now started asking me about my husband. I told them he had travelled for about a month. They now threatened me that they had been talking to me like a gentle man. But I insisted that my husband had travelled about a month ago that I didn’t know his whereabouts,” she said.
“Later a soldier among them came to me and told me to follow him about three houses from our house. He told me to put my hand up. He said: ‘You took food to your husband yesterday night’. I said no. I did not take food to my husband. He slapped me with both hands. He asked me again and said ‘Where is Pleasure? Your husband is in Pleasure’. I said I don’t know. He slapped me again. And he slapped me the third time. After then I told him he is at Pleasure and I took food to him, because I was afraid.”
According to Ms. Ogunbona, although she had indeed taken food to her husband the day before, it wasn’t at Pleasure but around Alagbado area of the state. However, she told this reporter that she had met her husband at Pleasure a few days ago. “And I meet my husband in Alagbado that night and not Pleasure. No I wasn’t aware that my husband was at Pleasure,” she said.
“I knew of the place (Pleasure) after I called my husband that I missed him and he said I should come and meet him there. And when I got to the place, I did not see anybody. It was my husband that opened the door. She said she had not met Mr. Eyitayo before that night. “I showed them the road the Pleasure. When they got there they did not meet my husband there. I don’t know who is Saheed. I’ve heard of him before but I’ve never met him in my life. “When I got there they asked me if I knew him, and I said I did not know him and that was where my husband asked me to come.” Just like the residents of No. 37 Aje Street Ms. Ogunbona confirmed that Mr Eyitayo was beaten and bloodied before he was taken away in chains. They beat him mercilessly,” she said.
The morning after, Mr Sobiye, worried where his tenant was taken to, rushed to the nearby police station to ask if the men were from there. The police said they were unaware of any operation in the area on the day. On April, 6, two operatives of the SSS visited the landlord and said they were from the service’ office in Shangisha, Lagos.
“They told me they were here to talk about what happened three days ago. They said their director will like to have a word with me. So I followed them to their office,” Mr. Sobiye said. “When I got there, the director asked me a few questions about Saheed. They wanted to know what he does and what kind of tenant he was. I told them he was a clearing agent at the wharf and that he was a good tenant. I wasn’t expecting what the director told me next: he said Saheed had died. He asked if I knew any members of his family. I told them I don’t because he just moved to my house about eight months ago.
“I was told not to tell anybody who came looking for Saheed that he had died. My thinking was that they wanted to tell the family themselves.”An SSS insider told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Eyitayo was resisting arrest on the night he was arrested. He said he tried to jump out from the moving vehicle as he was being conveyed to the SSS office and sustained injuries that killed him. According to the source, Mr Eyitayo was a member of the syndicate that cloned Mr. Ambode’s number and his house was used as a base by the syndicate. Michael Lasisi, one of Mr Eyitayo’s relatives, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Lagos State Director, Adekunle Ajanaku, repeated the same narrative as our source during a meeting he held with the family on May 3 at the agency’s Shangisha office. He, however, said the agency’s account of how Mr. Eyitayo died cannot be further from the truth. He said he believed the SSS tortured him to death. He said Mr. Eyitayo was not a criminal and had nothing to do with the cloning of the governor’s number. He alleged that the SSS waited 19 days before informing the family of Mr. Eyitayo’s death because they were trying to cook up a story to hide their extrajudicial killing.
“We had gone to the SSS office several times, and they told us come back you cannot see him. Until finally on the 23rd, 19 days after he was killed they now told one of my brothers Oyetunji that he had died. Meanwhile they had told the landlord not to tell anybody that he had died.
“They did that so as the days elapsed they would be able to manufacture lies to cover up the official criminality. They could not tell us what he has done. They said his friend was part of those who cloned the governor’s number. They traced the friend to his house but they did not see him.
“Today we went to see the director of the SSS and he was telling annoying tales. They said they did not kill him. But who killed him? There was blood all over. Their lawyer was telling us that he was trying to resist, how could he resist? Was he having guns or knives? How could he resist 25 fully armed men? The man they handcuffed and chained, that could hardly walk and half dead. How could he jump?
He said Mr. Ajanaku admitted that Mr. Eyitayo was never interrogated neither was his statement taken after he was arrested. So how come the SSS was trying to link him to a crime he allegedly never committed, he said.
“That was why I told the director of the SSS that all they have said are lies. No reasonable person can accept that from them. They couldn’t say anything much. He said some of the people have been charged to the court, if they were charged to the court, is this guy one of them? Do you have any evidence against him?”he asked.
He said the family will not collect Mr Eyitayo’s body until a proper autopsy by the Lagos State government was conducted to determine the cause of death. He added that the SSS should be investigated and all those found to have had a hand in Mr Eyitayo’s death should be brought to book.
“The family wants justice. We are crying out on the government to help us. It is terrible. This is official brutality. In a country like this that one group of people will rise up and go to a man’s house and wasted him and manufacture lies to hang on him to make him look like a criminal,” Mr. Lasisi said.