A police division in Enugu has charged a woman and a man she accused of physically assaulting her, in a case of gender-based violence, despite evidence of violence against the victim, Chizoba Mgbatogu.
Police charged both individuals for affray at the Enugu North Magistrate court. Affray is an offense under common law in which two or more persons are charged for fighting in public.
The incident occurred on June 21 at No. 5, Marcus Garvey Street, New Haven, Enugu, when the suspect, Okechukwu Nnaji, allegedly pounced on Mrs Mgbatogu, used his fist on her and squeezed her neck, for calling him to order after bashing her car.
According to the victim’s report, Mr Nnaji hit Mrs Mgbatogu’s car parked in front of her house while he was trying to reverse his car and damaged her front bumper, headlamp, and right fender.
“When I saw that he was entering his car as if nothing happened, I approached him and told him that he cannot leave that. He said he was leaving and nothing would happen. When I saw that he was not ready to do anything, I blocked him from entering his and told him to wait for my husband.
“The next thing I saw was that he started beating me. He held my neck and his grip was too tight that I could not rescue myself. The ladies around tried to stop him but could not until one man rescued me from his hands,” she narrated.
Mrs Mbatogu said they went to the New Haven police station with both cars and while they were at the station, she started feeling pains all over her body, and her neck became stiff. She thereafter collapsed and was rushed to the hospital by her husband who was at the police station at this time.
“I didn’t know when all of this was happening. The last thing I remembered was feeling pains and I applied a balm offered by one of the police officers. It was later my husband and children told me that I became unconscious and started foaming in the mouth. The hospitals they took me to didn’t accept me.
“It was the next day we received a police report and I was treated at the Force clinic at State CID before I was transferred to Park Lane Hospital.”
Mrs Mgbatogu spent two days at Park Lane Hospital before she was discharged.
”Unprofessional Conduct’ by police officers
Olu Omotayo, a human rights lawyer, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on how the police handled the matter, said despite the evidence, the police decided to take sides.
While the suspect, Mr Nnaji, had his car released, the car of the victim was detained and she was asked to pay some amount of money to bail the car.
Mr Nnaji bragged that nothing will be done to him because he has money and influence, Mrs Mgbatogu told PREMIUM TIMES.
She added that the police officers and the DPO, Hope Okereke, did not bother investigating her complaints of damage to her car and the violence on her by Mr Nnaji.
“It was later that the DPO, on behalf of the man, offered N50,000 for the treatment and another N50, 000 for repairing the damage done to the car.
“We told the DPO we could not accept such because even the money paid for the x-tray was more than N50, 000. That amount cannot also repair the damaged car, my husband told them they can repair the car themselves to see as he won’t collect N50, 000 for the damaged car,” she said.
The victim explained that her husband borrowed over N300,000 for the treatment, X-ray and scan conducted on her at the hospitals.
Mr Omotayo said that seeing that the family refused to collect the money, the DPO tagged them “troublemakers” and decided to charge them to court for affray.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Nnaji about what transpired, he said he had no comments to make.
“You don’t need to call me, the case is already in court,” he said before ending the call abruptly.
Human Rights Groups Call for Justice
In a petition written to the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State and the Inspector General of Police, a human rights organisation has called for justice for the victim.
Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), in the petition, said that the delay by the Commissioner of Police, Enugu to respond to their petition has left them at the mercy of the DPO New Haven, whom they believe has compromised and is taking sides with the accused, Mr Nnaji.
“Owing to the insistence by the couple on proper investigation being carried out to ensure that truth and justice are upheld in the case; and because of their rejection of the DPO’s order to accept the paltry sum of N50,000 from Mr Nnaji, which is far too below the cost they already incurred on medical treatment, the DPO now decided that the matter is “two fighting” and that both the complainant (Mrs. Mgbatogu) and the accused (Mr. Okechukwu Nnaji) would be charged for ‘Affray’, ” the group wrote.
Another human rights group, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, (RULAAC) said the case is one of gender-based violence where “manifest injustice” has been done to the victim by the DPO New Haven, Mrs Okereke.
Okechukwu Nwanguma, the Executive Director of RULAAC, urged the IGP to order a proper investigation of the matter and the release of the victim’s car.
“The accused/assailant, due to his self acclaimed ‘influence’, and money power is now the one dictating to the Police and the DPO then decides that the case is ‘a case of two fighting’ and then decides to charge the innocent woman for ‘Affray’ alongside the assailant.
“We urge the IGP to immediately intervene and order a prompt impartial and thorough investigation into this case with a view to ensuring truth and justice.
“Nobody is above the law. We believe that Mr. Okechukwu Nnaji should be made to account for the offence of damage to Mrs Mgbagogu’s car and for the violent assault against her. We also demand that Mrs. Mgbatogus’ car be released to her unconditionally,” the group said.
The spokesperson of the Enugu Police command, Daniel Ndukwe, said the case is already in court and no comments could be made.