A Warri-based legal practitioner and member of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Warri branch, Delta state, Mr. Bernard Oyabevwe, was beaten to a state of coma allegedly by armed policemen attached to the Warri 'A' Division on the orders of the Divisional Police Officer, (DPO), Mr. Kenneth Zoukumor, in charge of the station.
According to witnesses, the lawyer, who narrowly escaped being killed by the armed policemen, was attacked with gun butts, planks and other weapons for no just cause on the instructions of the DPO.
Narrating his ordeal, Oyabevwe said on that fateful day, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, he was to appear at the Magistrates Court II in a matter that was coming up that morning between C.O.P VS NOSA IGIEHON, and he had another matter that same morning at the High Court 1, which was not going on because the court was not sitting.
"So I rushed to High Court 1 to see if I could take a date with counsel on the other side. Before I got back to the Magistrates Court II, EFCC had arrested my client, who is the Defendant in the matter and taken him to 'A' Division, Warri. In fact, I was informed by the Prosecutor and the I.P.O from Zone 5 that he was forcefully taken from the court by the EFCC officials.
"Being a counsel in the matter and owing to the fact that my client tried frantically to get access to me on phone while being forcefully taken away, I took the case file for the matter, while holding my wig, gown and diary in my hand, and went to 'A' division.
"On getting there I saw my client and his wife behind counter. When they saw me they approached one of the EFCC officials who was standing close to them, armed, and told him that I am their lawyer, but he ignored them and beckoned on his colleagues to start moving my client and his wife, but they resisted and struggled with the EFCC men.
"And I intervened and advised them not to struggle or resist but go with them peacefully. This they did and immediately followed the EFCC men to the waiting vehicle. When they had entered the vehicle, I requested to speak with the EFCC team leader but none of them came forward. In fact at this point, they became very aggressive and threatened to beat me up.
"One of them, who was wearing a T-shirt, told me that he would slap me, while the others were pushing me with their guns. This actually infuriated me and I demanded to know which zone of the EFCC they were from, and where they were taking my client to. Without answering me, they entered their vehicle and drove off.
"Because I was standing close by the side of the vehicle, when the driver of the vehicle turned the steering wheel, I stepped onto a slab close to where the vehicle was parked. But one policeman on uniform pushed me from behind as if to push me into the moving vehicle. I turned, after I had gained my balance and asked him why he did that, but he started shouting at me that, that the place was not a court but a police station and that I should get out at once.
"I was completely taken aback by this action that I was forced to ask him what I had done. But immediately I asked that question, he became aggressive and actually held my suit around my neck, while he was holding his gun with the other hand and started dragging me towards the gate. The next thing I got was a mighty blow.
"Before I could stand up, all the policemen started raining blows on me. They used their gun butts to hit my eye and blood started gushing out, I could not defend myself against them because they were many and coming at me all at once, so I started struggling to get out through the gate. As they continued with their attacks eventually, I got out and ran to the court.
"But the station guard came to the court fully armed, seized me, and started dragging me back to 'A' Division, that the DPO wants to see me. Then, another officer on plain clothes, dark in complexion and huge, slapped me on the face, pulled out a pistol, pointed it at my head with one hand, and with the other hand held me and started dragging me to the police station while he was threatening to shoot me with the pistol."
The lawyer, who said he lost his iphone and N50,000 during the brutality, said that when he got to the station, the DPO ordered his men to take him in and deal with him.
"At that point, they took me to the counter and all of them in one accord started beating me, hitting me with hard objects," he said. "In fact, the one with the pistol actually slammed his weapon against the side of my head and I became unconscious."
He disclosed that following the severe beating, he began to bleed all over hi body and was coughing out blood with one of his eyes swollen, saying that he was made to write a statement and thereafter was charged to court and granted bail before the case was adjourned to June 13, 2018 for trial.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Warri branch, has condemned the police brutality on Oyabevwe. The NBA Warri branch Chairman, Mr. Godwin Ebowe, called on the Inspector General of Police to sack the state Commissioner of Police, the Warri Area commander, and the DPO Warri 'A' Division over their role in the whole matter.
While calling for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the policemen involved in the dastardly act, Ebowe said the NBA Warri branch would follow the case to a logical end to ensure justice is done to the mater.
When contacted on the issue, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Andrew Aniamaka, denied the allegation, accusing Oyabevwe of assaulting a police officer on duty. He said the action of the lawyer runs short of the revered legal profession, which many of its men are also members of.
However, he confirmed the arraignment of the lawyer in court for allegedly obstructing officials of EFCC from their lawful and constitutional duties in a manner likely to cause breach of peace and assault on the Police.