Soldiers brutalised us mercilessly for stopping scavenger from entering Ogun estate – Guards
••• Allegation untrue, baseless — Army
David Adewuyi groaned for a few seconds as he slowly sat on a white plastic chair at a security post at Gloryland Estate in Arepo, Ogun State. His body ached as a result of bruises allegedly inflicted upon him three days earlier by some soldiers stationed in the community. Adewuyi, a security guard at Gloryland Estate, said the offence that resulted in his beating was preventing a Hausa scavenger from entering the estate.
In the past, Adewuyi said scavengers were allowed into the estate, but they were banned from doing so about two years ago due to incessant cases of burglary allegedly traced to them.
On Monday, December 14, 2020, when a scavenger pushing a wheelbarrow, holding a toggle and carrying a bag tried to enter the estate, Adewuyi said he and his colleague stopped the scavenger.
Little did they know that their action would pit them against some soldiers stationed in the community to guard against oil pipeline vandalism.
Adewuyi said, “Around 4pm on December 14, 2020, a Hausa scavenger was about to enter the estate, but my colleague prevented him from doing so. Scavengers used to enter the estate, but the estate residents have told us not to allow them to enter the estate again due to security issues.
“So as the scavenger was about to enter the estate, my colleague told him he couldn’t enter. I was inside the security post. Despite the fact that my colleague asked the scavenger not to enter, he was defiant and entered the estate. I was about to have my bath, but when I saw what was happening, I wore my clothes again and stepped outside to tell the scavenger to leave at once.
“The scavenger claimed that a resident of the estate asked him to come. I was surprised, so I told him to call the resident for confirmation. But the porter said he had no phone with him. I was baffled because he was the one who just told us that he was called by a resident to come. Since he could not call the resident who asked him to come, I told him to return to wherever he was coming from. But he was defiant.
“One thing I noticed was that he had inhaled some substance, so I concluded that maybe because he was high on drugs, he didn’t know what he was doing. As he insisted on entering the estate, I used my hand to guide him out of the gate. But as I was doing so, he pushed me forcefully. That was how we were engaged in a fight, and I beat him that he had to lie on the ground. Before I knew what was happening, about 15 motorcyclists of northern extraction had stormed the estate’s gate. I asked them to leave, that I had no business with them. I later lifted up the scavenger from the ground and put him on one of the motorcycles, and they left.”
However, about 30 minutes later, Adewuyi said the scavenger and some motorcyclists returned to the estate’s gate with a soldier.
He said, “I had gone out on patrol, so they met only my colleague at the security post. However, because I forgot an item at the security post, I returned there. As I was about getting there, I heard the soldier asking my colleague where I was. I thought I didn’t do any wrong doing my job, so I was not afraid to approach him.
“After identifying myself, the soldier asked me to board one of the motorcycles. I told him I could not obey the directive without informing my employers. I told him to follow me to meet with my employers. The motorcyclists started speaking Hausa with the soldier. Luckily, there was a couple who understood Hausa and were inside a church near the scene of the incident. One of my colleagues went to call them, and they conversed in Hausa with the soldier and the motorcyclists. But the soldier was not receptive to them.”
Adewuyi said not long after, the soldier picked up a big stick from the ground and wanted to hit his head. But he (Adewuyi) quickly took to his heels and ran inside the estate.
The security guard said the soldier kept chasing him inside the estate, and at that point, the motorcyclists who came with him wanted to invade the estate, so his (Adewuyi’s) colleagues quickly locked the estate’s gate.
According to Adewuyi, the motorcyclists left, only for them to return later with a group of soldiers.
He said, “I learnt that the motorcyclists told a lie to the soldiers that we were beating a soldier inside the estate. However, those soldiers asked what really happened, and after meeting with some of the executives of the estate residents’ association, the matter was settled and they left.”
However, around 9pm that same day, Adewuyi said he was manning a security post when he saw three soldiers wielding AK-47s walking towards him. He said two other soldiers sat in a truck parked some metres away from the estate.
He said, “They had arrested my colleague who we were together in the morning and he was in the truck with them. They had beaten him. When the soldiers got to me, they asked me if I was the one who beat a scavenger earlier in the day. I told them that the case had already been settled. But they were angry that I made the comment.
“They ordered me to follow them and board their truck. I told them I would have to inform the executives of the estate residents’ association before leaving with them. They said it was not necessary for me to do so. I told them that if the estate security was breached because I was away, they would be held responsible. I told them this because from my experience, thieves usually rob homes in the estate when no security guard is around. They told me to shut up and forced me to board their vehicle.
“I carried my torch, and a loaf of bread and soft drink that I was eating as I boarded their truck. They said I didn’t need to eat anything because I would ‘eat better food’ where they were taking me to. I understood what they meant, but I thought, ‘Well, I’m not a criminal, so I’m not going to start crying.’ As we were going, the scavenger, who was also in the truck, said he was hungry, and the soldiers gave him my bread. The scavenger also accused me of stealing N5,000 from him.”
Thereafter, Adewuyi said he and his colleague were taken to the army base at Arepo, where they were allegedly battered by the soldiers.
He said, “They turned our faces upside down, our legs raised up, and started whipping us with clubs and hitting us with their boots. When all these were happening, the soldiers asked the scavenger to sleep on the floor. They even gave him a carton to sleep on.”
As the battering was going on around 11pm, Adewuyi said some executives of Arepo residents’ association arrived, and after some minutes of heated argument between the officials and the soldiers, the security guards were released. Due to the injuries inflicted upon him and his colleague, Adewuyi said they were taken to the hospital from the army base for treatment.
