Police Brutality: Ben Aigbojie Speaks; Demands Apology from Police, Unity Bar Secretary

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On Saturday, 3rd August, 2019, DNL Legal and Style  reported a developing story of two Lawyers who were being harassed by Policemen at Kabusa Divisional Police Station Abuja on the order of the DPO of the station. Read here

While efforts were being made to secure Ben Aigbojie’s release, a report which was attributed to the DPO of the said Police Station was circulated by the Secretary of Unity Bar Branch Mr. Chidi Ezenwafor alleging that Ben Aigbojie was a member of a syndicate internet fraudster.

The story turned out to be false as the Police letter rescinded the first report, claiming that Ben Aigbojie who had already been transferred from Abuja to Zone 2 Lagos was wrongly named as a suspect.  It took the intervention of both the NBA National and Branches to secure the release of Ben Aigbojie. The Chairman of NBA Ikorodu Branch, Mr. Bayo Akinlade specifically signed the Bail bond and booked the air travel ticket for Mr. Aigbojie.

Aigbojie’s story has now stated in details his own side of what transpired on the said day as well as his demand for apology from both the Police and Mr. Ezenwafor as well as monetary claims as damages for defamation of character amongst others.

Below is his detailed story:

PRESS STATEMENT ON MY ABDUCTION, BRUTALITY AND UNLAWFUL DETENTION BY THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE ON THE 3RD DAY OF AUGUST 2019.

THE NBA President, Learned Senior Advocates, Distinguished Branch Chairmen/ persons, Elders, Seniors and Colleagues of the Bar, my name is Benson Aigbojie. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2013. I apologize for releasing this statement this late. My health condition is the sole reason for my delay.

Like you already know, I am the lawyer who was beaten, injured, brutalized, abducted, unlawfully detained and defamed by the officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force and I ended up suffering and enduring the negative side of the Nigeria (in) justice system for three days and two nights. I was rendered half-naked and unceremoniously shuttled in that manner, from the Kabusa Police Station in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, down to the faraway, albeit notorious Zone 2 Police Command of the Nigeria Police Force in Onikan, Lagos State. My painful experience seems to be just another sad episode of the present state of our beloved country which appears to continue to edge towards the state of nature.

The unforgettable experience shoved down my throat by the officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force became even more miserable when one of ‘our own’ (the Secretary of the NBA, Unity Bar), acting on the one-sided details from the DPO, Kabusa Police Division, galloped to the media while I bled from virtually every part of my body, announcing to the world that I was the head of a fraud syndicate who hacked into a company account and defrauded the company to the tune of Fifty Two Million Naira (N52, 000, 000.00), without reaching me nor my colleague to hear our side of the story.

It all began on Saturday, the 3rd of August, 2019. In grave resistance to the urge to relax, having just returned to Abuja, from my late father’s burial (Paul Aigbojie) in Edo State, I proceeded to the Kabusa Police Station, in the company of my colleague, Mr. Maduabuchi O. Idam. Our intention was to see a client who was detained at the said police station and render our professional services. As we proceeded into the station premises to perform our duties as lawyers and perhaps earn our fees, little did I know that fate had a different plan for me.

As we walked in, the moment we introduced ourselves as lawyers and went ahead to request to see our client, the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) commanded us to leave the police station! In shock, I humbly requested to know the IPO’s reason, but before I could even complete my statement, the IPO pushed me down, with such brutishness and viciousness only imaginable at a war front. I fell down on some iron rods and sustained serious injuries. As I attempted to stand up and regain my balance, I verily informed the IPO that I will take steps to make a formal complaint to the Police Disciplinary Committee, my statement only further incensed the IPO. He rushed me, pounded my head with fist blows and tore my clothes into shreds. At this time, I kept muttering, “what have I done? what have I done?” This unprovoked assault on me was ably assisted and supervised by other police officers in the station. I was thereafter bundled and thrown inside a waiting but dirty and untidy police cell. While I was in the cell and trying to clear my eyes off the blood dripping from my head, I managed to notice that the police officers had turned on my colleague, they continuously slapped him on his cheek, struggled to also arrest him but finally heeded to the order of an officer who demanded that they should push him outside the station.

While in the police cell, they kept taunting me and mocking me, calling me all manner of names including ‘small lawyer’. They taunted me with all manner of words, mocking me to save myself. I sat at a corner of the cell, wondering how the revered Nigeria Police Force descended this low. It was while these thoughts were running riot in my mind that I overheard the police officers planning and scheming a way to ‘savage’ the situation. Of course, they knew their actions were not only evil, they also knew it to be condemnable. Alas, they arrived at a plot to persist on their unlawful activity.

They brought me out and demanded that I write my statement. With an unsteady hand, bleeding legs but steady mind, I wrote my statement to the police. They read through the statement, wherein I comprehensively indicted them, they therefore had no other option than to hatch their evil, wicked and sinister plot to detain me. They threw me back into their cell and went into a nearby office for a brief meeting. Upon noticing my first name to be ‘Benson’, they suddenly rushed out, beaming with a renewed but evil energy and screaming at the top of their voices that my client in his statement mentioned one ‘Benjamin’, a supposed name of one of the suspects in the alleged fraud being investigated. They feigned ignorance of the difference between ‘Benson’ and ‘Benjamin’. They insisted that both names were shortened as ‘Ben’. They thereby arrived at a wicked plot to rope me into a crime I know nothing about, this was despite my client’s instant refuter that I have nothing to do with the offence being investigated and that he wrote ‘Benjamin’ in his statement and not ‘Benson’.

