A Practicing Young Lawyer of the Port Harcourt Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ifeanyi Nwankwor, Esq., has narrated his ordeal in the hands of officers of the NDLEA.
Narrating his story, he stated that he was arrested by men of the NDLEA, when he intervened during the arrest of a lady whom he visited with a friend of his. According to his account, he had only gone with a friend to inspect a shop when the whole incidence started.
“I left my office to meet a friend of mine at artillery junction, who I had earlier called to help me source for my phone charger, as my phone selects charger and won’t charge if it is not compatible with the charger. On my arrival, I met with her, we tried our best to get a charger that could charge my phone, but to no avail. She suggested that we go to her office and try using her own charger to see if it can charge my phone. When we got to her office, she received a call from an agent who has been helping her to find a shop for her new make up business. On getting the call, she asked me to accompany her to see the shop since the place is nearby and moreover, my phone is not up yet and we need to allow it for some minutes to see if it would come up. I joined her to see the shop. The agent showed us the shop, though it has an occupant in it, the lady allowed us to see the shop.
“After the inspection of the shop, she liked the shop; we came outside with the agent and she asked the agent the price the shop was going for; the agent then said 50,000. She went back to the shop to confirm the price with the occupant of the shop in which I also followed her (the lady in question is heavily pregnant). It was at that point that a young man came in with some men of the NDLEA, about three of them. They asked for the manager of the shop. The lady that my friend was discussing with indicated that she is the one. At that point, they told her that she is under arrest and should follow them to their office,” he narrated.
Speaking further, he said that he immediately intervened and asked what the problem was, and was told that the man who brought the officers bought a DVD player from the lady which wasn’t good. He, after hearing the story, advised the security operatives that they do not have the jurisdiction to arrest the lady being a civil action; after a while, men of the NDLEA arrived and assaulted him.
“I immediately intervened and asked what the problem was, the young man that came with them said he bought a fairly used DVD player from the shop for N15, 000. On getting home, it was not functioning properly, so he returned same and asked for the refund of his money, but that the lady has not refunded it. The lady said that she has referred the man to his boss, as she has no power to refund the money. The young man also said he had met with the lady’s boss who told him to come back in the next two days for his refund. At that point, the NDLEA men were already agitated that I am intervening with the arrest. They asked who I was; I told them that I am a lawyer and showed them my ID card; I also told them that this is a simple civil issue and that they have no jurisdiction or right to make any arrest on this issue, as the lady was not caught with any drugs or other related substances. They got more agitated. I told them that the best we can do is to call the lady’s boss so that he can come and we see the best way to sort out the issue.
“One of the officers gave me 10 minutes to get the lady’s boss. I asked the lady to call his boss, which she did. In less than five minutes, the lady’s boss was there with us. As we were discussing on how to resolve the issue, the next thing I heard was the sound of siren and it was more men of the NDLEA. One of the officers who was on ground with us when the discussion was going on pointed at me as the lawyer delaying them, immediately, these men bounced on me, beating me, dragging me, spraying tear gas on me, pushed me into their vehicle and handcuffed me to their vehicle.”
He added that the assault did not end at the station as he was also beaten even at the station. According to him, they accused him of obstructing their duty and calling the community on them, adding that he was asked to give statement which he refused giving until the arrival of his lawyer.
”They took me to their office, on arrival at their office; it was another episode of beating and spraying of tear gas. They asked me to write a statement and accused me of obstructing their duty and calling the community on them. Even at the place I was to make the statement, they were still slapping and beating me. I told them that I would like to make a call, which they obliged me, so I called a friend who now called my boss and other of my colleagues in the office. I told them that I cannot make a statement till I see my lawyer.
”Due to the traffic at Aba Road yesterday, my boss and colleagues in my office could not come early. However, Rita Chinda, Esq later came; I made my statement and was released to her on bail later in the evening. Before I was released, the legal adviser to the Young Lawyers Forum, a committee member of the NBA committee on Human Rights, my boss and others colleagues were on ground. I was asked to report back to the NDLEA office on Tuesday, 5th March, 2019.”
The event was said to have partly happened at NDLEA office, Aba Road, near 2nd Artillery bus stop, Port Harcourt, Rivers state, on the 2nd of March, 2019. This account should be the first account of an assault meted on a legal practitioner by security operatives this year, as recorded by TNL.