A magistrate court in Zuba, Abuja, has dismissed the assault case filed by the Nigerian Police against the Adamawa senator, Elisha Abbo.
The court dismissed the suit for lack of diligent prosecution by the police. This is despite a viral video showing Mr Abbo assaulting a woman, Osimibibra Warmate; and a televised press conference in which the lawmaker apologised to the victim.
The magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah, who upheld a no-case submission filed by Mr Abbo, said the police failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the lawmaker assaulted Ms Warmate on May 11, 2019, Punch Newspaper reports.
The case with suit number CR/010/2019 lasted from July 8, 2019, till June 18, 2020. And the two witnesses that testified against Mr Abbo were Ms Warmate, and a police officer, Mary Daniel, who investigated the matter.
The young senator was caught on camera assaulting a woman in Abuja.
The May 11 incident occurred barely three months after Mr Abbo became a senator-elect and a month before he was sworn in on June 11.
Footage of the video seen by this newspaper showed the 41-year-old senator physically assaulting the woman, whom he accused of insulting him by calling him “a drunk”. A policeman who stood by did nothing to protect the victim.
Mr Abbo later owned up to his actions by issuing an apology publicly amidst tears.
He, thereafter, turned himself in to the police, who held him for a night, before granting him bail “after meeting a set of administrative conditions for his bound”.
He was thereafter, arraigned before the Chief Magistrate court, Zuba, Abuja, with two counts of criminal charges preferred against him.
Ms Warmate in her testimony narrated how she had gone to visit a friend, Kemi, at Pleasure Chest Sex Toy Shop, Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja on May 11, 2019 when the lawmaker walked in with three women, and how one of the women that accompanied Mr Abbo started vomiting and later fainted.
She said when she left the shop, she received a frantic call from Kemi asking her to come to her aid as the lawmaker had accused her of putting something in the shop’s air conditioner system that caused one of his female companions to vomit and was threatening to get her arrested.
The victim said when she returned to the shop and was cleaning up the vomit, two men, one of whom was a policeman in uniform, barged into the shop. After, Mr Abbo gave an order to arrest Kemi for insulting him but Kemi began pleading and then picked up her phone to tell her father that she was being arrested.
“As one of the men moved to take the phone, I begged him and said it was her father that she was talking to. Then the defendant (Abbo) pounced on me, punched me on my face and in the eye. He slapped me several times and asked me why I interfered,” she said.
“He said he would make me a scapegoat for interfering and asked the two men to arrest me. The defendant (Abbo) pulled me by the hair and pushed me downstairs and to a car. I called my mother and I was being arrested.
“While in the car, the people on the premises told the defendant (Abbo) that he needed to report to the police on the premises before he could leave but the defendant (Abbo) refused and the security guards in the plaza had to lock the gate,” she explained.
Ms Warmate said she was let go by Mr Abbo after her mother pleaded. She also said she began to feel severe pains in her body due to the beating and went to a private hospital, Mega Eyesight, and also reported the matter to the police.
Under cross-examination, Ms Warmate admitted that she was not a nursing mother at the time of the incident as widely reported and that she was not the one who recorded the video of the incident but obtained it from the owner of the shop where the incident occurred.
She added that the video presented as evidence was a shortened version of what transpired on the day of the incident. The second witness, a police officer, told the court that she took statements from the victim, the senator and two others who witnessed the incident including Alaba Udeme, the mother of the victim.
She said because the shop where the incident took place remained close, she could not access the CCTV and had to rely on a disc given to her by the victim.
The videos of the incident and Mr Abbo’s public apology as well as a report signed by Amobrose Ibegbule, the doctor who treated the victim, were tendered as evidence.
When the prosecution rested its case, Mr Abbo did not open his defence but filed a no-case submission, asking the court to dismiss the charges preferred against him.
In his ruling, the magistrate, Mr Ilelah said the evidence and exhibits tendered did not disclose a prima facie case of the alleged crime of criminal force and assault against the defendant (Abbo).
“The prosecution’s case centred on the oral evidence of PW1 (Ms Warmate) and the two discs contained CCTV footage of the incident and alleged video clip of an apology from the defendant (Mr Abbo),” he said.
“The medical report of Mega Sight Eye Clinic did not disclose in detail what happened to the victim and Dr. Ambrose Ibegbule who wrote the report was not called as a witness.”
The court also said the video of the press conference showing Mr Abbo apologising was not tantamount to an admission of guilt as it was not a confessional statement.
Mr Ilelah added that the testimony of the victim was “so weak because the allegation has not been substantiated in any material particular” and the police did not do a proper investigation as it relied solely on the statement of the victim.
“The IPO (Investigating Police Officer) did not investigate this case at all or she just charged the defendant to court via the F.I.R (First Information Report) without due care and attention. In fact, she has succeeded in creating a doubt in the mind of this court during cross-examination and the Supreme Court held that where there is a doubt in a criminal trial, such doubt should be resolved in favour of the defendant,” he said.
He said the court would rely on the law and not logic or media reports because he who alleges must prove.
“The defendant is hereby discharged under Section 303(3)(c) and (d) of the ACJA 2015,” the magistrate said.
The Senate had set up an ad-hoc committee on July 3 to investigate the incident. The committee had in October, submitted its report before the upper chamber. The report which contains findings and recommendations, is yet to be discussed by the Senate.
This, according to the former Senate spokesperson, Godiya Akwashiki, is because the case was still in court.
However, with the dismissal of the suit, the Senate is expected to consider the report of the panel upon resumption in September.