A 24-year-old photojournalist, Yinka Badmus, working with Talk Village International, has been arrested and remanded in Ikoyi Prison, Lagos State for allegedly spotting a hairstyle some policemen felt made him look like a cultist.
Badmus, who had just bagged a scholarship, was arrested by policemen attached to the Lagos State Police Command Anti-Cultism Unit.
He was arrested for dreadlock hairstyle. Badmus, who was alleged to have been badly beaten by prison inmates as a “welcoming party bash,” is now critically sick.
According to his boss, Stephen Oguntoyinbo, Chief Executive Officer of Talk Village International and convener of the Lens Adventure, a project that attracts young people to use filmmakers and photographers as toolkit of advocacy, said he received disturbing phone calls from prison warders, urging him to ensure Badmus was granted bail and taken to hospital to ensure he did not die.
Oguntoyinbo disclosed that the calls disturbed and alarmed him. He explained that Badmus was arrested on December 31, while he was eating noodles in the community he lives.
He was arrested by policemen from anti-cultism unit at Pedro Bus Stop, Gbagada.
It was gathered that after Badmus was detained, the policemen allegedly refused to allow him to contact anyone.
While Badmus was in detention, trying to convince the policemen that he was not a cultist, friends and family had become frantic with worry, searching for him.
Badmus’ whereabouts was eventually known after a detainee, who was granted bail, contacted one of his relatives. He had already spent three days in police detention, contravening the stipulated instruction that every suspect must be charged to court within 24 hours.
Oguntoyinbo said: “After days in detention, Yinka was able to send a message to a close relative on January 3. “He was found at the station. “The information given by the police was that he was arrested at Surulere, Lagos because of his hairstyle.
“I was asked to come to Gbagada Police Station January 4 to bail him and see the officer in charge of his case.”
When Oguntoyinbo went to bail Badmus, he was shocked to see the police conveying him and other young men in a Black Maria.
The photographer was arraigned at Ogudu Magistrate Court, Lagos and remanded.
Oguntoyinbo further said: “At the Ogudu Magistrate Court, the resident judge asked that Yinka be granted bail and a lawyer in the magistrate court was attached to us.
“The lawyer subsequently requested for the following: means of ID proof, house rent receipt, NEPA bill, Company ID and tax payment for two years.
“He also received the sum of N10,000. “After this, the lawyer demanded for another sum of N20,000 for his service, with a promise that he would have a meeting with the judge and thereby effect Yinka’s release.
“On Tuesday, I called the lawyer, with the intention of submitting the requested documents so the boy could be released, the lawyer again demanded for another N25,000 for bail-bond and also made me to know that I would have to pay police for verification and other processes.
“Meanwhile, the boy had been remanded in Ikoyi Prison.”
Oguntoyinbo disclosed that between Sunday and Thursday, he had been inundated with phone calls from prison, alerting him of Badmus’s deteriorating health condition.
The National Coordinator of the Network for Police Reforms in Nigeria, Okechukwu Nwanguma, furious over the continual incarceration of a promising young man, said: “Two things; the police officer was quoted as saying the guy was arrested because of his hair style. Where in the law is a hair style a crime? And why did the police officer go ahead to charge him? Since he was granted bail, why did the lawyer keep making financial demands from the surety, including money for the police not to go and verify the surety’s residence? Isn’t that unbecoming of a lawyer? The innocent guy is languishing in prison, reported to be very sick- all because of a lawyer’s greed.”