There was melo-drama on Tuesday at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS-related abuses and other matters when a petitioner spotted an officer, who allegedly assaulted him, on the police defence team.
The petitioner, Okolieagu Abunike, had just been cross-examined by police counsel Emmanuel Eze, when he sought the panel’s permission to speak.
Abunike, a father of five, had answered questions about his allegations that in 2012, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) operatives detained and tortured him for 47 days at their Ikeja office, without trial.
But on getting the permission to speak from panel chair, Judge Emeritus Doris Okuwobi, he pointed at the police lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Ebosereme, and accused him of assault.
Ebosereme, an Inspector, was not involved in the case in which Abunike had previously given evidence.
The petitioner said: “I am surprised today to see a counsel sitting before this tribunal in my proceedings, Mr. J. Ebosereme.
“Last year, he slapped me four times at Panti (State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Division, Yaba). I went to serve a court process on them. He slapped me and challenged me to slap him back, if I had the guts.
“That is why I’m surprised that he is here in my own situation again. The day it happened, their OC Legal, Mrs. Yetunde, came down to beg me and she called my boss, Mr. Ogungbeje, to beg.
“I told her that day that the only thing that would appease me was if this man should put his ears down so that I would slap him back and she said no.
“Just for me to see him here, my lord, this is how they operate,” Abunike said.
But Ebosereme denied the allegation, claiming that it arose following his refusal to compromise his integrity in a N200 million judgment debt recovery case involving a law firm linked to Ebosereme.
“He (Abunike) wants to dent my image… Myself? Slapping you? I don’t sell my integrity for a pot of porridge,” the police officer said.
Abunike’s counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ghazali, informed the panel that a fresh petition covering the new allegation would be filed before the panel.
“Our witness has said he will file a petition against this man. We want to shelve it till another day,” he said.
The chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd.), queried policeman on why he made an appearance in the matter, if he had had a prior issue with the petitioner.
Justice Okuwobi noted Abunike’s complaint had not been officially filed before the panel.
“The panel will not hear the complaint as the petitioner’s counsel wants the petition stepped down.
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“For now, the complaint is of no moment. This case is adjourned until December 4,” she said.