Malam Suleiman Ibrahim, a nurse with the Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital Kaduna is the latest victim of brutality by the State Security Service (SSS). He narrates his ordeal to our Correspondent
The day was Thursday March 1, 2012. Very early in the morning as usual, Mal. Suleiman Ibrahim prepared for work. He bade good bye to his family and left in his car. He was going to Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital in Kaduna, his work place. Ibrahim is a nurse with several years of experience. He is the nurse in charge of the main operation theater.
A dedicated family man and a father of four, Mal. Suleiman, 50, is described by his colleagues at the hospital as a peace-loving, law-abiding and God-fearing individual who could hardly hurt a fly. On that fateful day, Suleiman, said an unknown person came to him as he was coming out of the operation theater and asked him of one Suleiman Abubakar. He told the enquirer that as far as he can remember there is nobody bearing Suleiman Abubakar at the hospital, but that there is Suleiman Ibrahim and that was he. The visitor then told Suleiman to follow him to the car down stairs and meet somebody who wanted to see him.
Suleiman told the visitor to go down stairs instead and bring whoever it was that wanted to see him because he was busy at that moment and he could not leave his duty post at that hour.
“Somebody came to the theater in mufti with a white shirt and black trousers. I came out of the main suit of the operating theater to do something in the reception. He came to me and asked he was looking for Suleiman Abubakar, in charge of the Theater. I told him we don’t have Suleiman Abubakar, but am in charge of the theater and my name is Suleiman Ibrahim. He he came with somebody who is downstairs that wants to see Suleiman Abubakar and that I should follow his to the car downstairs. I then told him to go and call the man in the car to identify himself and then see if we can help him,” Suleiman narrated. Suleiman said at that point the visitor left as if to bring up the man and Suleiman himself went back into the theater and continued with his work.
He said he then came out to the reception again to do yet some other things and the man came back, this time along with 3 other people with guns. Soon as they spotted him, Suleiman said the first visitor pointed at him and ordered the 3 others to arrest him.
“The 3 others came to me and asked me to follow them and I asked where to follow them to. They did not answer but they insisted that I follow them. I said I was not going anywhere, that I am law-abiding but if there is anything they should inform the Chief Medical Director of my hospital, or the Matron. I told them am not above the law. So I was still resisting and my staff were also resisting; they even threatened to hand-cuff one of the staff. I insisted that for me to follow them they must tell me what I have done. Later on they dragged me outside where their guns were gathered. They scared everybody away with their guns and before you know it somebody has handcuffed my hands, fell me to the ground and put their cuffs on my legs as well. Look at the from the injuries I sustained on my legs, hands and even the back of my hand as a result of their brutality”, narrated Suleiman.
Suleiman said that was how they dragged him down stairs to their waiting vehicle. Downstairs people were gathered scared and confused even as the security operatives or whoever they were, threatened to shoot. The whole scenario within and around the hospital was chaotic as patients, including women in labour at the Labour room, the emergency theater were all left by themselves unattended to.
Amidst that confusion, Suleiman said they bundled him into their vehicle and drove away. It was then that removed the hand cuffs from his hands collected his handset.
“Somebody said to me they were trying to arrest me and yet is resisting arrest. I told him in return that I was not resisting arrest, I just wanted them to tell me what my offence was and they did not,” Suleiman said.
The soft-spoken Suleiman went on to tell Desert Herald that that was how they took him to place he later understood to be an SSS office of Yakubu Gowon Way, as he remember passing through Obasanjo House in Kaduna. On getting to their destination, Suleiman said they took him to one room and kept him there for some time. They then called him outside and took his photograph. They took him back inside and began to ask him a series of questions including his name, address, marital status, education, age, his children, name of his wife, where she works and her phone number etc.
Mallam Suleiman said from there he was taken to another room for yet another round of questioning which including question regarding his bank account etc. In addition to the first set of questions he was asked.
He said he didn’t have any other bank account apart from his salary account which he disclosed to them. When they asked him his Account Number, Suleiman told them he didn’t know.
When they asked him question, as to where slept last night, Suleiman had this to say: “Myself? I slept in my house. I then told him that whenever I close from work, I don’t go to anywhere, and I am giving you this as an assignment, go and find out. He then asked you don’t even go to club? And I said look I don’t even take cola (Nut).”
At this point the security operative put it to Suleiman that these were one thing he was hiding from them and he (Suleiman) asked what that was. The operative, according to Suleiman, then said you have more than one wife; you have two wives; and I argued back that I have only one wife. Then he said they were in Nassarawa here in Kaduna for some work and they met some people with some Bomb making materials among who was a woman. He said it was the woman that gave the name of her husband as Suleiman Abubakar and that he usually wears hospital uniforms but she didn’t know where he was working.
“So I asked where the woman was. Are you telling me that the woman doesn’t know where her husband works? This is unbelievable; a woman must know where her husband works.”
“It was here that he asked me if I knew why I was taken there and I said no I didn’t. He then asked me about three times if I know Boko Haram and I on each occasion I answered no, Then he a said so you are their member and again I said no. I said I only hear and read stories about Boko Haram on the television.
“So he asked when you see it on television how do you feel. And I said I feel bad, how can I be happy when innocent people are being killed? So after that they took me back to the first room they kept me,” Suleiman narrated.
Suleiman remained in that room alone for another long period of time before the second interrogation officer appeared again told him: “We don’t bring people here except for a very good and important purpose. But after all our investigations on you it appears you are not the person we are looking for”.
In his office, Suleiman said, the officer asked him to sit down after which he took a relatively long time looking down before he raised his head and said to him: “We must apologize to you; you are not the right person we are looking for. It must be a mistake of identity.”
“So I said to him I also have something to say: You must write a comprehensive letter of apology to management and tell them exactly what happened here. And I must tell you I am going to take legal action on this.
“The officer then told me that at the moment they were discussing with my management on how best to settle the matter. But after giving me back all my belongings, they took me back to the hospital where a lot of people were still waiting to hear of my where about. Along the way they were busy pleading with me and begging me to please drop the case since they said they were sorry and I should take rather as an act of fate”, a battered Suleiman disclosed.
Back at the hospital Suleiman said they met the management and they told the management that there was actually no problem; that Suleiman should continue with his work as all investigations carried out proved his innocence.
As at now, the SSS, according to Suleiman, is yet to write any apology to me or the hospital management. Consequently, I brief my Lawyers who wrote to the SSS asking them formally to apologize to me and pay N10 million damages within 7 days, failure of which they will file a suit in a court of law.
Nurse Suleiman Ibrahim is yet another victim of brutality meted on innocent and law-abiding citizens by law enforcement agents in Nigeria. Apart from the brazen embarrassment and disgrace to his person in full public glare, Suleiman is left with injuries on head, neck, wrist and ankle. The injury on the back of his head was sustained when they used force and fell him to the ground and he knocked his head on the floor, while those on his wrists and ankles were sustained as a result of the hand and leg cuffs administered on him for no reason.
So the question remains: when will law enforcement officers learn to respect Nigerian citizens and learn to conduct thorough investigations before using, in many cases a sledge hammer to kill a fly?