An Eyewitness account:
While in court yesterday Thursday 19/7/2018 at about 13:17hrs, I received an unsettling call from the Chairman of Owerri NBA asking if I was free so I could join him to Ngor Okpala Police Station. I could feel the angst in his voice.
When I asked why he spoke with such rage uncharacteristic of him, he told me that armed police men invaded the magistrate court at Umuneke Ngor, assaulted the presiding Magistrate, maimed a Lawyer and detained two. I was shocked.
I told him I couldn’t go because I only stepped out of the court room to take his calls when my phone vibrated with ominous incessancy.
When the court rose, I called to inform him i was free then and he told me he was already there with the Secretary of the Bar JSC Osuebi and the Legal Adviser, Azubuike Nwankenta.
At about 21:00hrs, amidst the downpour, while I was beguiling my time with a bottle of “Lawneiken,” and tarrying so that the traffic on the road could peter out, I called again to get the details of what transpired and he told me they were at the State CID Owerri and he could not speak in details. He mentioned three Lawyers who were in the Courtroom when the incident took place and asked me to call either for details.
On arriving home, I called one of them who gave me the morbid details as an eyewitness:
On Monday, 16/7/2018, three accused persons were arraigned before the above-stated Court. The two Counsel representing the accused persons, Emma Eke and Chukwuemeka Anyanwu raised a preliminary objection on the ground that the charge was defective and urged the court to strike out the charge and discharge the accused persons. The court entertained arguments from both Counsel and Prosecution and adjourned the matter to yesterday Thursday 19/7/2018 for ruling.
In his ruling, the court upheld the arguments of both Counsel, found in favour of the accused persons and struck out the charge. Immediately the ruling was delivered and while the court was still sitting, the police went berserk.
They shouted at the top of their voices, rained vituperations on the Magistrate and made to re-arrest the accused persons. When the court wanted to call them to order the Policemen made for the Magistrate like rabid dogs and the Magistrate quickly took refuge in his chambers. Some other lawyers and litigants scampered for safety when the Police started shooting sporadically in the air. Chukwuemeka in the process escaped the lynching by the Police and scurried into the Magistrate’s Chambers.
The Police men, led by the DPO of that division, banged on the door of the Magistrate’s Chambers accusing him of taking bribe and threatening to break down the door if he didn’t open it.
The DPO got hold of the accused persons and in the process of re-arresting them, one escaped. He started accusing Emma Eke of complicity in the escape of the other accused person. And before he could explain himself, he got hold of one of the nail-ridden chairs and broke Emma Eke’s head and started beating him. Other police men joined in this orgy and Emma was maimed and beaten into a pulp.
It took the quick intervention of the Area Commander who arrived the scene to rescue the Magistrate. He tried to calm things down and that was when the Magistrate opened the door of his chambers and Chukwuemeka came out. The DPO insisted he must detain the two Counsel for the accused persons, Emma Eke and Chukwuemeka Anyanwu.
They were taken to the Police Station at Ngor Okpala and detained.
This was the point the NBA Chairman was contacted and he quickly drove to the Police Station with the Secretary and Legal Adviser of the Bar.
At the Ngor Okpala Police Station, the two Lawyers were treated like criminals, disrobed and ungarbed by the police except for their inner shorts.
On inquiring what had transpired, the DPO said he has received order from the Commissioner of Police to transfer the matter to the State CID.
Then the Chairman with his team went to see the Commissioner of Police. While in the waiting room of the Commissioner’s Office, the DPO ran into the Commissioner’s office and after a meeting of 2hours or a little less, he came out to announce to the Chairman and his team that the Commissioner has just left for another meeting. The DPO informed them that the CP has referred the matter to CIB Section before he left.
Angry, the Chairman and his team beat protocol and went to the office of the CP and discovered that in truth he has left the office.
Then at the CIB section the police started this their fraudulent and roguish antics of referrals; call CP; wait for Assistant Commissioner; wait for IPO; the DC is the person handling the matter; meet PPRO; wait for AC he has just gone to have his dinner; come to Commissioner tomorrow… While this was going on, the IPO came and took the file saying that the AC has just requested to go through it. He never returned and he remained incommunicado.
Frustrated, the Chairman and his team left the Police State CID.
As at the time of filing in this report — 06:10hrs — the two Lawyers are still detained in the State CID like criminals!
They are there enduring the acrid stench of the cell!
They are there winking their sleepless eyes all nightlong!
They are there with their blood as new menu to the mosquitoes’ probosis!
They are there enduring the humiliation of cell inmates!
That is not where they belong!
Of all humiliations suffered by Lawyers in the hands of security operatives in the recent past, this stands out as the last straw that broke the Camel’s back!
Gentlemen, the Nigerian Police Force has declared a war on Legal Practitioners. What do we do? Cower out with our tails in between our two legs?
“Agbaghi uzo Owerri mgba ogaghi eshi.”
We shall fight this war like the Spartans!
Let us go to war!
Asst Sec/Ag Pub Sec