How police officers beat me up, tore my clothes and smashed my phone — Female lawyer narrates

Chiamaka Nwangwu, a young lawyer, has cried out for justice over what she allegedly suffered in the hands of policemen attached to 3-3 Division, Nkwele Ezunaka, near Onitsha, Anambra State, recently.

Chiamaka alleged that policemen beat her up, tore her clothes and smashed her phone after inflicting injuries on her. In her words, the cops brutalised her on the orders of the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the station, Regina-Jane Mbanefo, a Chief Superintendent of Police, whom she accused of first slapping her.

The incident, which reportedly occurred on January 22, 2018, has already gone viral on the social media, with different groups calling for the head of the DPO.

However, the DPO has said that she did nothing wrong. She described the lawyer, Chiamaka, as the aggressor, adding that her accuser later concocted stories to pull her down.

Narrating her ordeal to Daily Sun, Chiamaka said she went to the station on the prompting of her colleague in Abuja. The colleague had called and pleaded with her to visit the station and help his younger brother, who was detained and was about to make a statement, after he was allegedly beaten up by his landlord and some youths.

She said: “When I got to there, I met the young man making a statement at the IPO’s office. I approached him and asked him what exactly happened and he narrated everything to me. He told me that his landlord came and made a statement against him on the night of January 21, and I was also informed by his parents that his landlord had been with the DCO1 since 6am. I went to the office of the DCO1 and saw a man wearing a brown native dress. I didn’t even know that he was the landlord. I politely briefed the DCO1 and he told me that the police were investigating the matter, and we got talking from there. He also told me that, if I was not satisfied with their investigations, I could transfer the matter to the State CID or Area Command.

“I also called the DCO2, met him outside and asked him if the DPO came to work that day. He told me that the DPO was not around that morning but might come to work later. I called my mom on the phone and told her about the matter that I came for. As soon as we finished speaking on the phone, I came in and saw the young man I came for behind the counter. I signalled to him, and he told me that the IPO and DCO1 asked him to stay there. I went out again to make some calls, came in again to meet the young man complaining that the part of his body where he was beaten by his landlord was seriously oozing out puss and disturbing him.

“A huge woman in native clothes, who I later learned was Jane Mbanefo, the DPO, became very aggressive and ordered me to leave the admin office. Note that I didn’t know their DPO and have never seen her before. It was my first time of coming to that police station. She started shouting at me, asking me my interest in the matter and who I was to tell the boy that I came for on the kind of treatment he should get. I was very shocked and embarrassed. I was angry and, on my way out of the admin office, the woman continued talking, insulting lawyers generally, telling me that she is equally a lawyer of 20 years.

“She slapped me and one of the handles of my recommended glasses got disfigured and fell off. Then other junior police officers joined her and beat me up mercilessly. My black gown was torn and I was stripped naked. I managed to get my phone out of my handbag to record a video of the scene, but one of the policewomen took the phone from my hand, smashed it and seized it. My middle finger was broken and I sustained internal injuries. People were watching outside, including the young boy that I came for as well as his mum and dad.
“I was detained at the police station and asked to write a statement. Another policeman slapped me and threatened that he would send his juniors to beat me up, before pushing me in the cell. Another policewoman, who had just come in then, slapped me and pushed me from the counter. She said she would have done worse if she were the other policewomen that beat me up.

“I was asked to write a statement; when my client’s dad brought my bag from the scene where the incident took place, I discovered that N5,000 was missing from my handbag. They also threatened to shoot me or poison me, if I slept in the cell till the next day. I made a statement and was thrown inside the cell for about six hours before my parents were contacted, with my NBA chairman and my principal. I later learned that the DPO fabricated stories against me, saying that I slapped her and took their walkie-talkie away.

“I was forced to write an apology letter afterwards before I could leave the cell. I was released after I wrote the apology letter thrice which the DCO dictated to me. The DCO2 was the person that dictated all the contents in the letter with the help of the female IPO in charge. I have never experienced this type of thing as a legal practitioner, and if something is not done, this impunity will continue. The police are meant to protect citizens and not to turn them into punchbags.”

A medical report signed by Dr. Okwusogu A.O., chief medical director, Onitsha General Hospital, revealed that Chiamaka sustained “bruised injuries on the anterior chest wall, myalgia, swelling and tenderness fourth right finger and has been placed on medications and treatment.”

But when the reporter contacted the DPO, Jane Mbanefo, she dismissed Chiamaka’s claims.

Her words: “I came back that day and met some people shouting at the counter section. They were quarrelling and when I asked what was going on, I was briefed that the tenant had issues with his landlord. When I told the policemen to give them papers to go for medical treatment first, the lawyer, Chiamaka, resisted and said that it was only her client that should be sent to the hospital. I scolded her, making her realise that she was not the one to dictate what would happen in a police station. Then I told my men to take her away.

“I told her to walk away from the station but she refused and the policemen began to push her away. She pushed a policeman and the woman fell down. It would have been riotous but the spirit came to me and I ordered that she should be detained. When they put her behind the counter, she went berserk like a mad person, snapping pictures all over the station with her phone.

“That was when I called the NBA chairman to ascertain whether such a person was actually a lawyer. The NBA chairman came with Chiamaka’s Principal. There was one other woman from FIDA and Chiamaka’s mother whom I learnt is a retired magistrate.

“All the parties present were summoned and they were the people that confirmed after hearing from us that I didn’t do anything wrong. They apologised on Chiamaka’s behalf but I demanded for documentary evidence as If I knew that it was going to be like this.

“Chiamaka tendered an apology letter and I didn’t beat her or touch her. If I had done what she alleged, the mother wouldn’t have allowed her to apologise. I’m surprised that she went out to the social media and began to malign me and also ganged up with some lawyers whom we have arrested before for criminal matters.

“So many people have been calling me over this but I’m not afraid. I’m answerable only to the Nigeria Police and nobody else. I have her pictures where she was writing freely in the station here. She just made up those stories. I’m not afraid and I cannot own up to something I didn’t do. Nobody forced her to apologise. If they insist, we can go to a native shrine to swear and I’m sure the oracle can kill her because she is guilty.

“Some of these young lawyers are not normal upstairs and I’m ready for them. I don’t have any case; this is just a gang-up. Even if they say they are going to remove my uniform, I tell them that they can’t do it, they don’t have such powers. I’m doing my job and if they don’t relent, this case can even take us to the National Assembly. I’ve not done anything wrong to anybody.”

Meanwhile, Chiamaka’s lawyer, Chukwunonso Akah of Alpha & Sigma Partners, and a human rights group, International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation (I-Ref), led by Justus Ijeoma, have petitioned the Inspector-General of Police in Abuja, demanding a thorough probe as well as sanctions on the DPO.