Lawyer narrates ordeals in hands of DPO, other police officers before NHRC panel

A Cross River-based lawyer, Joseph Bassey Arikpo, on Tuesday, narrated his ordeals in the hands of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ibom Police Station for asking that a detainee in his station be allowed access to his relations.

Arikpo made the narration before the independent investigative panel on violations of rights by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) while testifying in the petition he filed before the panel, marked 2020/IIP-SARS/ABJ/191.

He had petitioned against the DPO, SP Solomon Danja; the Cross River State Commissioner of Police and Inspector General of Police, alleging unlawful arrest, detention cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and intimidation.

He told the panel that on November 8, 2020, he was called by a friend to secure the release of his (friend’s) son-in-law, one, Mr Friday Ogbor, who was being detained by the police.

According to Arikpo, he went to the Ibom police station, where he met the officer on duty and explained his reason for coming to the station.

He informed that he was told by the officer that it was only the DPO who could handle such a matter, adding that he went to Danja’s office but he was not there.

“I went to his (DPO) office but he was not there and I waited around. After a while, a car drove in and I was told he was the one.

“As he alighted I approached him and told him why I was there. He said they are trying to call his (Ogbor’s) family and see how they can settle the matter.

“I told him he has been in detention for six days, people are not allowed to see him and the officer on duty collects the food they came with and N500 and will not allow them to see him and know if he was being fed,” the lawyer told the panel.

Arikpo said he reminded the DPO of the detainee’s right to personal liberty and dignity of the human person, saying that, “the DPO got infuriated and called me a stupid man while beckoning on an officer standing by to accompany me out.

“I told him I take exception to that. I told him not to call me stupid and that I am a legal practitioner soliciting the release of my client. He punched me thrice and was becoming violent and I resisted him and at the fourth punch he fell down.

“By this time, I realised he had taken alcohol because it was smelling.

“A policewoman seeing it shouted that I have fallen the DPO and immediately, every policeman there came and bounced on me,” he alleged.

He further told the panel that as he was trying to run for his dear life, the DPO ordered that the gate of the station be locked and thereafter he was teargassed.

According to him, he was dragged to the cell, saying that that was even better for him than the ordeal he just passed through, adding that his statement was taken by an officer in the afternoon though he was stripped and was only left with his boxers and T-shirt.

“I said I want to write but he said no that I can see that I was not in the right frame of mind,” he said.

Arikpo further told the panel that after his statement was obtained in recording despite his objection to it, the DPO allegedly came in again with officers wielding batons and horsewhip, asking that he be handcuffed to the back, while commencing another round of beating, whipping and name-calling.

“This time he was with a baton and horsewhip. He asked them to handcuff me, which they did and used the whip on me. He used the baton and hit me seriously and blood started gushing out. They then dragged me back to the cell,” he said.

He added that after spending some days detention at the station, he was reluctantly released on November 9, 2020, through the intervention of the elders of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikom branch, after some other lawyers had made fruitless efforts to get him released by the police.

The petitioner said after his release, he went to the Area Command office to lodge a complaint and later to the state Commissioner of Police who asked him to go for a medical check.

“He asked for what I wanted and I told him I wanted N300 million compensation for the trauma I went through and a public apology. He said the police cannot even give N10 million,” he said.

Asked what he wanted the panel to do for him, Arikpo requested for the dismissal from the police as well as prosecution of the DPO, Solomon Danja, for assaulting him, submitting that, “he is not fit and proper to be an officer in the Nigerian Police Force.”

He further prayed the panel to order the DPO to pay him (petitioner) the sum of N20million as compensation for the assault, adding that the panel should order the police to publish an apology approved by the NBA and published in two national dailies.

While being cross-examined by counsel for the respondents, James Idachaba Arikpo told the panel that he did not approach a court of law for the enforcement of his fundamental right.

After the petitioners’ cross-examination by the respondent’s counsel, a member of the panel, Garba Tetengi SAN, who presided over proceedings in the absence of the chairman, Justice Suleiman Galadima (retd), adjourned the matter until April 15 for defence.

He, however, ordered that the Inspector General of Police should secure the presence of SP Solomon Danja on the adjourned date.

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Lawyer narrates ordeals in hands of DPO, other police officers before NHRC panel

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