Nigerian youth Chinemremu Ogbu has died in the custody of officers attached to the Trade Fair Division of the Lagos State Police Command.
However, controversy lingers around the circumstances of the 23-year-old apprentice’s death on Saturday.
While family members and other traders alleged that Ogbu was tortured to death for stealing goods worth millions of naira from his boss’ shop at the Trade Fair Market, the police insisted that he committed suicide in the cell.
Trouble started between Ogbu and his boss, Fidelis Eduka, when the latter conducted an audit of the goods in his shop and reportedly discovered that goods worth N14 million were unaccounted for.
In a bid to recover the missing goods, Eduka was said to have lodged a complaint against Ogbu at the Trade Fair Police Division, where police officers were mobilised the apprentice.
The case took another dimension when Ogbu’s remains were recovered in a cell, where he was being detained.
When the news of Ogbu’s death became public knowledge, traders in the market mobilised to Eduka’s shop and out of annoyance burnt his goods, businessman Chucks Goodluck told Punch.
Goodluck explained that Ogbu, who had been serving Eduka for years, was about to complete his apprenticeship when the boss accused him of stealing his goods, adding that a lot of people had been using similar scenarios to renege on agreements to settle their apprentices after serving them.
“The boy had a few months to complete his apprenticeship after which his boss would settle him, but the suspicion was that the man started coming up with different stories to prevent him from fulfilling that obligation of settling him after his service by accusing him of stealing goods worth millions of naira from his shop.
“So, he involved the police, who took Ogbu into custody and when the boy died, traders, who were aware of the case, angrily stormed Eduka’s shop and burnt all his goods. The stealing of the goods was just an allegation against the victim by his boss that should not have warranted the involvement of the police as that is one of the tactics people like that use to prevent them from fulfilling their obligations to their apprentices.”
Another narrative had it that Ogbu committed suicide while in police custody.
A police officer working on night shift allegedly discovered Ogbu’s dangling body in the cell after he “hung himself” with his cloth.
After he was brought down, it was learnt that Ogbu was rushed to the Navy Hospital, where a doctor on duty pronounced him dead. His corpse was said to have been deposited in the hospital’s morgue.
Lagos police spokesperson Muyiwa Adejobi denied that Ogbu was tortured in custody, adding that the command was not aware that the complainant beat the deceased before the matter was reported to the Trade Fair Police Station.
“We had a report of the case and had the suspect in our custody for a case of stealing of goods worth millions of naira before the suspect, who was the only one in the cell, committed suicide in the cell on Saturday, March 20, 2021, around 10.30pm,” Adejobi said.
“The police did not torture him, because there was no basis for that.
“He didn’t deny the allegation. He hung himself with his clothe in the cell. The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, has ordered the Homicide Section of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department to take over the case for investigation.
“The allegation of beating or torture by the police is not true and is a mere speculation,” he said.