A Lagos-based lawyer, Yakubu Eleto, has narrated how he was allegedly maltreated by police officers at the Lagos State House of Assembly on Friday morning.
Narrating the incident on his Facebook page, the lawyer said he went to the House to submit a letter regarding a court case on the forthcoming local government elections in Lagos State when he was assaulted.
Mr Eleto said the officers attached to the House seized his phones, dragged his shirt, pulled him and “carried him like a five-year-old boy to the Assembly gate into a waiting police van with plate no RRS 387 LA,” and was whisked to the nearest police station.
“They eventually dragged me on the floor, tear-gassed me, poured pepper spray on my face, brutalized me, dehumanized me and forcefully made me enter the car identified above, and whisked me in a commando manner to the Alausa, Police Station where I was kept behind the counter for till I became unconscious.”
Alleged assault, torture
The lawyer said he went to submit a letter informing the House of a hearing of the Motion on Notice on a case filed at the High Court by his client in which the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LAISEC) and the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) are defendants.
“I instituted an action on the instruction of some of my clients against the unconstitutionality of the forthcoming local council elections in Lagos State and joined the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) and Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) as co-defendants.
Mr Eleto said both LASIEC and LSHA were served the copies of the court processes on July 9 and 12, with that of the Lagos Assembly submitted to the clerk.
“The suit in question with no FHC/L/CS/741/2021 came up for hearing on the 12th day of July 2021 where myself and three other lawyers represented the applicants. On that faithful day, I moved a motion exparte for an interim injunction restraining LASIEC from going ahead with the election but it was overruled by the court, where the court said ‘’ruling will have a far-reaching effect on the defendants and the Lagos State in general.
“The court later instructed us to put the defendants on notice and further adjourned till Monday, the 19th day of July for a hearing of the Motion on Notice and to further determine if LASIEC could go ahead with the elections as scheduled,” he wrote.
Mr Eleto said it was on the basis of the court ruling that he went to the Assembly to submit a letter notifying them that the case is coming up for hearing of the Motion on Notice.
“Upon getting to the Assembly gate around 11 am on the 16th day of July 2021 to submit the letter, I met a Paramilitary officer who told me point blank that they don’t receive correspondences on Fridays.
“I engaged him further, by informing him that it’s not a correspondence per se but a letter notifying the law-making body in Lagos State that there would be a court sitting on Monday, 19th, July 2021 and the LSHA is a necessary party to the suit.”
He further narrated that the officer called the attention of the head of the security who checked the letter and later declined collection on behalf of the house.
“He said the officers stationed for such purposes were busy and that I should either come back on Monday or exercise patience for him to get in touch with a senior officer who could give further direction.
“I informed him that the matter was coming up on Monday, therefore the option of coming back on Monday will defeat the purpose, so I would wait instead. I waited for close to two hours and no one showed up,” he said.
Mr Eleto said after waiting for hours, an officer identified as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, appeared and said he was “disturbing the securities.”
The lawyer said he explained to the CSO of the content of the letter and why it was important for him to put the house on notice before the hearing date.
“He replied further saying ‘’Mr. Man, we are not taking this letter, we have the discretion to determine what or which letter to take’’
“I told him in furtherance to the above that can such discretion work when it comes to a public office.” He replied that I was rude to him and ordered the police officers on duty to throw me out of the complex,” he said.
Mr Eleto said after the CSO left, he met with another officer to as whether he can meet head of the Legal Department or the clerk of the assembly or anyone working with the clerk, but he declined.
“Suddenly, I noticed the CSO returned with eight mobile policemen, the CSO said it point-blank that I came to the assembly with a destructive mission and that he has the instructions to deal with me, he, therefore, asked them to seize my phones, forcefully collected my pens, dragged my shirt, pulled me in the company of the mobile policemen and carried me like a five-year-old boy to the assembly gate into a waiting police van with plate no RRS 387 LA.
“They eventually dragged me on the floor, tear-gassed me, poured pepper spray on my face, brutalized me, dehumanized me and forcefully made me enter the car identified above, and whisked me in a commando manner to the Alausa, Police Station where I was kept behind the counter for till I became unconscious,” he narrated.
Mr Eleto added that when he regained his consciousness, he called senior lawyers including Femi Falana and Wahab Shittu for them to get him out.
“Immediately, they heard the names I called they asked me to stand up, I didn’t respond as I had no strength left, they ransacked me once again, gave me dirty slaps, used metals on my joints, used their gun to hit me on my thigh while mentioning that I’m proving stubborn.
“I became seriously weak, they carried me once again into their van and took me to an unknown destination, they later drove me around Ikeja and back to the House of Assembly, where I was locked in the car with a plate number RRS 387 LA for several hours.
“The policemen came back later in the night, returned all my belongings, and said “Oga has asked you to go.” I left the assembly and went home with stains and pains all over my body,” the Lagos-based lawyer narrated.
Lagos House of Assembly reacts
When contacted, Setonji David (Badagry 2), Chairman, House Committee on Information, said the House of Assembly is a civilised arm of government and officials would “never molest anybody.”
“We are there to listen to every complaint, we don’t discriminate against anybody. In this particular instance, I think the man came to drop a letter, a court process or something and there is a procedure.
“I learnt he actually wanted to give it to the clerk personally. The clerk is a very busy man, he has an office. When you drop a letter in the office of the clerk or anybody, it will be acknowledged and that should be enough for anybody,” he said.
Mr David further said everybody cannot insist on seeing the clerk because it is like “demanding to see the state governor or speaker of the house, who are busy persons.”
“The issue of molesting, we take it very serious. We don’t molest anybody. Groups come, individuals come, the place is a public office and we are there to protect their interests,” he said.
When PREMIUM TIMES asked whether an investigation will be instituted to look into the matter and disciplinary action meted against erring officers, Mr David said the House will investigate if there is any complaint brought before it.
“If I have any complaint that is legitimate, of course, we will investigate and take necessary actions. We have never had a case of anybody molesting publicly in the House of Assembly,” he said.
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