Another victim of extortion
How policeman battered lawyer over alleged refusal to offer bribe
SUNDAY, May 3, 2015 may have certainly become history for many Nigerians. While many may not have remembered how they spent the day, but for Chukwunonso Daniel Ogbe, an Enugu-based lawyer, he would vividly recall what the day brought for him.
It was a day he was given the beating of his life for allegedly refusing to part with some gratification demanded from him by a Police Corporal Effiong Bassey.
Chukwunonso was so pummeled that he ended up spending several days at the hospital following the blows dealt on him by the police officer.
At about 4.00pm that fateful day, Chukwunonoso who had gone to Amechi Uwani in Awkunanaw, Enugu South Council to see a client, was on his way to his Maryland residence, in the same local council when his vehicle was flagged down by the corporal at a check- point.
Bassey with Police number 427669 was a member of the four-man police officials from the Independence Layout police station that mounted a road-block at the Loma Linda junction that evening.
The Guardian gathered that trouble started for Chukwunonoso after allegedly complying with the demand from Bassey for the particulars of his vehicle.
Not satisfied with just being given the particulars of the vehicle, Corporal Bassey was alleged to have asked: ‘anything for us for Sunday?’ Ogbe told him that he did not understand what he meant.
Corporal Bassey then openly demanded for money from Ogbe. Bar Ogbe told him that he would not give him (Bassey) any money. Corporal Bassey replied thus: “that means that you are an enemy and I will treat you as an enemy.
Since you cannot give us money, you are going nowhere,” the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Enugu state branch said in a press statement signed by the chairman, Dr Osita Ogbu last Wednesday.
According to the NBA’s statement: “Baristerr Ogbe’s car was there and then detained and his freedom of movement frustrated. While waiting for the release of his vehicle, Bar Ogbe brought out a manuscript he was editing and started his editing work there.
He placed the manuscript on his vehicle and was writing on it. Corporal Bassey descended on him and started inflicting blows on him, perhaps thinking that he (Ogbe) was copying his particulars for a report to the police authorities.”
Corporal Bassey knocked down Barrister Ogbe, held him to the ground and continued beating him until other members of his team intervened.
The most elderly member of the team asked Ogbe what was wrong. While Barr Ogbe was trying to speak to him, Corporal Bassey rushed on him and dealt a blow to his right eye which resulted in the swelling of the eye.
Corporal Bassey then tore Bar Ogbe’s dresses to shreds which left him naked to the consternation and amazement of passers-by. Corporal Effiong cocked his gun and threatened to shoot him but other members of his team stopped him.”
The NBA said that Ogbe spent several weeks on hospital bed following the multiple injuries he received from the attack, adding that they decided to address the press on the development following alleged inability of the Commissioner of Police to respond to a petition it forwarded to his office on the incident.
In our letter to the Commissioner of Police, we urged him to use his good office to cause the immediate arrest and prosecution of Corporal Effiong, without prejudice to his being subjected to serious disciplinary action.”
Enugu Bar (ENBAR) also prayed the Commissioner of Police to put in motion a machinery to monitor police extortions from members of the public, especially motorists, which appears to have become official since they are being committed with contempt and impunity on daily basis in the full glare of the public.
The Commissioner of Police did not give us the courtesy of responding to our letter, let alone addressing the abuses we were complaining of or bringing Corporal Effiong to book.
Road blocks are still mounted in all nooks and crannies of the state where motorists continue to be exploited notwithstanding the directives of the Inspector General of Police,” the NBA said.
It accused the Police of monetising the bail process in Enugu State notwithstanding the palpable illegality of the act and alleged that “any accused person that is unable to pay money for bail will remain in detention well beyond the constitutionally prescribed period.
Those who have the capacity to pay escape prosecution even when there are prima facie evidence of serious offences having been committed”. The NBA continued: “In Enugu State, a complainant is required to pay money before his case is investigated.
If he refuses or fails to pay, either that his report will not be investigated or he may end up being the suspect where the supposed suspect is able to offer money.”
On many occasions, lawyers who are doing their legitimate duties are harassed in police stations as if they are criminals. In some cases, the police will take delight in humiliating the lawyer before his client.
Accused persons are made to appear stupid for briefing a lawyer.” “Most land disputes in Enugu State are now being determined at the police stations notwithstanding the clear and unambiguous directive of the Inspector General of Police to the contrary”.
The NBA threatened to set the machinery of the law in motion against Corporal Effiong for the alleged act, adding that it may also be compelled to issue “a writ of mandamus” against the Enugu State Commissioner of Police for failing in his public duties to stop police abuses in the state.”
When contacted on the development, the Police Public Relations Officer in Enugu State, Ebere Amaraizu (DSP), denied knowledge of the incident.
Amaraizu, who invited reporters to his office to explain the position of the Police Command on the matter, where he also put a call to the NBA chairman in the state, asking for a copy of their petition on the incident, said the Police authorities would not take kindly to insolence by its officers.
I assure you that we will not sweep the matter under the carpet and we take serious exception to abuses from any officer. We will investigate this as soon as we receive the petition and if the officer is indicted, we will mete out serious sanctions against him”, he said.
On alleged extortion of members of the public by the police, Amaraizu said the Command would not tolerate any of such, urging the public to report any officer caught in the act.
He said the essence of community policing was to enable members of the public contribute to the safety and security of the environment, stressing that it was not only the duty of police officers to do so.