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Lawyers, DPO bandy words over assault

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Lawyers, DPO bandy words over assault

Days after her encounter with the police in Anambra State while attempting to secure bail for her client, an activist lawyer, Chiamaka Nwangwu recalled how she was allegedly assaulted, battered and dehumanised by a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the station, Jane Frances Mbanefo. JOHN CHIKEZIE reports

 

As a lawyer and the constitutional responsibility placed on her, an Anambra state activist lawyer embarked on a journey to one of the state’s police station to secure a bail for her client allegedly detained by the police over an alleged rift with his landlord.
But the planned constitutional bail, however, turned awry as her encounter with the police allegedly landed her on hospital bed.
Reason: The police in Nkwelle Ezunaka Police Station, Anambra state, according to the activist lawyer, Chiamaka Nwangwu allegedly manhandled her, stripped her naked following a brawl which followed the encounter in the course of performing her constitutional duty.

Nwangwu said she was not only allegedly battered, but stripped naked by the police on an alleged instruction of DPO Jane Frances Mbanefo.
Chiamaka, who painted graphic picture of the encounter to New Telegraph, said that the Divisional Police Officer allegedly handled her like a common criminal after stripping her naked for daring to seek bail for her detained client.
She narrated her encounter this way: “My colleague in Abuja called me and pleaded with me to go to 3-3 Police Station Division, Nkwelle Ezunaka, Anambra State, on the 22nd day of January, 2018, to help his younger brother who was about making a statement there. According to my colleague, his younger brother was beaten up by his landlord and boys.

“When I got there around 10a.m, I met the young man making a statement at the IPO’s office, I approached him and asked him what exactly happened and he narrated everything to me.
“He told me that his landlord came a made a statement against him on the 21st night and I was also informed by his parents that his landlord has been with the DCO1 since 6a.m.
“I called the DCO2, met him outside and asked him if the DPO came to work that day, he told me that she was not around that morning but may come to work later.

“A huge woman on native clothes, who I later learned is Jane Mbanefo, the DPO became very aggressive and ordered me to leave the office.
“I had never seen her before; it was my first time of coming to that Police Station. She started shouting at me, asking me my interest in the matter and who I was to tell the boy that I came for on the kind of treatment he would get; I was very shocked and embarrassed.

“I was angry and on my way out of the admin office, when the woman continued talking, insulting lawyers generally, telling me that she is equally a lawyer of 20yrs Post call.
“She slapped me and one of my recommended glasses’ springs disfigured and fell off, other junior police officers joined hands and beat me up mercilessly. My black gown was torn and I was stripped naked, I managed to get my Phone out of my handbag to record and video the scene, but one of the policewomen, took my Gionee A1Phone from my hand, smashed it and seized it. My middle finger was broken and I sustained internal injuries. People were watching outside including the young boy I came for and his parents.

“I was detained at the police station and was asked to write a statement. Another policeman slapped me and threatened that he would send his juniors to beat me up, before pushing me into the cell, while another policewoman who just came in then, slapped me and pushed me from the counter. She said she would have done worse if she were the other policewomen that beat me up.

“I was asked to write a statement, when my client’s dad brought my bag from the scene where the incident took place and I discovered that #5,000 was missing from my handbag. They also threatened to shoot me or poison me if I sleep in the cell, till the next day.

“I made a statement and was thrown inside the Cell for about 6hrs before my parents were contacted, with my NBA Chairman, my Principal and I later learned that the DPO fabricated stories against me, saying that I slapped her and took their walkie-talkie away.

“When I was in the Cell, some police officers were forcing the person I came to see to write down implicating statements about me, but the young boy raised his voice and took his ground that they should rather shoot him to death instead of him making such statement; that they beat me up and stripped me naked for nothing: he vehemently refused.

