…seeks N112m damages
A businessman, Victor Echefuna, has recalled how policemen used the butt of their guns to shatter his leg, and then stripped his pregnant wife.
The total recall came just as an Anambra State High Court, sitting in Ihiala, has been asked to compel the Inspector-General-Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, the head of Police Anti-Cultism Unit in the state, Bassy and five others, to pay N112 million as damages to Echefuna, Ogochukwu and five others.
Echefuna and others were victims of police brutality, illegal arrest and detention.
The victims who made their plea in a fundamental human right suit filed before the court, signed by B. J. Adigwe, alleged that they were attacked on February 19, 2018, by a team of policemen.
The policemen were allegedly led by the head of Police Anti-Cultism Unit, Anambra State, Bassy. Other members of the police team are Inspector Ojedele Francis, Linus Emeyi, Chinedu Oko, Emmanuel Amakeme and David.
Echefuna was in his hotel at Okija area of the state, when the policemen came and started shooting sporadically into the air.
When Echefuna tried to find out from the policemen why they invaded his hotel and started shooting indiscriminately, he was beaten, brutalised and his leg shattered with the butt of a gun. This action left his thigh and femur damaged. He was then thrown into a big gutter.
Echefuna’s pregnant wife, who tried to assist her husband from the gutter, was stripped, beaten, and pushed to the ground. The trauma was alleged to have made her lose her baby a few days after delivery.
While the drama lasted, the other victims, who were staff and customers of the hotel, were handcuffed and taken to Enugu-Ekwu office of the Anti-Cultism Unit. They were detained for six days and those days, their statements were not taken. They were only released after each allegedly parted with N60,000 for bail.
In an affidavit deposed to by Echefuna before the court, he alleged that after the policemen left his premises with his staff and customers, some onlookers came to his rescue.
When the Good Samaritans discovered the magnitude of his injuries, he was rushed to a hospital in Okija for first aid, from where he was taken to orthopaedic hospital in Enugu State.
According to the affidavit, Echefuna said: “I’m the owner of Vic-Excellent Relaxation Resort Limited, located at Umuapani, Okija, Anamabra State. I was informed by the manager of my hotel through the phone on February 19, 2018, that there was pandemonium in my hotel premises as gunshots were being fired recklessly in the air. People were chased, arrested and handcuffed and taken into a waiting vehicle.
“On getting this information, I called the Okija Crime Divisional Officer (DCO) several times on the phone without an answer. I subsequently called the Area Commander, Ihiala and informed him of my plight. He advised me to approach whoever the leader was, and introduced myself. He said that I should give the leader the phone and tell them that it is the Area Commander, Ihiala that wanted to speak with them. I approached the leader and identified myself as the owner of the hotel. I gave him my phone and told him that the Area Commander would like to talk to him. He got angry and started slapping me. His men joined him; they started beating and kicking me. The leader ordered that I should be arrested, handcuffed and thrown into their vehicle. I insisted on knowing who they were, what my offence was, where they wanted to take me to, the reason for their presence in my hotel and if they had booked their presence in Okija Police Station before coming to my hotel.”
Echefuna said that his questions infuriated the team leader, who then brought out a gun and started using the butt to hit his leg and broke it.
“His colleagues joined him. They kicked me into the gutter where I sustained head and shoulder injuries. My wife, who was at the scene when this was happening, started shouting that they would kill me. She made an attempt to rescue me; they grabbed and flung her on the tarred road. My wife’s wrapper fell off her body. She laid there helpless,” said Echefuna.
He added: “When the policemen noticed that people within the community were getting angry, they quickly left the scene. Some of the onlookers took me to a hospital in Okijia, where I got first aid. I was referred to orthopaedic hospital where I was hospitalised for a long time. I had a surgical operation and a rod was inserted into my thigh to strengthen the broken bones, after which my leg was placed on Plaster of Paris (POP). Unfortunately the bone was discovered to be out of alignment. After several months of excruciating pains, it was discovered that I needed another corrective surgery. I have been immobilised since February 2018 and I’m no longer in a position to have any means of livelihood as a result of the torturous act of the policemen.”
Echefuna said that after his pregnant wife was stripped and flung on the ground, she started bleeding the following day; she was rushed to hospital. “My wife was hospitalised and informed that the baby she was carrying was highly traumatised as a result of throwing her down on a hard surface. The doctor made serious efforts to save the life of the baby and that of my wife’s. The doctor managed the situation and my wife was under close monitoring, but the baby died shortly after birth.
“Those arrested on the day of the attack were made to pay N60,000 each before they were released. Nobody stood as surety for them. Since the arbitrary invasion of my hotel, and the arrest and beating of my customers, including money extorted from them, the news went into town like wide fire, people no longer visit my hotel. They were afraid of repeat occurrence.”
He said that he wrote a petition to the IG, alerting him of the situation. An IGP Squad in Akwa was instructed to look into the allegations and infringement of Echefuna’s fundamental rights. He said that nothing was done.
Echefuna finally went to court and had since got justice. But whether the police will pay the damages is yet unknown.