Two men, Emmanuel Larry and Victor Udoka, are currently languishing in a correctional facility in Kabba, Kogi State, for protesting against President Muhammadu Buhari.
A viral video captures the moment the duo were accosted by a group of men in a community in Lokoja for carrying placards with the inscription ”Buhari Must Go” and painting the same message on a roadside structure.
One of the men is seen in the footage chastising the two: “… And you are writing ‘ Buhari Must Go’. Who told you Kogi is not for Buhari? We, the Kogi youths, are for Buhari. That’s why we are not going to accommodate you guys. We’ll deal with you,” the middle-aged man, who appeared to be the leader of the group, said.
They then flogged the two men, insisting they must scrub the painting off the wall.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt Messrs Larry and Udoka were subsequently handed over to the police, who ‘secretly’ arraigned them and obtained an order for their remand in prison custody.
This was confirmed by their lawyer, Benjamin Omeiza, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday evening.
Police deceived me, denied me access to my clients – Lawyer
Mr Omeiza told our reporter that the police frustrated his efforts to see the detainees.
According to him, when he got to the police headquarters in Lokoja on Tuesday, he was told they had no record of his clients.
However, he said he was told at the A’ division police station that Messrs Larry and Udoka were being detained there but he was denied access to them.
“I said I would like to see them and enquire about their welfare and arrange for their feeding. (An officer) said I could not do that unless I go back (to the command headquarters) and see the commissioner of police. They said they were not the one that made the arrest but the office of the CP.”
Back to the police headquarters, Mr Omeiza said he met the Commissioner of Police who requested a formal application for their bail.
“I was able to meet the CP briefly and he said I should bring my formal application. I told him I would like to see my clients before then, he told me to go back to A’ division where they are being held in custody and I should tell them that the CP ordered that I should see them. He said if they refuse me access to my client, I should tell them to call him.”
But Mr Omeiza said when he got to A’ division for the second time, he was told that his clients were undergoing further investigation and that he should check back on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, after serving the CP the formal bail application, the lawyer was told that the police had obtained an ex parte order to remand his clients in prison.
“The same officer that I met yesterday who assured me of their detention there told me that they have been taken to the prison on a remand order. I was very infuriated. I got information from a reliable source that as at the time they said they were being interrogated on Tuesday that they actually took them to prison. They arranged for a magistrate who sat and signed the remand order.”
Mr Omeiza said the move by the police, which he described as being political, was taken to frustrate the release of Messrs Larry and Udoka.
“They know that the offence they may lay against them —defacing public property — is a bailable offence and they don’t want to grant it because of the interest of the government in the matter.”
The police commissioner, Ayuba Edeh, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the duo were being remanded in prison but he did not furnish our reporter with the details.
“They were remanded yesterday but I don’t have the details as I’m talking to you now,” he said via telephone Wednesday.
The police commissioner had previously told Sahara Reporters that the men were arrested by vigilantes.
“They were in my office and I asked them what the matter was. They said they came from other states to protest in Lokoja. I asked them to write it down in a statement but they said they would not talk until their lawyer comes.”
State government’s support
The incarceration of the protesters was influenced by the state government sources had told PREMIUM TIMES.
This is also evident in the public statement of state officials lauding the mob action against them.
“I am proud of my Lokoja residents who effected a citizens’ arrest of a pair of suspicious characters caught in the act of vandalism, trespass, etc. We protest, peacefully, and we let dissenting voices scream all they want, but after the destruction of critical public infrastructure and stores by imported arsonists during the #EndSARS protests, Kogi people have become less tolerant of mercenaries trucked in from other states to unsettle a citizenry minding its business,” the deputy governor of the state, Edward Onoja, wrote in a Tuesday WhatsApp chat with former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore.
The receipts of the chats were shared by the two who exchanged words on social media on Tuesday evening.
This came from the Deputy Governor of Kogi state, Edward Onoja whose aide also supervised the torture of anti-Buhari protesters! One day we will remember all these shenanigans as part of ignominy! #BuhariMustgo pic.twitter.com/47RfhRrQhO
— Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore) April 6, 2021
RE: Werey Dey Disguise pic.twitter.com/f2gDI2E3Cr
— Chief Edward David Onoja (@ed_onoja) April 6, 2021
Mr Sowore, had in the same conversation challenged Mr Onoja over the arrest of the protesters.
“Edward Onoja. So even with transience of power you’ve learnt little. Your guys beating up anti-Buhari supporters on the streets of Lokoja. What a shame!” he stated earlier.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, in a statement, also commended the men who arrested the protesters.
“The Kogi youths, who are ardent supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, apprehended the sponsored hoodlums and handed them to law enforcement agents for possible prosecution, for violating the environmental laws of Kogi and disturbing the peace. We are placing it on record that the fanatical following of the President by Kogi people is borne out of our faith in his integrity and quality leadership. Kogi is PMB and PMB is Kogi
“The Kogi State Government hereby sounds a note of warning to all agents of destabilisation to steer clear of our state in their bid to play divisive, destructive, destabilising and debilitating politics. Kogi is focused on development and commitment to improving the living standard of the people,” he said.
According to him, Buhari is more than a national leader.
“He represents an ideology that protects the poor and the weak, an ideology of transparency and accountability, an ideology of security and stability. These are the unfailing strings that bind us with the President.”
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