On October 22, 2020, Robert Kpanou, a Beninese who worked as a tile layer in Lagos State, Nigeria, was returning to his home when he was stopped by officers attached to Maroko Police Station for a search during the 2020 nationwide #EndSARS protest.
Kpanou was arrested that evening after the police found in his possession a roll of sachet milk and four canned sardines allegedly stolen from a looted supermarket nearby.
While many Nigerians protested against police brutality in 2020, some hoodlums hijacked the well-conceived agitation to burgle private and public facilities, such as COVID-19 palliative warehouses, supermarkets, and police stations. This crime was widely perpetrated in Lagos.
“After telling the police officers I bought the sachet milk and sardines, they asked me to bring out the receipts but I told them I didn’t have any,” Kpanou told FIJ at Yaba Magistrate Court on September 24.
10 MONTHS IN JAIL WITHOUT TRIAL
The Nigerian law says any suspect should be arraigned within 24 hours of arrest if the court is within a radius of 40 kilometers to the police station or a period of two days in any other case.
However, Kpanou told FIJ that he, alongside a dozen others arrested for similar charges, was transferred to Area A Command, Lagos Island, popularly called ‘Lion’s Building’, on October 23, without appearing in court.
After spending over a week in a police cell at Lion’s Building, the detainees were finally arraigned at Yaba Magistrate Court on November 3. The court ruled that the suspects be remanded in Kirikiri Prison while awaiting the advice of the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution.
“Since then, they have not heard my case up till date,” Kpanou lamented, sounding like someone with dashed hope. “I didn’t steal those milk and sardines. Although I told the police I bought them because I was scared, to be honest with you, it was my colleague at work that gave them to me when I visited him after the day’s work at Banana Island.”
“By the way, they never mentioned anything about any crime of burgling a supermarket in court. They said we were the ones that burnt Ajah Police Station, whereas I never joined the protest.”
Asked if he had tried speaking with Felix, who he said gave him the milk and sardine the police found in his possession, Kpanou said he didn’t have his number.