In this interview with PUNCH, Mrs Dorcas Jolayemi, the wife of a journalist detained for criticising Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, recounts her eight-day ordeal in the custody of the Kwara State Police Command
A human rights organisation claimed you spent eight days in police detention because of your husband’s poem, which was critical of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. Can you narrate the events that led to your arrest?
On April 29, 2020 policemen came to my house in Ilorin, Kwara State, but I was not at home. I had gone to visit my brother-in-law. I was told that when they realised I was not at home, they came to my brother-in-law’s house in a Hilux van. They were about four policemen altogether. They said they had come to arrest me and I stood up. They kept asking me where my phone was and I told them it was with my son.
They said I must follow them to their station with my phone. Eventually, I got the phone and we left. On getting to the State Criminal Investigation Department, they began to interrogate me. They asked why I obstructed the arrest of my husband. I asked them what they meant by that.
They asked me when last I spoke with my husband and I told them I spoke with him in the morning. They said they wanted to arrest my husband and he fled to Maro in Kwara State. They said I was the one who advised him to run away and switch off his phone. They played a recording of my phone conversation with my husband.
Apparently, they had bugged my phone and that of my husband. I admitted that, indeed, I told my husband to run away, but it wasn’t a crime because I didn’t harbour him. I only asked him not to come home, which is what a typical wife would do. I heard the police wanted to arrest him and I didn’t know the reason why they wanted to arrest him. I told him to run away because I wanted him to be safe. They said for that, I would pay for it. I was brought before their boss and the man insulted me, calling me a stupid woman. He said I shouldn’t have advised my husband to run away. The man said I would pay for it and they took my statement. I was there from April 29 to May 6.
What exactly was your husband accused of doing?
While I was in detention, they played a recording of the poem that was recited by my husband. They asked if I could confirm if it the voice belonged to my husband and I said it was his voice. They said how could my husband be insulting Lai Mohammed, a minister. They said it was Lai Mohammed that ordered them to arrest him.
When you were in detention, were you tortured by the police?
My experience in police custody was horrible. It was my older sister that was bringing food to me. I wasn’t allowed to communicate with anybody. They didn’t let me speak with my son. I slept on the corridor of the toilet. The place was horrible. I couldn’t sleep most of the time because of mosquitoes. I would stay awake most nights to ward off the mosquitoes.
Did you have access to your lawyer during that period?
No. They didn’t even allow me to talk to anyone, not even to my lawyer.
Did the police also arrest other relatives of yours?
My husband’s younger brother, Mr Joseph Jolayemi, was arrested on April 28. He was arrested because of my husband. At the time of his arrest, he was accused of possessing a stolen cell phone. However, on getting to the SCID, he was interrogated. The police asked him questions about my husband. They subsequently played a phone conversation he had with my husband. It was obvious that his phone had also been bugged. My brother’s older brother, John Jolayemi, was also arrested.
Who took care of your children in your absence?
My brother-in-law’s wife was the one that took care of them.
Did you bribe the police before you were released?
When my husband finally presented himself a week later, we were released. He came with a lawyer. So we signed some documents. I can’t really say what happened afterwards. I don’t know if the police were given money or not. My brothers-in-law may know.
How has your health been since your release?
My two brothers-in-law and I were all hospitalised after we were released. We spent about a week in hospital. We had severe malaria. It was a traumatic experience.
Have you had contact with your husband since his arrest?
The last time I saw or spoke to my husband was on May 5, 2020, the day he turned himself in at the SCID. On Thursday, which was May 7, he was taken to Abuja and since then, he has remained there.
Do you know if he is alive and well?
Sincerely, I don’t even know if he is alive or not because I have no access to him. Even his brothers are getting information about him from third parties. I don’t know whether he is sick or well. I worry about him every day.
Have you made attempts to plead with Lai Mohammed to drop the case?
According to my brothers-in-law, they sent representatives to plead with Lai Mohammed to drop the case. They said the Oba of Ilala in Kwara State and some other traditional rulers had gone to the minister to plead with him, but he has refused to respond. Some even went to the minister’s hometown in Oro to plead with elders in his community, but there has been no positive response.
Who has been providing for your family since your husband’s arrest?
At present, we are staying with my brother-in-law. He is the one that is taking care of us.