Police tortured my breadwinner to death, dumped his body in my house
Fifty-three-year-old Hajara Ismail, whose son was tortured to death alongside his friend at the Township Police Station, Bauchi, over allegations of stealing chickens belonging to a retired police officer, in this interview with ARMSTRONG BAKAM, speaks of her agony and bitterness
What happened to your son?
My name is Hajara Ismail. I am the mother of Ibrahim Kampanlala, the boy who was killed by the police. I am a resident of Kampanlala in the Zanuwa area of Bauchi State. I am 53 years old. On that fateful Friday around 2.30pm, we were at my daughter, Habiba’s wedding, when I saw some children running into the house and I asked them what was happening. Then, I went out to check and I saw one boy called Abdullahi and he was saying: ‘That is Ibrahim’s house, that is Ibrahim’s house’ and I asked him which Ibrahim he was referring to.
So, people there told me to go back inside the house since it was Ibrahim they were looking for but I asked them that if they were looking for Ibrahim, should I run inside my house? I went back inside the house and into my room and I tried coming out, but people prevented me from doing so. Later on, I heard some people say: ‘Since you refused to show us Ibrahim’s house, come and see him in the car’. When they got to the police van parked outside our house, they saw my son in the van.
Then, the policemen took him from the vehicle and threw him and he fell on his neck, which made it to bend, unknown to us that he was already dead. They entered the house and asked some boys to carry him and dump him in the house. Then, the DPO said: ‘Here’s the corpse of your son; he was a robber and we arrested him. We were not the people who did this to him; we too picked him like that and we brought him to you’. We then put him in the room and he never moved, because he was dead.
You said the DPO told you when he brought your son that he wasn’t the one that did that to him…
(Cuts in) He and six other uniformed policemen brought my son in a Hilux van but the DPO wasn’t wearing a uniform.
In the area where you live, have there been cases of theft or robberies there?
No, there has been none. In our area, we don’t even have those thugs called ‘Sara Suka’. And I never knew they had arrested Ibrahim and I didn’t know the crime he committed; it was only his corpse that they brought and dumped in front of my room.
Did you go to the station to protest that your son was innocent of the allegations made against him?
No, I didn’t at that time; his father was sick and I called him and I told him to come back home quickly that Ibrahim was dead. He then asked me what happened and I told him all that happened and what I heard. I told him that some policemen brought him and dumped him in the house but I didn’t know what he did to them.
Where was your son arrested?
I don’t know because they didn’t tell us where they arrested him and what he did. It was later that his friend, Bala, came and told me that they were both doing some mason work somewhere and the police went there and arrested him.
Do you know if someone else was arrested alongside your son?
I don’t know because I didn’t go to anybody’s house; it was this his other friend, Abdulwahab Bello, that I visited at his parents’ house the morning after I learnt about him and I was going to the house of the other boy that was killed to commiserate with them when I was called that I had some visitors.
But who actually beat your son among the police, vigilantes and the people around?
It was the police that did that to my son and they were six in number.
How old was your son?
He was 30 years old. He wasn’t married yet. Anytime I talked about marriage to him, he’d tell me that he wasn’t ready for marriage until he could help us and get our own personal house.
What was he doing for a living?
He was working with my younger brother, who is a miner, around Burra town. He used to come once in a while and would spend two to three days and then he’d leave. This time when he came, I asked him if wouldn’t go back to his place of work? He said no because with the coronavirus pandemic, even if they engaged in any mining, they wouldn’t be able to sell. He told me that he would look for another work and I told him that I didn’t like in him working here and I asked him to go back to the mining site, because I knew where he stayed, since he was with my younger brother.
How would you describe your son, what kind of a person was he?
Honestly, Ibrahim never stole anyone’s property since I gave birth to him. This boy was obedient and kind to us his parents. Anytime he came home from his place of work, I’d wake him up in the morning and he’d go and say his prayers and come back home. When breakfast is ready, I would wake him up and he’d eat; sometimes, he would go back into his room and start browsing with his phone. In the afternoon, he would go for prayers and retire into his room; in fact, some of his friends used to tease him that he behaved like a new bride, because he was always indoors. He’d tell them that he didn’t want to associate so much with people, especially the youth, because many youths in the state had become spoilt and he could not hang out with them.
During the last Sallah, when he came and found that his younger sister had been divorced, he said he would vacate his room for her to stay in and that he’d be sleeping in his friend’s house and I told him that I didn’t like him being among friends. But he insisted and was staying in the Doya area. He was my second child and first son.
But the police said they were not responsible for the death of the two other men and your son, but that they were mobbed because they went to steal and were arrested. How true is that?
They are lying; they were not mobbed. Even when I went to the area to greet Abdulwahab Bello, the people there narrated to me what happened to my son. They told me that when the police came to arrest him, he argued with them that he was not a thief. So, they argued about it for a while. Then, they went and came back with more policemen in a Hilux shortly after the Friday prayers. Immediately they went to him in Doya, they pounced on him and started beating him and broke his leg and that was how they were able to go with him in their vehicle.
But some residents of the Doya area said after the incident that your son and his two friends had been terrorising the area for a long time….
(Cuts in) Honestly, they are lying about that; he wasn’t even staying in the town; he used to come once in a while and if you ask his friends, they’ll tell you that this was the longest he had stayed there, up to a month; he came in before the Sallah (Eid-el Fitr). The last time I saw him, his clothes and other personal belongings were arranged in his younger brother’s room, because I told him to keep them there. He said he had N1,200 and would look for the balance of what he required so as transport fare back to his place of work.
So, when his friend came to see him, I told them to go and see his corpse that was brought back to me and he asked if they killed him and I told him yes, then he said my son was innocent. When they told me that he was a thief, I became worried thinking maybe he had joined some gangs without my knowledge. It was when his friends came that they said that he never stole and he was never arrested.
They told me that some boys went and stole chickens and they brought three of the chickens for him to help them keep. One of them even told my son to slaughter the chickens for him, but he said no and the boy even abused him, so he left the chickens and went to his place of work and never touched any of them; in fact, one of the chickens was about dying and so one boy quickly slaughtered it and kept it for the supposed owner. It was as a result of that that the boys who stole the chickens were arrested and they confessed that the chickens were with Ibrahim; that was how he was implicated in the case.
Are you now saying that the Police are lying about this incident and falsely accusing your son?
Yes, they are lying and they are accusing him falsely; they just cheated me.
What are you demanding now?
They have cheated me already. I don’t even know what to do and since he died, I have been sick. If I say I’ll take the police to court, I don’t have the financial capacity to pursue justice for my son; the family does not have the capacity to fight them. My siblings have been saying they will take the matter up and fight for justice, but they haven’t got the go-ahead from me because of how devastated I have been since he died.
Since this incident happened, how have you been feeling?
I have been devastated and sad by my son’s death; anytime I want to eat and I remember the times he used to come home and bring food for me, I become troubled in my heart.
Since you claimed that your son was innocent of the allegations, what would you like to tell the police?
My issue is that this boy never stole anything and if he had done that, they should have brought him to us and reported that they arrested our son or they should have even brought him in handcuffs and we would have known that he stole. Even if they were to take him to the prison after being convicted by the court, that would be okay, but it is a sad and devastating thing for the corpse of your son to be brought after being tortured to death without you knowing exactly what he did. It is the bitterness and agony that I feel that have made me not to say anything since he was killed. They have cheated me, honestly, they have cheated me.