Hon. Onyemaechi Mrapkor, a member of the House of Representatives from Delta State, on Monday told the story of how a prison officer assaulted her, claiming that the man slapped her and called her a prostitute.
The lawmaker’s orderly, Sergeant Likita, who corroborated her claim also talked about the unwholesome conduct of some police officers who witnessed the assault, telling to rather teach the lawmaker how not to break into the convoy of top dignitaries when on the road.
Sergeant Likita identified a particular woman officer of the Nigeria police who he claimed made the humiliating comment.
It was, however, denial and contradiction all the way at the investigative hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Interior which is probing the alleged assault on Hon. Mrapkor by a staff of the Nigerian Prisons Service on Wednesday last week.
Hon. Mrakpor had in her testimony to the committee recounted how she was allegedly manhandled and called names by a Senior Inspector of Prisons (SIP), Mr. Dan Odeh, on her way out of National Assembly premises on the said day.
The lawmaker, who gave a vivid account of what transpired, told the committee that having contested for political offices since 1999, “I had been assaulted by male contenders who launched verbal attacks on me which didn’t have much effect on my psyche because there was something in contention; but I could not fathom why a uniformed personnel would assault me without any provocation”.
“I find it difficult to believe that a trained officer will just see a woman and out of the desire to impress his superiors launch verbal and physical assault, because he first called me a prostitute whilst raising his hand on my face”, the lawmaker said.
While the committee took testimony from the lawmaker’s orderly, Sergeant Likita who corroborated what his principal told the committee, said his principal had earlier warned him to stay calm and not utter a word nor get out of the vehicle which was why he didn’t get involved, but had to come out when he heard his principal complain that she was hit on the face.
“I only stepped out when my principal shouted; “you slapped my face, what did I do that you would slap me?” He said.
He also confirmed the behaviour of other police officers at the gate who took the side of the prison officers by telling him to teach his principal on how not to break into a convoy, pointing at the police woman who allegedly made the comment.
Hon. Mrakpor’s driver also alluded to the same fact that two officers came out of one of the cars in the CG’s convoy with one of them hitting the car while the other went to the side of the lawmaker when an argument ensued as the lawmaker shouted, saying that she was slapped on the face.
However, in their various testimonies, security operatives who witnessed the incident at the gate denied seeing anyone slap the lawmaker as alleged, including the Comptroller General of Prisons, Mr. Peter Ekpendu, who out-rightly denied any knowledge of the incident until the following day in the media, despite being the leader of the management team whose convoy was allegedly broken by the lawmaker’s car.
“I left the National Assembly complex to attend to another assignment. I left in company of some officers, DCG Admin, Jafaru Ahmed and DCG Budget and Finance making it a total of six vehicles in the convoy.
“Before the incident, the escort, my vehicle (a black Prado SUV) and the backup had passed. So I was never a witness to the incident. I had to be informed by the CG Civil Defence who called my attention to the report in his office the following day”, he insisted.
He said on getting the news, he immediately issued a query to the officers involved which he read out to the committee, and also made effort to reach the lawmaker via the committee clerk.
The CG, who agreed to take responsibility for the conduct of his men in another breath, told the lawmakers that those who perpetrated the act are “on their own”.
He denied ever referring to the allegation as a lie; neither did he call lawmakers liars. He maintained that it was the media that sensationalised the submission of his media officer by quoting him out of context.
He, however, apologised for any wrongdoing by his men, assuring that appropriate disciplinary action would be instituted against anyone found culpable among them.
Earlier, security personnel at the main gate where the impasse occurred gave conflicting information regarding their knowledge of the event.
While Sergeant Abiodun Martins and Corporal Esther Hassan, both of the Nigerian police, who were at the gate admitted witnessing the commotion generated by the attempted breakage of the prisons officials’ convoy by the lawmaker’s car, they however denied witnessing the said assault as alleged by the lawmaker.
However, Sergeant Jane Philip, another police woman, confirmed the incident, saying that the lawmaker actually raised alarm that the prison staff hit her on the face, pointing at SIP Dan Odeh as the person.
Divisional Police Officer in charge of the National Assembly, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Nancy Ajakpuna, told the committee that she wasn’t there at the scene of the incident, but was briefed by her officers only on the following day when the Inspector General of Police was in the premises for a briefing and the issue was brought to his notice.
She told the committee that her officers who were at the gate could not confirm the alleged assault but admitted hearing the Hon. member saying that she was hit on the face.
Asked why the police hierarchy couldn’t hear about the assault until after almost 24 hours, she said she couldn’t hear about the incident because there was no formal report or complaints lodged at her office, which would have prompted immediate investigation that would have generated an official brief to the Commissioner of Police who would in turn brief the IGP.
She said her officers neglected their duty by not reporting the incident officially to her, given the seriousness of the allegation.
She added that after the IGP ordered the investigation, she moved to take the statement of the lawmaker and those present with her at the time of the incidence.
Also asked if there’s any law that prohibits the overtaking of a convoy, given the remark of her officers, she said there was none she could think of.
Mohammed Idris Abba, Deputy Director in the Department of State Services (DSS) and his subordinate, Adewale Oyediran, who was at the scene of the incident also denied witnessing any assault.
The committee assured all parties of fair treatment in its report to the leadership of the House which will rule on the recommendations that would be laid on the floor today (Tuesday).
Meanwhile, concerned members of the House of Representatives under the aegis of Integrity Group have dragged the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Prisons (NPS) to court over the alleged assault.