On the fateful day of 26th of July, 2022 at about 8:am, traffic police officers from the New Etete Divisional Police Headquarters stopped a tricycle rider, later identified as Comrade Bright Amobude, who was returning home to where he works with his tricycle by Limit Junction along Sapele Road, Benin City.
The police accused him of riding his tricycle in government restricted area. Being that, he is an activist and a member of Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO), he humbly requested to know the law that stated so from the policemen.
The Interim Public Relations Officer, EDOCSO, Leftist Aliyu Umweni, said: “This got the traffic officer infuriated and he took hold of the tricycle’s keys and drove it to the station. He was asked by the arresting police to bail the tricycle with the sum of N20, 000 which he refused, and he left because he wouldn’t be part of a corrupt system. The tricycle was held in the station without documentation. This was found out when some comrades went to the station to make enquiries on what transpired upon getting the report. Later in the day, the rider and another comrade by the name of Vision Nelson returned to the station to remove valuables including cash from the tricycle but met the absence of the officer that apprehended him.”
Umweni recounted that another officer on duty volunteered to accompany them to the tricycle for the items to be removed. While the exercise was going on, Comrade Vision Nelson decided to have video evidence of the exercise, when the officer noticed it.
“He slapped him and beckoned on other officers within reach, who descended on them heavily with blows and kicks thereby inflicting bodily injuries on them. They were thrown into the cell for recording police officers while on duty. It was discovered that the money amounting to N29, 700 that was in the tricycle had disappeared from where it was kept,” Umweni.
Umweni continued: “Comrades, after one other paid visit to the station to find out the reason for the arrest and detention, officers at the counter seemed not to have any idea. Up till around 8:pm, nobody in the station could tell of the reason they were hauled into the cell and the detention of the tricycle. The insistence to know the offence committed by them to warrant detention and the missing money from the tricycle led the officers on duty to send the visiting comrades out of the station aggressively. The Divisional Police Officer by the name of Kontongs Bello who is the immediate past Police Public Relations Officer came to the station and stated that the tricycle operator rode in a restricted area by the government. When asked about the said enabling law, he became infuriated and walked all the comrades out of the station. They were left to sleep in the cell.”
The following day which was the 27th day of July 2022, the Interim TEC Chairman of Edo Civil Society Organisations, Leftist Austine Enabulele led other members of the executive alongside other members to the station to request for the law the detained comrades contravened that warranted their incarceration.
Umweni narrated: “The DPO and his men continued to raise all manner of offences which includes the recording of a police officer while on duty. When it became dawn on them that, the persons before them wouldn’t enter bail negotiation with them based on financial consideration, they lied that, they had been charged to court. Upon getting to the court, it was discovered that such a matter had not been brought before it. It was when comrades were making plans to return to the station that the tricycle rider and the other comrade were brought in handcuffs like common criminals.”
He stated that the comraded were brought before a magistrate with the following charges as reproduced hereinunder, count one reads: “ That you Bright Amobude ‘M’ on the 26th day of July 2022 at Benin-Sapele Road, by Limit Junction at 0930hrs in the Evbuoriaria Magisterial District did disobey the lawful order issued by the constituted authority by riding Keke Napep with registration number USL014VC as against the lawful order issued by the Edo State Government (Governor) contrary to Section 203 of the Criminal Code Cap 48 Vol II Laws of the defunct Bendel State of Nigerian 1976 as now applicable to Edo state.”
Similarly, count two states: “That you Bright Amobude ‘M’ and Vision Nelson on the same date, time and place in the same aforementioned magisterial district did conspire among yourselves to commit felony to wit conduct likely to cause a breach of peace thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the criminal code cap 48 Vol II Laws of the defunct Bendel State of Nigerian 1976 as now applicable to Edo state.”
Count three states, “That you Vision Nelson ‘M’ and Vision Nelson on the same date, time and place in the same aforementioned magisterial district did conduct yourself in a manner likely to cause a breach of peace by videoing one Police Traffic Warden with force No: 13649 Livingstone Damaza while doing his lawful duty at the front of New Etete Police station as you are not a photojournalist or a government photographer or a registered photographer and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 249 of the criminal code cap 48 Vol II Laws of the defunct Bendel State of Nigerian 1976 as now applicable to Edo state.”
Umweni said: “They pleaded not guilty to the offences and bail applications were granted as all the offences are bailable. They couldn’t perfect the bail requirements the same day and were returned to the station till the 28th day of July 2022 when they were released to reunite with their families and comrades who stood gallantly with them all through. The magistrate had requested the police to make available a copy of the law that restricted tricycles from plying certain areas in the next court sitting. From all indications, it is obvious that the DPO exhibited a high level of incompetence, high-handedness and very poor knowledge to oversee a police division. Little wonder the new Commissioner of Police had to remove him as the PPRO and return the former PPRO, Chidi Nwanbuzor to portray the image of the command in good light. We would recommend the DPO of New Etete Divisional Headquarters to be redeployed to head the mechanic workshop or dog department of the force to properly put a round peg in a round hole. The traffic unit of the station has been recorded to be unprofessional in its conduct over time. When you oppress just one Nigeria, you are creating a warrior that will generate another thousand warriors hitherto didn’t know about their rights before. Just one oppressed tricycle operator shall in turn liberate hundreds of other tricycle operators. Edo Civil Society Organisations is already putting together a team of very sound and erudite lawyers to do justice to the court case in putting the records straight without leaving out the enforcement of the rights of the victims.”
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