By this time, my colleague had released a broadcast to several media outlet, NBA social platforms as well as other lawyers’ groups. The heat was on. Out of the blues, the police decided that they had to transfer me to Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos State for further investigations. Indeed, they immediately provided a vehicle, bundled me in and zoomed off. It was while we were on our way to Lagos state that Messrs. Clement Chukwuemeka, Folarin Aluko and Maduabuchi O. Idam called one of the Police Officers, and spoke with me, assuring me that the NBA will never neglect me. I became reassured. Those phone calls were the firsts of over three hundred other phone calls which subsequently besieged the officer’s phone, concerning my abduction and unlawful detention. It then dawned on the erring police officers that they will not be able to go scot-free with their unlawful actions. It was only then that they started to attempt to broker peace with me, offering and tempting me with all manner of pleasure. They confessed to me that they are verily aware of my innocence but they only lingered on their unlawful act due to my resilience in representing my client despite the ‘almighty’ command from the IPO that I should exit the police station. They even lodged me in a hotel room in Ondo state, where we transited.

We finally arrived Lagos state on Sunday, 4th of August, 2019. I least expected the promptness and sacrifice made by the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association. I was released on Monday, 5th of August, 2019, owing to the timely intervention of the NBA

Upon my arrival in Abuja vide an Aero Contractor Tuesday flight, I underwent series of tests and medical treatments at the General Hospital, Asokoro. My health is presently frail but I am in a steady condition. My sad experience, however, is a timely reminder of our decaying justice system. A system wherein lawyers are fast becoming endangered species; a system where a lawyer can barely perform his professional duties without being afraid of backlash, police brutality and abduction, like in my case. It is also important to inform the general public to stay calm and watch on as justice is served in this matter. This information is especially to those individuals who might be having deep thoughts and wondering what would be the fate of the ‘ordinary’ man, if such degrading and inhumane treatment could be meted on me, a lawyer. I beseech all lovers of justice and fairness not to be discouraged in their struggle to enthrone justice and the rule of law in our beloved country. And,

As an aside and a quick rebuttal to the callous and unguided defamatory statement circulated about my person, my upbringing forbids me from meddling with fraud. As a fact, I was thought right from my childhood that there is dignity in labour. My upbringing also dictates to me to be contented with whatever I own, irrespective of the largeness or smallness. I have lived by this, all my life and I have indeed come to realize that hard work pays. I am a student of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. The life and principles of Chief Gani spurred me to study law and as a student in the famed Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, where I graduated with one of the best classes of results, I was schooled to maintain a very high level of discipline and integrity. I was also carved and forged by my school to be a very dogged and strong-willed lawyer, with an avid desire to fight for justice and fairness. While in school, my upright character transported me to the position of Acting President of the Law Students Association of the school when the Executive was enmeshed in crisis. My background makes it uneasy for me to stand idle while constitutionally guaranteed rights are trampled and the rule of law and legal processes are crushed.

I hereby use this medium to thank the Nigerian Bar Association, ably led by Paul Usoro, SAN. It is without doubt that the reign of Mr. Usoro as NBA President has brought progress and renewed zeal into the legal profession, especially for young lawyers. His reign as the President of the NBA has recorded various positives and his continuous struggle to preserve the sanctity and independence of our institutions as well as his constant strive to promote the tenets of the rule of law, are testaments of his desire for a better Nigeria, where the rights of individuals are not only enshrined in our laws but also protected and guaranteed.

I also specially appreciate my brother and colleague, Maduabuchi O. Idam, Esq whose doggedness and vibrancy awakened the intervention of the Nigerian Bar.  I particularly recognize the Unity Bar, Ikorodu and Bwari branch Chairmen, Messrs. Folarin Aluko, Bayo Akinlade and Clement Chukwuemeka as well as other officials of the NBA. I also recognise the efforts of the following persons and bodies: the Young Lawyers Forum of NBA, the 2012 graduating set of the Faculty of Law, Ambrose Alli University, Mr. Brown Osarenkhoe, Mr. Favour Asiazobor, Bridget Edokwe of BarristerNG, Ifeoma Peters, Moses Anyaogu, Mr. Dominic, RULLAAC and all media outlets, NGOs and the general public whose voices and actions were heard and felt during my unkind experience.           

On the hasty, defamatory, scandalous and malicious report made against my person and my colleague Maduabuchi O. Idam, Esq. by Mr. Chidi Ezenwafor and the DPO of Kabusa Police Division, I hereby formally make demands for the following;

  1. Immediate apology by Mr. Ezenwafor and the DPO, which must be published in all the online news outlet including two national newspapers within 48 hours from the date of this letter;
  2. The payment of Fifty Million Naira (N50, 000, 000.00), as damages for defamation of our character; and
  • The immediate resignation of Mr. Ezenwafor, as the Secretary of the Unity Bar Branch of the NBA, as his conduct is grossly unfit for public position of a professional body like the Nigerian Bar Association.

NOTICE IS HEREBY ISSUED THAT IF THE ABOVE DEMANDS ARE NOT MET WITHIN 48 HOURS, WE SHALL BE CONSTRAINED TO TAKE A LEGAL ACTION AGAINST HIM AND THE DPO OF KABUSA POLICE STATION, WHERE THIS IS THE CASE, OUR CLAIMS WILL NOT BE LIMITED TO THE ABOVE DEMANDS.

God bless Nigeria.

SIGNED

Benson Aigbojie, Esq.

Abuja, Nigeria.

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