*Family petitions IGP
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
IN the military or para-military parlance, espirit d’corps is used to reflect the harmony or spirit of togetherness amongst officers working towards achieving a common goal and it is in most cases observed and respected. But that was not the case for Mr. Effa Okim, a detective and staffer of the Economic and Finance Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abuja office.
Okim is battling to save his life as he is nearly blind after being thoroughly beaten by policemen under alleged instructions from an Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, in charge of operations in Ebonyi State Police Command, Stephen Esimaje.
Already, the EFCC detective has written to the Chairman, Police Service Commission, the Inspector-General of Police, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 6, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission and the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Public Petitions, while the family has also written to the AIG Zone 6, Calabar, alleging assault, battery, molestation, abuse of office and attempted murder orchestrated attack and official misconduct.
Okim nearly died on 28 February, 2013, when he went on an official assignment at Enugu. After the assignment, he decided to travel to nearby Abakaliki Ebonyi state capital to see a relation.
It was gathered that whenever Okim travelled to Abakiliki, he always lodged at one Adig Suites and, on that fateful day, he led contact one of his friends, Austine, who placed a call for hotel reservation at the Suites.
Because he was said not to have finished his assignment in Enugu early enough, he got to the hotel in Abakiliki in the evening in company of Austine.
While Austine was helping to sort out the accommodation, Okim decided to go to the swimming pool as the weather was hot. Then, about 10 fierce looking men in mufti with a uniformed police officer approached him at the swimming pool and ordered him out.
The petition to the Chairman, Police Service Commission, dated March 1, 2013, sent through Okim’s lawyer, U.C. Igba, stated: Our client informed us that in obedience, he felt that the presence of the uniformed police officer would provide a protection for him lest the persons were to be assailants. To the utter chagrin of our client, when he climbed up to the pool side, the said persons alongside the uniformed police officer descended on him and gave him the beating of his life.”
Okim alleged that as he was still trying to come to terms with the onslaught, “the said assailants dragged him like a common criminal to a person who introduced himself as the Assistant Commissioner (Operations), State Command Headquarters, Abakiliki.”
The victim further alleged that the attempt he made to introduce himself to the ACP that he was an EFCC staffer attracted a resounding slap on his face and that, if not the presence of Austine, his friend, he would have been a dead person.
It was also reported that the timely intervention of good Samaritans who smuggled him out of the vicinity to the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakiliki for immediate medical treatment saved him. He claimed that the attack almost made him blind eyes have been blinded and covered with blood.
The petition said, “Our client lost vision and consciousness owing to the attack but got revived at the said hospital. We are taken aback at the level of terror and unprovoked attack unleashed on the person of our client without a just cause. The surprise is most alarming as it came from a high ranking officer of the Nigeria Police of the Ebonyi State Command. One would ponder to ask if the police is an instrument of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, the Okim family has also petitioned the AIG Zone 6, Calabar over the alleged attack. In a petition signed by Mr. Raymond Obaji, the family is calling on the AIG to expedite investigation into the assault on their son, under the alleged instructions of ACP Esimaje.
The petition wondered how a citizen assault could be brutalized by the police who are supposed to protect lives without cause and called for justice to be done.
In a related development, the victim has applied to the Federal High Court, Abakiliki for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights.
The application made by Okim’s counsel, Patrick Ekuri Esq, accused ACP Esimaje with the other policemen, nine of whom were in mufti of attacking and battering him in a swimming pool at Adig Suites, Abakiliki.
In an affidavit he deposed to, he said he had resisted the order from the men in mufti ordering him out of the pool because of the “menacing manner” they approached him fearing they were kidnappers, adding that he obliged them when the uniformed policeman joined them to ask him to climb out of the pool.
“Honestly, I feared that I may be kidnapped,” he stated and that he demanded an explanation for the obtrusive order to leave the pool for which the policemen descended on him beating him to a pulp, first with blows and kicks to the face and legs, and continued the beating as he fell to the floor with the butt of the gun, boots and other weapons on the forehead, eyes and chest.
He further said that while the beating was going on, the assailants were shouting, “Oga say we should deal with you, we will kill you today.’
The petition went on: “In a state of near coma, he was helplessly dragged to a man sitting in the midst of girls drinking, who introduced himself as “AC Ops” Ebonyi Police Command and that the men who had brutally manhandled him were the “AC Ops boys.”
He said the AC demanded to know his identity and was informed that he was a staffer of the EFCC. “This appeared to annoy the ACP all the more, he personally slapped and beat me, screaming, ‘You are stupid and lucky that they didn’t kill you” after which the beating resumed until they left me half dead.
Okim claimed that he was smuggled by sympathetic guests at the hotel after the police had prevented an initial attempt to take him to hospital for treatment and that at the teaching hospital, he was treated for multiple injuries and impaired vision and that he reported the mater to Ebonyi State Police Commissioner.
Since the alleged brutality, Okim has been taken to many hospitals on admission including the Abuja Clinic and the Imperial College Health Care, Western Eye Clinic, Western Eye Hospital 171 Marylebone Road, London Northwest. ISQH I, to see if he could regain his vision.
The beatings had affected him physically such that he cannot use a laptop, phone or watch television or any bright screen or object.
It was gathered that the AIG of Police Zone 6 under which the Ebonyi Command operates, Mr. Samuel Johnson, told a reporter on inquiry that the matter was being investigated and that he hoped Okim would have confidence in his ability and that of the Inspector-General of Police to handle the matter.