Key police witnesses at the ongoing inquest into the death of Ademola Adedeji, a distributor who died in police detention last February, were economical with the truth when they appeared before the coroner weeks ago, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Testimonies gathered during a coroner’s inquest, which held at the Ikeja police station, Friday, contradicted those given by police witnesses when they testified.
The police officers, Philomena Enwerem and David Egbon, had appeared before Magistrate Tajudeen Elias, the coroner, to explain their roles in the death of Mr. Adedeji, 39, who was arrested and detained for allegedly issuing dud cheques to his company, Rite Foods Limited.
The latest revelations cast fresh layers of controversy into the death of the sausage rolls distributor.
During his testimony in November, David Egbon, a police inspector, said, under oath, that he never visited the mortuary the night the deceased was rushed to the hospital from the police station.
“I was in my house at about 2300hrs (11 p.m.), when I received a call from my office that Ademola Adedeji developed illness, I immediately took a bike to the office where I was told that one of the patrol team rushed him to hospital…
“I visited the cell to find out from other inmate in the cell what happened, I was told that Mr. Ademola Adedeji suddenly developed illness and slumped in the cell, that they immediately alerted the officers at the charge room who responded quickly and took him to the hospital,” Mr. Egbon stated in his sworn deposition.
Mr. Egbon further said that he was still in the office when the news filtered in that the suspect had given up the ghost.
Despite the police officer’s claim that he did not visit the hospital, a copy of the payment receipt tendered to the coroner by the mortuary authority had Mr. Egbon’s name as the payer.
Police submission during the early stages of the inquest had also pointed that the deceased suffered a cardiac arrest while in detention.
While submitting a copy of the post mortem examination conducted four days after Mr. Adedeji’s death; Francis Faduyile, the pathologist who conducted the inquest, revealed that the death was due to asphyxia – lack of Oxygen.
Also, Dr. Faduyile revealed, during his testimony, that the deceased was ‘Brought In Dead’ – a term used to describe a patient who had died before getting to the hospital.
During her cross-examination, Ms. Enwerem, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, described the cell condition at the Ikeja police station, where the deceased was locked up, as “the standard of Nigeria cells.”
Ms. Enwerem also described the cells as “very very ventilated.”
When the coroner’s team visited the cells at the Ikeja police station, the rooms were everything but ventilated.
A central courtyard, measuring 20 feet by 14, feet leads into five poorly lit rooms that houses inmates. An opening measuring about 15 inches serve as window in each of the rooms.
Biodun Alabi, the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, admitted that overcrowding in the cells could lead to suffocation.
“Since my arrival, I don’t keep suspects in my cell, particularly for bailable offences,” said Mr. Alabi, who replaced the then DPO one month after the incident.
“The only people here are for capital offences, pending when they are transferred to Panti (the State Criminal Investigation Department),” he added.
Mr. Alabi’s testimony also hinted that the officer in charge of the matter had already prepared the deceased’s detention order – a written order that a suspect be detained – before he was questioned, a blatant violation of standard police procedures.
“When a suspect is arrested for an offence, he must make a statement, then you bring him for questioning. If there is an element of criminality or there is nobody to take him on bail, then you can prepare his detention order. That’s the procedure,” said Mr. Alabi.
The deceased’s family insisted that the police had demanded that they deposit about N1 million the day Mr. Adedeji was arrested before he would be granted bail.
After Friday’s police visit, Clement Eko, counsel representing the deceased, requested that the police officers who ‘lied under oath’ be recalled to the inquest for questioning.
The coroner said that would be “unnecessary repetition.”
“We’ve had the opportunity to hear David (Egbon) in court and other counsels cross examined him. Here is to make our findings and appropriate recommendations,” said Mr. Elias.
The inquest was adjourned till February 1, 2013.