A human rights group, Women Aid Collective, WACOL, and other civil society groups in Enugu have carried out a peaceful demonstration to Enugu police command to drive home their grievances against the police invasion of WACOL office in Enugu and brutalising of their staff, a female lawyer, Goodness Ibangah, on January 30, 2020.
WACOL also petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammad, demanding that justice should be done.
Addressing newsmen in WACOL office, Enugu, Monday, before proceeding on a peaceful demonstration, the founding director of WACOL and Dean Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus, Professor Joy Ezeilo (OON) narrated what happened in their office on 30th January, 2020, how four policemen invaded their office and brutalized their staff, beating a female lawyer, Goodness Ibangah to unconsciousness.
Professor Ezeilo said that on Monday 27th January , 2020, one Miss (Name withheld) a 21 year old lady made a distress call to her while she was in Owerri, Imo State and Women Aid Collective ‘s (WACOL’s) office in Enugu, Enugu State that she was raped that evening by one Mr. Uchenna James Emenike, a 22 year old man at Corridor Layout Maryland Enugu.
She said that the matter was referred to their legal team which considered her report and thought it wise that rape was such a serious criminal matter that should require Police intervention and investigation. The victim was taken to the hospital, treated and the matter taken to the police.
“To that effect, one of the lawyers in our office, Ibangah Goodness Esq. took the victim to Area Command Enugu, Enugu State with a petition informing the Police of the development and requested that the matter be investigated. She handed the victim over to them and was also present when they obtained a statement from her. At that point, it was reasonably expected that the Police had formally taken over investigation of this matter from us.”
She continued, “The Police later called Ibangah Goodness Esq. requesting that she provides the victim to them as the parents of the suspect had plans of settling the issue with the victim and her family. She told them that she had handed over the matter to them and therefore they should source the victim by themselves with the contact details she provided in her statement with them. Rather, the Area commander and some other officers at the station kept calling Ibangah Goodness Esq and trying to intimidate her and coerce her to provide the victim for settlement with the boys parent”.
Professor Ezeilo said that to their utmost dismay, on “30th January, 2020 four Police officers from Area Command Enugu, stormed our office and still requested that our office should provide the victim for them. The legal unit repeated to them that they had already handed over the matter to them and that they should look for the victim themselves using the contact details she provided in her statement at their office and still in their presence tried to contact the victim who said that she was on her way to the station.
“These officers failed to listen but instead began entering all the rooms in the office building and when they saw Ibangah Goodness Esq. who happened to be in a meeting. They mercilessly beat up Ibangah Goodness Esq. to a state of near unconsciousness. They extended the beating to Miss Nneka Okwor, another member of our staff when she made to plead with them to stop beating Goodness. ”
She went further, “These police Officers took the phone of Ibangah Goodness Esq. and confisticated the phone of anyone who dared to take pictures, record or video their hideous acts.
“They also destroyed some WACOL’s office doors in the process. It was such a dastardly beating that at a point Goodness ran into the office toilet to save her dear life, yet the four of them chased her like a hardened criminal into the toilet, dragged her out and continued beating this helpless and unarmed lady who was assisting the Police to curb crimes in the state. And what was her offence? She brought a lady who reported to our office to have been raped to them, she narrated.
The founder said that “After beating her to their satisfaction, they whisked her away to their office alongside Ezeani Esq.who was outside when the incident happened. While this was going on, the crowd of people who came to WACOL with their different matters ran away. This happened around 2pm.
“At Area Command the two lawyers were detained and their two phones collected from them and seized. The officers insisted that the victim must be provided by the lawyers before they would be released.
“On getting to the station the parents of the alleged rapist and the police officers started abusing and maltreating Ibangah Goodness esq. and the other lawyer who was also with her. Ibangah Goodness told them that she was having breathing difficulty and needed her medical attention as a matter of urgency, they turned a deaf ear to her plea and continued to force her to make a statement and also produce the victim for settlement.
She said that , “Around 3:00 pm Goodness Esq. fainted and collapsed while still in custody and was not rushed to the hospital until after 20 minutes when Daniel Onyeonagu Esq. one of our Pro Bono Lawyers who saw Police reluctance to provide their own vehicle took her in his car to the National Orthopeadic Hospital, Emergency Unit. Two Police officers accompanied him in his car. Just before they got to the hospital, Goodness Ibangah Esq. became totally unconscious and lifeless.
“It took the timely intervention of the doctors at the hospital who used their Oxygen and other necessary medical equipment to revive her. Immediately they arrived at the hospital and before she was revived, the two police officers who had her in their custody and who accompanied Daniel Onyeonagu Esq. to the hospital thought she had died and ran way.
”They detained Ezeani Esq. who was outside WACOL office when they were beating Goodness Esq. inside our office. She remained in their custody from around 2pm noon till 6:00pm when she was finally released after obtaining a statement from her.
“Up till now, they have not inquired the state of the lady who they beat up and who fainted while in their custody and who they also guarded to the hospital.
She said that it is the height of abuse of
Police power, harassing and beating up a human rights lawyer working in an office that has set unprecedented records of assisting the Police in curbing crimes in the country. It is a mockery to an office such as ours and is totally unacceptable and must be fully investigated to bring the culprits to book.
Professor Ezeilo told newsmen that the WACOL had petitioned the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission demanding justice. She said though Enugu police command set up a panel, WACOL has no confidence in that panel because the members are policemen. WACOL urges the Police authorities to set up an independent panel that will include members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Human Rights groups and the media to that justice will be done and the culprits bring to book.
She told newsmen that there are so many options to take if their plea is not met.