Days after the incident, the security guard said he was still in severe pains.
“I have been having headaches and back pains,” he said.
Also speaking with Sunday PUNCH, Adewuyi’s colleague, Olaniyi Adeyemo, who was also allegedly battered by the soldiers, said his body still ached.
“My legs are swollen, and I am still taking medications,” he said.
Adeyemo, who showed our correspondent a phone whose screen was broken, alleged that it was destroyed by the soldiers when they smashed the device on the ground.
“Up till now, I still ask myself why the soldiers were involved in a matter that was not in their jurisdiction. I was simply doing my work,” he added.
A witness to the incident and security guard, Oladapo Oladejo, said he was surprised that the soldiers beat his colleagues for doing their job.
“I was at the scene when the soldiers returned to arrest my colleagues in the night. It was clear that the soldiers backed the scavenger – well, maybe because most of the soldiers were of the same northern extraction as him,” he said.
Another security guard, Adewumi Olorunwa, said it was not the first time that soldiers would beat security guards in the community at their duty post.
He said, “In October 2018, a similar incident occurred when I had a similar issue with a scavenger. I prevented him from entering the estate. Some hours later, the man came with some soldiers. But by that time, I had gone for patrol. The soldiers unleashed their anger on my colleagues, ordering them to sit on the ground and beating them in the process.
“A similar incident also occurred in 2019. My observation is that the soldiers are always too quick to support scavengers and motorcycle riders of northern extraction anytime there is a confrontation between them and us security guards or other residents. They would not even demand explanations from us before harassing us.
“They would come with guns as if there was a war going on. I don’t think it’s fair that we are harassed for doing our job. The soldiers should stop being one-sided when issues like this come up.”
Meanwhile, three days after the incident, some thieves burgled about five homes at Gloryland Estate, an incident that has stirred curiosity among the residents and security guards.
Speaking with our correspondent, the 2nd Vice-President, Arepo Central Community Development Association, Mr Debo Ajiga, said they stopped scavengers and others from entering the estate due to cases of theft linked to them in the past.
“We also stopped workmen from sleeping on building sites or uncompleted buildings in the estate. It’s not only scavengers that were affected,” he said.
However, Ajiga said he was in his house on December 14 when he was called around 5pm that there was hostility between a soldier and one of the security guards.
He said, “I saw the soldier wielding a big stick and insisting that our guard must go with him. I told the soldier to allow us to settle the issue. Later, some other ACCDA officials joined us. We all saw the scavenger. He was not coherent. It was clear he was high on drugs. We asked the soldier himself to check the man, and he too confirmed that the scavenger was high on drugs.
“Our stand is that the soldiers had no right to arrest our security guards for doing what they were employed to do. Scavengers are aware that they are not allowed to enter any of the estates in Arepo again. We banned them two years ago when we discovered many cases of theft linked to them. And since we banned them from entering the estate, we have not had any incident of burglary again.
“On that Monday, we all shook hands with the soldier who was harassing our security guard and everyone departed in peace, only for me to be called again later around 9pm that some soldiers had come again and taken two of our security guards to their base. I called some other ACCDA officials and we went to the base.
“Right there at the army base, we heard serious hits on our security guards; they screamed hard. They beat them, we saw wounds on one of the guards, David’s head. He was so badly beaten that he couldn’t walk. We had to carry him to the hospital for treatment.”
Ajiga said the painful part in the matter was that less than a month earlier – in November 2020 – the ACCDA security team met with the army and naval officials in Arepo and they all agreed that the military would not intervene in civilian matters.
Ajiga said, “The soldiers and naval officials said they would face just illegal oil bunkering-related issues. We were all amazed that less than a month after the agreement, the soldiers mistreated our guards. The guards were harassed for doing their job.
“The most puzzling thing in all of these is that two days after the incident, thieves broke into five homes in Gloryland Estate and carted away laptops, smartphones and money. It’s just obvious that after the weakening of our security men by the soldiers, there was a security breach. We intend to take this up with the army authorities. We have all the necessary records, including picture evidence,” he added.
Reacting, the commander of the Nigerian Army base at Arepo, Lieutenant Kingsley Umealor, denied that his soldiers beat the security guards.
He said he personally directed his men not to touch the guards, adding that he only ordered the guards to sit on the ground pending when they would be taken to the police station.
However, Umealor told Sunday PUNCH that one Chief Balogun from Gloryland Estate called him and pleaded that the guards should not be taken to the police station.
He said, “The soldiers did not beat anybody. The security guards have no right to beat a civilian, no matter what. The (Hausa) boy did not breach the estate security. He was only looking for what to scavenge. But the security guards, five of them, beat him up and collected N5,000 from him. I have the video of the boy who was beaten. He came to my base, rolling on the floor and complaining of stomach pains. I have the video evidence.
“On seeing his condition, I asked for his family members because he needed to be taken to the hospital. Then, I went to arrest two of the five security guards who beat him; the other three guards ran away. I brought the guards to the base and they testified to the story. One of them was even the one who confessed that they were five who beat the boy. I authorised my soldiers not to touch any of the guards. I only asked them to sit on the ground.”
Umealor said the security guards’ accusation of being beaten and having body pains “is an act of malingering,” insisting that no soldier beat them.
He added, “I was to take the case to Warewa Police Station and hand it over to the police, but one Chief Balogun called me and pleaded that I should not take the guards to the police. He said they would handle the matter internally. Else, the guards would have been taken to the police station. So, no soldier touched anybody.”