By: Yakubu Ahmed
Human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong has petitioned the Acting Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun and the Police Service Commission over the arrest and detention of Akwa Ibom-based farmer, Brezhnev Langwa.
Mr. Effiong said in a statement, Sunday, that his client, Mr. Langwa, was illegally arrested and unlawfully detained over a civil matter involving Hillary Mba, a relative of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Frank Mba.
According to the lawyer, Mr. Langwa, a major employer of labour, is the chief executive officer of Bennycom Agro and Farms Limited, a company licensed to import and export fertilizer and agro-based products in Nigeria.
“Our client has a commercial dispute with one of his business partners, Mr. Hillary Emeka Mba, regarding claims and counter claims over computation of profit sharing, costs, expenses, taxes, on their fertiliser trade collaborations; a unique business model where Hillary Emeka Mba buys fertilizers from manufacturers in Nigeria and hands over to our client, who then secures trade licenses, manages logistics, handles Customs duties, and ships the product (fertilizers) to Cameroon, where our client also undertakes the sales of the fertilizers, and subsequently, they both share profit.
“Hillary Emeka Mba claims our client is owing him, a claim our client vehemently disputes. Both parties had agreed to invite a neutral third party to resolve their dispute.
“But rather than allow the amicable resolution to be explored, Hillary Emeka Mba who has repeatedly sworn and threatened to use his ‘connections’ in the Nigeria Police to force our client to repay debts that are clearly disputed and unproven, got police officers from the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, FCID Annex, Alagbon, Lagos to illegally arrest and detain our client in order to force our client to pay disputed debt allegedly owed to his business partner Hillary Emeka Mba, a relative of newly promoted Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG Frank Mba.
“Without any prior invitation whatsoever, our client was on Friday, 14th July, 2023, arrested at a Lounge in Uyo by men of the Nigeria Police who expressly informed our client that he was needed in Lagos in relation to a case in which DIG Frank Emeka Mba has interest in.
“Our client was arrested, detained at A Division in Uyo and flown to Lagos on Sunday, 16th July, 2023 where he was further detained without being notified of his offence in writing in violation of section 35(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria,” a part of the statement reads.
Mr. Effiong argued that Mr. Langwa’s rights to freedom of movement and personal liberty were violated for many days before the police were confronted and they surreptitiously took his client to a Magistrate Court in Surulere on July, 20, to seek a fresh order to detain him for additional 30 days.
According to him, the investigating police officer (IPO), Inspector Isuku Ifah was earlier challenged by a lawyer from his chamber after he (IPO) threatened on July 18, to detain Mr. Langwa until he paid the disputed and unproven N26 million debt to Mr. Mba.
“Our firm intercepted information of the surreptitious move by the police and a lawyer from our firm appeared at the Magistrate Court to challenge the illegal remand application.
“Quite humorously, the police in their affidavit in support of the remand application averred that our client has made ‘a confessional statement’ admitting to committing the imaginary crime.
“However, and ironically, they insist they want 30 days remand to investigate a crime even when they claim the suspect has admitted and confessed to it. The nominal complainant, Mr. Hillary Emeka Mba, a relative of DIG Frank Emeka Mba has continued to threaten to use his connection in the police to deal with our client.
“The head of investigation team handling the investigation at FCID, Alagbon, Lagos, one Supol Ayoleyi Tawose Ajayi, on Wednesday 26th July, 2023 threatened and insisted that she’ll get the 30 days and keep our client in custody until the disputed debt is paid, irrespective of whatever the learned Magistrate, Mr. Bashir Ajiferuke does or decides in the Remand Application.
“As a matter of fact, we wish to state for the records, that the remand application was brought in violation of the procedure laid down in section 264 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State and in breach of Section 35(5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and same is being challenged,” Mr. Efffiong stated.
The activist described the action of the police as “highly reprehensible, unprofessional, illegal and barbaric,” adding that it is not a debt recovery agent.
He cited Section 32 (2) of the Police Act, 2020 which prohibits police officers from arresting a person based on a civil wrong or breach of contract.
Mr. Effiong also drew attention to a recent event where the Acting IGP Egbetokun, had openly warned men of the force not to dabble into civil disputes.
Continuing, the lawyer wrote, “We are, therefore, calling on the Inspector General of Police to match words with action, demonstrate courage and reign in his men, if he must be taken seriously.
“We are calling on the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission to as a matter of urgency, call DIG Frank Mba, Supol Ayoleyi Tawose Ajayi and Inspector Isuku Jeffrey Ifah and every officer involved in this most unprofessional and unlawful venture to order forthwith.
“If the Police believes a crime has been committed, they should not be scared to file a charge against our client, and we are ready and happy to meet them in court.
“These barbaric tactics and threats have become intolerable. We are not in a banana republic and the Police are not above the law.”
When contacted, DIG Mba indicated that the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Ogunjobi, will speak on the issue later in the day.
However, calls and a short message to Mr. Ogunjobi were not returned or answered at the time of filing this report.
The PPRO, Lagos State command, Benjamin Hundeyin did not also answer calls or respond to a text message sent to his verified phone number.