Anambra State Commissioner of Police, John Abang has debunked an online report claiming that he withdrew the Police orderly attached to a Judge in the state for awarding damages to the tune of twenty-five million naira against the Police.
Justice T. U. Oguji had delivered the judgment on Monday 27th of April, 2020 and awarded the sum of N25 million as damages in favour of an Onitsha based lawyer, Ogbonaya Jacob Obasi for the assault on him by the Police.
In the judgement delivered in the fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by the applicant, with the SUIT NO: O/ MISC.312/2019, Justice Oguji also ordered the Police to tender a written apology to the applicant which must be published on Vanguard Newspaper.
Days later, the Police Orderly to the Judge was withdrawn, a Human Rights Foundation, International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF) said.
The Foundation had in a petition to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) dated 29th of April, 2020, urged the IGP to remove the Anambra Commissioner of Police and reinstate the police security of the Judge.
The petition signed by the Executive Director, Justus Uche Ijeoma, said the “foundation recalls that some police officers in Onitsha had some time in 2019 at the instance of the Onitsha Area Commander, ACP John Obuagbaka, grievously assaulted a lawyer, Mr. O. J. Obasi. The assault by the officers as captured in a viral video drew public opprobrium against the Anambra State Command of the Nigerian Police, in particular, and the Nigerian Police in general.”
I-REF said the victim filed an action for the enforcement of his fundamental rights as a result of which compensation was awarded in his favour to the tune of 25 million naira.
It regretted that instead of the Commissioner of Police to appeal against the decision, he chose impunity.
“We have it on good authority that the Commissioner of Police has withdrawn the orderly of the Hon. Judge, thereby exposing him to physical and psychological threats and insecurity. The only crime the Hon. Judge committed against the CP was discharging his constitutional duties without fear or favour,” the group said
It, therefore, called on the IGP to, as a matter of urgency, direct the CP to immediately restore the orderly of the Judge, warning that they will hold the CP responsible, should anything untoward happen to the Judge or even the applicant in the said matter, Mr Obasi.
According to the I-REF, “We call on the IGP to immediately direct the removal of the CP from Anambra State. The CP has clearly demonstrated gross incompetence as the Commissioner of police in the State. Under his watch, there have been a lot of reported cases of egregious human rights violations and highhandedness by officers and men of the Nigeria Police in the State. If a police boss of the status of the CP can engage in this kind of reckless indiscretion against a judicial officer, you can then imagine what his officers do to the ordinary people of the State.”
I-REF concluded that “It was under the watch of this same CP that two young men were killed by the police on the 15th of April, 2020 at Nkpor in Anambra in the guise of enforcing restriction of movement, which almost led to total a breakdown of law and order in the area. Up till now nothing, to our knowledge, has been done about the matter. It is obvious that CP Abang is not interested in protecting the image of the Police, all he is concerned about is how to enrich himself, howbeit unlawful. The list is endless, but we don’t intend to belabour the matter with an endless litany of yet to be resolved cases of human rights abuse by the Police in the Command.”
But in a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer in Anambra, Haruna Mohammed, the Command described the report as absolutely false and unfounded.
It read; “The attention of the Anambra State Police Command has been drawn to a misleading report trending on the social media with the above caption allegedly credited to one Justus Uche Ijeoma, Esq of a Human Rights Foundation with the acronym “International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation(I-REF).
“The petition alleged that the Commissioner of Police CP John B.Abang had withdrawn the Orderly of Justice T.U Oguji following the judgement awarded against the Command by the said judge.
“However, the authors of the post are being outright mischievous and probably out to settle personal scores which the Commissioner of Police is not aware of.”
The statement explained that the fact in issue was that recently the command reorganized Rank/Files who have spent two years and above at a particular Police station or formation.
It said the routine reshufflement affected many judges and magistrates across the State but explained that thereafter, the noticed dislocations of the move were corrected when the affected judges who drew the attention of the Command to such moves, were immediately attended to.
“It was not a punitive measure aimed at anyone or even the judge in the above post. It may interest the public to know that the Chief Judge of Anambra State is aware of this and he even approached the Commissioner of Police to make amends which he gladly obliged.”
The Command said the CP has directed the DPO Inland town, Onitsha Division under whose jurisdiction the said Judge resides, to personally visit the judge with the replacement and if he insists on his former orderly, the DPO should restore him.
The Command denied having knowledge of the judgement or that the Judge was handling any case involving the Police.
“It is also unfortunate that the author(s) of the above post didn’t make any effort to make a formal enquiry to enable them to take an informed decision but rather took to social media to cast aspersions on the Commissioner of Police who is working assiduously to provide safety and security in Anambra State which is glaring since his assumption of duty as the Commissioner of Police in the State.
“Furthermore, the Commissioner bears no grudges against any person but sees this distraction as the price of selfless service one pays while discharging his duties diligently. The report is, therefore, a figment of the imagination of the writers,” the statement maintained.