“They later took me from the Cell to the DPO’s office and the NBA Chairman turned to me and said that she heard a nasty report about me and I told them they were all lies, in the presence of my father, mother, my Principal and another senior lawyer.
“I narrated everything that happened in front of them but my NBA Chairman didn’t even allow me to finish because he turned to me and said “If I were you, I should not be talking.” My mother asked me to keep calm and I did. He did not even bother to check my smashed phone which was before him.
“My NBA Chairman asked me to go out of the office and the IPO took me back to the Counter. After my NBA Chairman finished discussing with the DPO, he asked her what could be done for peace to reign and the DPO insisted I must write an apology letter of which the NBA Chairman agreed and made his final decision.
“I was forced to write an apology letter afterwards before I could leave the cell of which I did after much pressure from my mother who is very sick and could not stand her only daughter sleeping over in the cell, especially after I was threatened by the DPO and her juniors.
“I was released after I wrote the apology letter thrice which the DCO dictated to me. The DCO2 was the person that dictated all the contents in the letter with the help of the female IPO in-charge.
“I have never experienced this type of thing as a legal practitioner and if something is not done, this impunity will continue. Police are meant to protect the citizens and not to turn them into Punch bags.
“Up till now, I am still unable to understand why NBA Chairman conceded to my writing an apology letter? Why did he not inspect my Phone which was smashed, that was placed on the DPO’s table, right before his eyes?
“Attached are some photographic evidence and a medical report of my ordeal. I demand justice.”

NBA chairman reacts
But the NBA chairman of the Onitsha Branch, Ikenna Chibuzor, who was allegedly fingered at the centre of the storm when contacted, said that he had already given his reaction on the matter to the national body of the association, while claiming that he had been instructed not to speak to the press until investigations were concluded.
According to the Chairman, all the allegations levelled against him by Miss Chiamaka were malicious lies.
Chibuzor said: “I want the matter to be handled by the national body. However, I have been instructed by the national body not to comment on this issue especially to the press. So, it would be wrong for me to comment before the national body of the NBA releases a statement.
“But for the record, all those allegations she made against me are all lies. I couldn’t have gone to the police station if it wasn’t for the best interest of one of the lawyers in my branch. If what she alleged was true, I would not have gone there in the first place.”
DPO Mbanefo speaks
Mbanefo dismissed the lawyer’s allegation, describing it as blatant lies.
In an interview with New Telegraph, the Divisional Police Officer, Mrs Jane Frances Mbanefo, denied the allegation on the claims that nobody touched Chiamaka.
Instead, she accused the lawyer of allegedly assaulting her and a police woman on duty, saying she was yet to understand what Chiamaka had hoped to achieve by laying such allegations against her.
Mbanefo said: “When I arrived the station on that day, I met two injured persons at the counter and I immediately ordered that the officers on duty to take them to the hospital.

“I also saw a woman, whose face was not familiar, making noise at the counter. On seeing me, the police officers called her to order, telling her to keep quiet that a superior officer was around.
“She ought to have known that a superior officer has entered the station but she continued making noise. So, when I gave the order to take the injured men to the hospital, the lawyer intercepted and said that only her client deserved treatment.
“She said that the other man stabbed her client and so insisted that the officers should not take the other person to the hospital.

“When I refused granting her request, she continued making noise and the officers told her that she cannot be raising her voice while the DPO is around.
“The officers reminded her that she was in a police station and that they were sure she won’t dare try this at the law court. She was also advised to come to my office to lay her complaints if she had any grievance but that she should not intercept the orders of the DPO. But she ignored all warnings and shielded the entrance to prevent the officers from taking the other man to the hospital.

“And when she refused to move, they had to force her to move. Being a woman, she had to push a police woman and they both started having problems.
“I then ordered that they sheathe their sword and thereafter called the NBA chairman to ascertain if the woman was actually a lawyer as she claimed. I was the one that personally invited the NBA Chairman to my office.
“The NBA Chairman arrived with her principal from the same office and her parents.

“When they were all seated, waiting for me to narrate what happened, I insisted that they listen to all those who witnessed the incident, including the parents of her client, before taking my version.
“All those that were brought to my office said that I didn’t do anything to her.”
When asked about her reaction to the pictures Chiamaka posted as evidence showing injuries on her body, the DPO said “we also have our own pictures too. She never took pictures during the incident. Besides, anybody can post anything to back up any false claim”.
Also reacting to the doctor’s report on Chiamaka, the DPO queried, “who gave her a doctor’s report? Which hospital did she report to? The supposed report came from one doctor Nwangwu, her brother at the General Hospital.
“I am a police officer and I know how all these things happen. Even the NBA chairman, her principal and her mother, an elderly retired magistrate begged me to forgive her. And I told them that if she was remorseful of what she did then the apology should come from her.”

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