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How drunk police officer shot me, damaged my hand – Witness

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Another victim of police brutality, Tomori Gbolagade, recounted his ordeal to the Lagos Panel of Judiciary Inquiry on cases of police brutality on Wednesday.

The victim told the panel how he was shot by a drunk officer on September 30, 2011, while on his way home from work.

Mr Gbolagade, who worked as a visual effects expert, said the ordeal he was subjected to has compelled him to switch from using his right hand to the left “and the right side of his brain to the left, which has caused him great damage”.

Ordeal

Narrating the incident to the panel on Wednesday, Mr Gbolagade said on September 30, 2011, himself and friends worked late at the office, the following day being a national holiday to mark Nigeria’s independence.

“I left around 10 p.m. heading home. I took the Oshodi- Dopemu road to lead to where I live which was Egbeda. On getting to the road block at Dopemu police station, there were some officers there and they requested that I park and I ‘trafficated’.”

He said prior to getting to the checking point, he picked up a friend before the police stopped them.

“The police stopped me, I was ‘trafficating’ to park when we heard gunshots repeatedly, two gunshots. They were very loud and I immediately slammed the brake and asked what happened.

“Then suddenly, the third gunshot that we heard came through the boot of my car, and hit my right arm, went into the dashboard.

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Tomori Gbolagade

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Tomori Gbolagade

“My friend who was beside me quickly jumped out to save himself. Being fully aware that it was the police that were around us, I quickly came out of the car, blood gushing out. The bullet hit an artery on my right hand and blood gushing out,” he told the panel.

“Immediately this happened, I came down and ran towards the police that I have been shot and to my surprise, the police took off right in front of us. They were about four, my friend that was beside me came and we were like, why are police running from civilians?”

He said since the checkpoint was in front of a police station, they went into the station to lodge a complaint.

“The police were questioning myself and my friend and I concentrated on putting pressure on the blood gushing out of my hand. As I turned to pick my phone from my car to call my family, I blanked out but I was still conscious because I could hear some conversation.

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Tomori Gbolagade

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Tomori Gbolagade

“At that time, peoole have started coming out and they were saying the officers were drunk and have been drinking from 7 p.m. to celebrate on October 1st, and that was September 30th,” he said.

Hospitalised

Mr Gbolagade said he was taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) “where he was left in the emergency room for two days before he was attended to because they were on holiday”. His hand was swollen by the time a doctor came to attend to him, he said.

The victim reportedly spent one month in the hospital and lost the use of the hand throughout the period.

As of this moment, there is no tendon in the hand and I cannot use it, he said, showing the panel his injured hand.

“The doctor that operated on me recommended I research an international hospital in India for a reconstruction, which was what I did.

“During that period, the police from the Dopemu station came once and told me the officer that shot me has been apprehended. His name is Ayuba Philip with a tag number 257745.”

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Mr Gbolagade said he sold all his belongings “and borrowed a lot of money to sort out his hospital bills”. He also raised money to go to India for treatment.

“On getting to the hospital in India, I was billed $10,000 for an operation I thought was going to be a one time procedure.”

The victim said on getting to India, “it was a different ballgame as the doctors said he would undergo nine different procedures which they cannot do once but in three phases”.

“The first one has to do with blood supply. The second stage has to do with flexibility and the third stage is when they will reinsert the tendons. They gave me hope that the hand can still function.

“They advised me that when I get back to Nigeria, I should sue the doctor and the hospital that they made the situation worse,” he said.

Mr Gbolagade told the panel that while at LASUTH, two operations where doctors took tissues from his left thigh to help the hand failed and the arteries burst after two days.

“The hospital billed me $10,000 for each stage. I did the first one, hoping that I will be able to raise money for the second one, which they gave me nine to 10 months but I couldn’t go back for the second surgery since 2012.”

He said he had been living on painkillers since then.

Seeking justice

The victim further narrated that when he got back from India, he went to the DPO to see if they could help.

But he said after waiting for six months, he hired a lawyer after which they wrote to the Commissioner of Police and the Inspector General of Police, but no response was received.

“When there was no response from any quarters, we had to go to court. Four years down the line, on September 30, 2015, the same day I was shot, I got judgement from the Federal High Court in 2015 for the police to pay for the expenses incurred locally and the first and second stages.

“The court awarded $31,562 and another $15,000 for the third stage and N5 million for the general damage, physical and emotional. That was in 2015, six years later, nothing has still happened,” he told the panel.

Mr Gbolagade said with the help of his lawyer, he had written to different quarters, including the Attorney General in respect of the judgment, “but since 2015, the sum has not been paid.”

“I don’t have the financial capacity to go back to India, since 2012. I have been finding a way out to see if I can make use of my right hand. But if I don’t get the cash, I can’t go out of the country to continue the treatment,” he said.

Police reaction

The counsel to the police, Cyril Ajifor, did not cross-examine the victim.

“We have listened to the petitioner’s case, we will not be joining issue with the petitioner. In his suit at the Federal High Court, there is proof that there was also medical brutality and not just police brutality.

“My Lord, we are only begging for a date to reach the mentioned DPO and get back to address the court on that,” Mr Ajifor said.

Doris Okuwobi then adjourned the matter till January 27 for the hearing of the case.

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