Senator Elisha Abbo’s absence stalls trial for alleged assault

Elisha Abbo at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Zuba
File photo of Elisha Abbo (M) at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Zuba

The trial of a Nigerian senator, Elisha Abbo, caught on camera assaulting a woman in Abuja was on Tuesday stalled due to his absence.

Isaac Adeniyi, the defence counsel, said Mr Abbo’s absence was due to illness.

The senator, who represents Adamawa North senatorial district, was arraigned at the Magistrate Court in Kubwa, Abuja, after a video showing him physically assaulting a lady went viral.

In the first five minutes of the 10-minute video obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Abbo was seen sitting on a generator near the entrance of the shop. He could be heard within this time making calls and asking some people where they were and how close they were.

Calls for Mr Abbo to be arrested and prosecuted intensified following this newspaper’s publication of the video.

Mr Abbo’s trial began on July 8 at the court where he was granted bail with a bond of N5 million.

The senator is facing a charge on two counts of criminal assault.

During the court session on Tuesday, the prosecution counsel, James Idachaba, told the court that the matter was slated for hearing and the prosecution was ready, “having served the defendant on proof of evidence as stated in section 350(2) of ACJA 2015.”

Responding, Mr Adeniyi said “The defendant is not in court, the reason being that the defendant is down with an acute febrile illness. We have the surety in court and he came with the medical report from the hospital. We graciously ask to come back some other day.”

Acute febrile illness is the medical term used to describe a sudden fever or elevation in body temperature.

When shown the report, Mr Idachaba said “We are just seeing the document for the first time, even though what is contained is an art of nature, every one of us here is prone to sickness. With so good faith on our path, having fulfilled the bail condition that says that when the defendant is not in court one of his surety should be in court to represent him.

Pleading further, the defence counsel said: “We are pleading with the court to give us another date, by this date, we hope he has been healed.

“On the service of proof of evidence, I was served this morning. If the court grants us this adjournment, it would also enable us to go through the proof of evidence,” Mr Adeniyi pleaded.

Without objection from the prosecution, the Chief Magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah, adjourned to September 24 for hearing.

How the assault occurred

Mr Abbo, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had entered the shop at about 6:00 p.m. on May 11, a Saturday. The senator walked in with three young women to purchase adult toys, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

But shortly after they began shopping for the toys, one of the three girls brought in by Mr Abbo started throwing up. She vomited multiple times, prompting the shopowner to remark that the woman should have vomited outside and not inside her shop, especially since she was not a child.

Mr Abbo, who was said to be agitated by the sudden illness of one of his girls, was said to have accused the shopowner of poisoning the store’s air conditioner.

The shopowner’s argument that if the air-conditioner had been contaminated, others in the shop would have also taken ill further angered Mr Abbo, and the two began exchanging words over the matter.

In the first five minutes of the 10-minute video obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Abbo was seen sitting on a generator near the entrance of the shop. He could be heard within this time making calls and asking some people where they were and how close they were.

Just before the end of the first half of the video, an armed police officer walked in. Mr Abbo explained to the officer in Hausa that the woman insulted him and that he had called the assistant inspector-general (AIG) over the matter, who then assured him that he would call the police commissioner to call the Maitama Area Command. He also said he was disappointed in the shop-owner, with whom he said he had been friends for five years.

Mr Abbo, 41, said the police officer should take the shop-owner away. The shop-owner quickly called her father to inform him that Mr Abbo had called the police over the matter and that she was about to be taken away.

Mr Abbo asked the shop-owner to stop the call because he was talking to her, a demand the woman refused to accede to. Another man could be seen coming from behind the police officer to snatch the shopowner’s phone from her.

Next, the shopowner’s friend who had been standing nearby tried to intervene by pleading with the second man to take things easy.

“Oga, please take it easy now,” she said.

Mr Abbo swiftly descended on the shopowner’s friend, saying she was “very stupid” and slapping her repeatedly, including directly on the eyes.

The senator then demanded that the two women should be taken to the police station. He repeatedly told the shop-owner that he was disappointed in her for calling him a drunk and that he would have harmed her more and closed down the shop but for their friendship.

PREMIUM TIMES learned that the assaulted woman, who is nursing a child, was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for eye inflammation and other injuries she sustained during the attack.

Mr Abbo has since apologised publicly for the assault and pledged to ensure such does not happen again.

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