Nigeria Police Arrest Arts Curator, Aderemi Adegbite without Cause

Aderemi Adegbite, founder of Vernacular Art Laboratory (VAL) is a widely traveled artist whose works have been exhibited in top exhibitions across the world. He is also known at home as the lead curator of the Iwaya Art Community, an art and culture organisation that uses the vehicles of music, visual arts, film, photography, and poetry to encourage young Nigerians living in Iwaya/Bariga area of Lagos State to live a crime-free life.

Yesterday, Aderemi Adegbite was busy at work on a JK RANDLE CENTRE FOR YORUBA CULTURE AND HISTORY Project when he was arrested without any cause or tangible evidence from by the men of the Nigerian Police in Ketu, Ikorodu Road. He was maltreated by the officers.The officers, Supritendent Owoeye Aderemi and the limping one who refused to give his real name, he has a pseudonym as Eko Agidingbi,arrested and accosted Adegbite to one of the ramshackle buildings in the Ketu Police Station premises.

Although this aroused suspicion Adegbite had no choice but to suffer untold psychological assault from the police officers. While at the ramshackle outpost, the Police officers nearly forced him into accede to an incriminating ‘statement’ against himself, but on discovering the fine lines of the statement, he immediately called his lawyer and vehemetly decided to write or sign anything until the arrival of his lawyer.

When they could not pin anything on him, they accused him of having pirated copies of Tunde Kelani’s movies with him, as well as some curatorial materials which they hoped to incrimi him. He asserted himself that it was impossible for an artist like himself to purchase the pirated work of another artist talkless of a person who he knows and respects. He also explained the materials with him with evidences from his phone.

He explained to them what he does for a living and told them of his relationship with Tunde Kelani, and the fact that he had an appointment with the filmmaker and was taking the movies to the filmmaker to discuss the curatorial work at hand.

Aderemi Adegbite provided the phone number of Tunde Kelani to them by they insisted that he was a criminal. All explanations put forward by the artist and celebrated Nigerian Filmmaker, Tunde Kelani, through a phone call with whom he (Aderemi) was to meet fell on deaf ears as the ‘officers’ were bent on milking the Aderemi Adegbite. Many honest and law-abiding Nigerians have been harassed for the way they look and so Adegbite may have become another victim of the constantly displayed myopia of the Nigerian Police.

Recounting his ordeal in the hands of the Police officers, he said: ‘I was going to meet Kelani in order to show him the films I had with me, they (Policemen) stopped me very rudely at Ketu bus-stop. And I told them that if you really want to get to know what I have in my bag, you don’t have to rush by pulling my clothes. And I told them to show their ID cards which they did’.

It is an understatement that the Nigerian Police Force is fast losing the trust of the people it promised to serve diligently. The apparent motto of the Nigerian Police ‘Police is Your Friend’ seems an unlikely phrase especially in the face of recent happenings bordering on high-handedness by certain officers of the Force. Extrajudicial killings by trigger-happy officers are replete, not to include the illegal operations by officers of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In order to save the Nigerian police from further rot, the proposed 2020 Police Reform Bill must be fully reviewed.

The Nigeria Police Force was established by an Act of Parliament which makes it a legal entity. And as such, it behooves on the Force to act within the ambit of its jurisdiction. Section 214 (1) (2) (a) (b) of the 1999 (CFRN) Nigerian Constitution
provides that:

(1) There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution
(a) the Nigeria Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly;

(b) the members of the Nigeria Police shall have such powers and duties as maybe conferred upon them by law.

Sadly, many innocent Nigerians have suffered in the hands of the overly-prized powers of the Nigeria Police operatives. Some have been physically brutalized or killed in the process of being mishandled by these dissident Nigerian police officers.

One of such recent victim is Aderemi Adegbite, a Lagos-based poet, photographer, and video/performance artist, and curator. Just like other victims, Aderemi was unlawfully arrested and emotionally traumatized. He was detained for four hours.

This un-police behaviour by the officers of the Nigerian Police Force contravenes Section 34 (1) of the Nigerian constitution which provides

(1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly
(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;
(b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and
(c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

In an age where police brutality is being strongly discouraged and protest(s) organised in solidarity against such is fast becoming commonplace, the Nigerian state still grapples with this monstrous bite. If common citizens are incarcerated or killed daily by people who are supposed to be their watchkeepers, then the masses remain prisoners in their own land.

We can only hope that the good people in the Nigeria Police Force can take up this issue with integrity, so as to purge the bad eggs among the Nigeria Police Force.

As at the time of submission of the story, we spoke to DSP Hauwa Idris-Adamu, the Acting Zonal Police Public Relations Officer, Zone 2 Command, comprising Ogun and Lagos States. After regaling her with the information available to us, she said that the Ketu, Ikorodu Road Police Station is under the Lagos Police Command and so she is not in the best position to issue a statement for the Nigeria Police on the matter. She advised that we should go and get first hand facts from the Divisional Police Officer of the Station. She refused to make the number of DPO available to us.

Babatunde Odubanwo

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