A new dimension has been introduced into the case of assault on an artisan by aides of a local government chairman in Akwa Ibom State.
The victim and his assailants agreed to a “peaceful settlement” before video clips of the incident surfaced on WhatsApp and Facebook, the police have said.
Two men identified as aides to the chairman of Abak Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom were captured in the video clips flogging one Godwin Abraham who makes a living through the decoration of event venues.
From the video clips, the men accused the artisan of taking to Facebook to “insult” the chairman because of unresolved indebtedness – the artisan claimed he has not been paid N75, 000 for some decoration jobs he did for the chairman.
The chairman of Abak, Imoh Williams, was on Thursday suspended indefinitely by the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly after videos of the assault went viral on the Internet.
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, on Wednesday, condemned the assault, describing it as “unacceptable in a civilised society and does not represent our core values”.
The police in Akwa Ibom issued a statement on the incident, Friday, saying the victim, Mr Abraham, had lodged a complaint with them on May 9 against his assailants, about 75 days before the video of the assault became public.
“While investigation was ongoing, both parties met and agreed to settle their differences amicably.
“The alleged seventy-five thousand naira (N75, 000.00) was paid to the complainant, including the fifty thousand naira (N50, 000.00) he claimed to have lost and a new phone was also bought for him.
“The complainant, having opted for a peaceful settlement, voluntarily withdrew the matter. It was on this premise that the suspects were granted police bail,” the police said in the statement, issued by its spokesperson in the state, Odiko MacDon.
The “peaceful settlement” between Mr Abraham and his assailants, however, does not foreclose further investigation into the incident, the police said.
Mr MacDon, a superintendent of police, confirmed that one of the two men, Uduak Aniekan, otherwise known as Uduak Alele, who assaulted the artisan was the protocol officer to the suspended chairman of Abak Local Government Area.
Mr MacDon identified the other assailant as Nyakno Idongesit Ukpanah, an official of Ukanafun Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State.
The police spokesperson said Uduak Alele was angry with the artisan for calling the local government chairman “a slave” on Facebook.
Victim’s Lawyer Reacts
Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, is taking up Mr Abraham’s case Pro Bono.
Mr Effiong, Thursday, posted a photo of himself with Mr Abraham on Facebook. “Justice is the ultimate goal,” he wrote on the social media site.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Effiong, Friday morning, for his comment on the police claim that Mr Abraham agreed to a “peaceful settlement” with his assailants, the lawyer said he was not aware of such.
He asked a PREMIUM TIMES reporter to give him time to speak with his client before he could react.
The lawyer later called back to confirm that his client met with his assailants at the police station and his money had been paid and his damaged phone replaced.
He said this does not, however, represent a settlement.
“A crime has been committed. What is the compensation for that crime? Is it the refund of money that he was owed or the replacement of the phone that was damaged or the refund of the money that was stolen?
“Certainly, it is not for the police to suggest that they are abetting crime – a crime has been committed here and they should address it as a crime.
“What about the public torture and humiliation?”
Mr Effiong said his chambers was filing a civil suit against the assailants.
Outrage politically motivated, says assailant
One of the assailants, Uduak Alele, apologised to Mr Abrahman on Facebook.
He said he acted alone, without the knowledge and approval of the suspended chairman, Mr Williams.
Mr Alele said Mr Williams had sacked him as his protocol officer because of the incident.
He, however, said the artisan he flogged was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and that the outrage against his action was “politically motivated just because I am a PDP fanatic”.
“I say this, if I have ever indulged myself in any criminal activity since my birth or plan it or conceive it in my heart, let the God I serve and believe in forsakes me. But if I have not, let God of heaven and Earth speak and fight for me. I am a poor boy and I have no one to speak for me but God alone,” Alele wrote on the social media site, on Thursday.
The suspended chairman, Mr Williams, is yet to speak on the incident which has attracted wide-spread outrage among Nigerians.