On October 18, when Sebastian Jidonu, a lawyer, walked into the office of the Area K Police Command in Morogbo, near Badagry to settle a dispute a client of his was involved in, little did he know that he would be illegally detained, physically assaulted, his life threatened and utterly humiliated.
Mr. Jidonu had gone to the office of Area K commander, Osung Ekpo, to secure the release of a tipper belonging to his client, a member of the First Nigerian Tipper Drivers Association, Badagry Branch.
The tipper was confiscated by members of a rival union, Union of Tipper and Quarry Employers of Nigeria, UTQEN, who allegedly set up an unauthorised tollgate at the Iyafin Bridge in Badagry in collaboration with the police. Touts forcibly collect money from drivers, confiscating tippers of drivers that refused to comply at the tollgate.
In a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, narrating his ordeal, Mr. Jidonu said that after pleading with Mr. Ekpo to release the tipper to his client, Mr. Ekpo, who is an Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, appeared to have acceded to his demand when the leader of UTQEN, Joel Jacob, walked into his office with six other members of his union.
Mr. Ekpo allegedly offered them champagne mixed with Alomo Bitters. After the unionists had drunk to their fill, Mr. Jacob, who is also called, Battery Charger, pointed to Mr. Jidonu and said in Yoruba: “Bobo yi ki se agbejoro. Oga etilekun mo” meaning “This man cannot be a lawyer. Area Commander, detain him.”
As if acting on an order from a superior, Mr. Ekpo immediately ordered Mr. Jidonu detained.
“The Area Commander demanded I must identify my person, which I did by handing over my identity card and complementary card but he retorted, ‘Anybody can print this kind of documents,’” Mr. Jidonu said.
“He ordered his boys to detain me. I requested that I be permitted to fetch my call to bar certificate as my house was a stone throw from the Area Command, about 10 minutes’ drive. He turned down my request.”
Bent on humiliating the lawyer, Mr. Ekpo arranged for the interrogation and humiliating treatment to be caught on video.
“He ordered his boys to bring me out after 15 minutes in custody and had pstage-managed the office with one of his boys holding a video camera and was busy recording the interrogations by the area commander,” Mr Jidonu said in the petition.
“The cameraman had serially shut my photographs and the Area Commander threatened to kill me if I ventured to report to anybody the event that unfolded. Hilariously, he stripped himself naked, displaying bullet wounds he incurred while serving as a gallant police officer. The bullet wounds were removed through surgical operation in Germany, he said. There was a tattoo on his left lap and another behind his head as an epitome of bullet wound. He said if he could destroy armed robbers it would not be difficult for him to kill a lawyer.”
Mr. Jidonu said he was physically assaulted throughout the ordeal and detained for over 20 hours by the police officers.
“I was afraid for my life while the charade lasted,” he told PREMIUM TIMES. “Every day, you read about extrajudicial killings in the news and you think it cannot happen to you but it could have been me if I had argued with him or said anything that would aggravate the situation.”
He however declined to comment further on the incident, saying he did not want to jeopardise the case already in court. He alleged that his client was also beaten and bloodied by policemen attached to Mr. Ekpo.
After subjecting him through the humiliating ordeal and physical assault, Mr. Ekpo instituted a two-count charge of lying to a law enforcement agent and impersonation against Mr. Jidonu at a Magistrate court in Badagry.
“The second count cannot hold because even the magistrate handling the case confirmed that Mr. Jidonu attended the said university as he did and there is no how he can be a fake lawyer,” said Abayomi Bamidele, the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Badagry branch.
“As for the second charge, hearing has been fixed for Wednesday. We wait to hear what the magistrate ruling would be.
But even if Mr Jidonu lied to him, the AC pouted outside the law and beyond the power or the police act by physically assaulting and detaining him illegally.”
Mr. Bamidele said the NBA had finalised plans to charge Mr. Ekpo for assault.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jidonu has independently instituted a violation of his fundamental human rights suit against Mr. Ekpo.
Mr. Ekpo did not respond to several calls, and text messages sent to his mobile phone for his own side of the story.
The spokesperson of the Lagos Police, Ken Nwosu, said the petition would be investigated and treated on its merit.
“Whatever the allegation, we would investigate the petition on its merit. Justice must be given to anybody deserving of justice,” he said.