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N500m lawsuit: Anambra denies involvement with ‘Special Anti-Touting Squad’

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BY SUNNY A. DAVID

The Anambra State Government has denied creating or authorizing the activities of the Special Anti-Touting Squad (SASA), amid a N500m lawsuit filed by a victim of the squad’s alleged brutality.

The denial was contained in a counter affidavit deposed in the Federal High Court, Awka Judicial Division, Holden at Awka, by a litigation officer in the State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Obumneme Obiekie, on behalf of the Anambra State Government and the Honourable Attorney General of the State, who are the 1st and 2nd respondents respectively in an ongoing case before the said Court.

The lawsuit was filed by Mr. Wilfred Ikechukwu Ezike, who was brutalized by SASA officers in a tragic incident that occurred on May 9 and 10.

The case, (with suit number: FHC/AWK/CS/103/2024), was filed by Mr. Wilfred Ikechukwu Ezike, popularly known as Mgbịlịgba (as the Applicant) who slammed the five hundred million naira lawsuit in his pursuit of justice and redress for actions and treatments meted out to him in a tragic incident that occurred in May 9, and May 10th 2024, the video of which also went viral on the social media.

Recall that a video had leaked in May 9, showing some persons later identified as officers of the Special Anti-Touting Squad Anambra (SASA) as they were brutalizing, torturing, and hitting Mr. Ezike (Mgbịlịgba) with a wooden pestle on the bony parts of his body, including his legs, hands, chest and others, while also making video of him crying in pains, as a way of punishing and/or eliciting confession from him over an offence they suspected he committed.

However, barely two months after the brutalization, Mr. Ezike, in the suit, (with suit number: FHC/AWK/CS/103/2024) filed before a Federal High Court sitting in Awka, through his legal team (led by Barrister Ifeanyi Okeke), made 16 prayers to the Court in his pursuit of justice.

The suit, which alleges serious violation of the human rights of the Applicant (Mr. Nweke), also has the Anambra State Government, the Attorney General of the State, Hon. Solomon Chukwuebuka Onwuemene (State Director, Special Anti-Touting Squad Anambra State, SASA), Mr. Fred Nweke (the Admin Officer of SASA), Kenechukwu Okolie (Officer in Charge of Torture Special Anti-Touting Squad, Anambra State), the Inspector-General of Police, and the Attorney General of the Federation as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th respondents respectively.

Among others, the suit prays the Court for a declaration that the arrest and torture of the Applicant on the 9th day of March, 2024 by the 1st to the 5th Respondents and his detention from the 9th March 2024 to the 10th March, 2024 by the Respondents is unlawful, illegal, oppressive, unconstitutional, null, void and a violation of his fundamental right.

According to the copy of the filed suit obtained by this reporter, Izunna Okafor, it also prays for an order of the Court awarding the sum of five hundred million naira (N500,000,000.00) general damages in favour of the Applicant against the 1st to 5th Respondents, for infringing his fundamental rights, including for his arrest, detention and torture which inflicted grievous bodily excruciating pain on him; as well as Court order compelling the 1st to 5th Respondents to pay the sum of two million naira (N2,000,000.00) being the cost of medical treatment of the Applicant resulting from torture by the 1st to 5th Respondents which inflicted grievous bodily injury on him; among other prayers made by the applicant.

However, in a 12-paragraph counter affidavit recently deposed by the Anambra State Government and the Attorney General of the State (1st and 2nd respondents respectively), they argue that state organs/entities in Anambra State are created by law, executive orders, or other contracts duly executed by the state government; and therefore, challenged the applicant to provide evidence that the State Anti-Touting Squad Anambra (SASA) was created by the state government, by providing the law, executive orders or any other such evidences with which the agency was created by the government.

In the counter affidavit (deposed through Obiekie of the State Ministry of Justice), the Anambra State Government also denied employing or authorizing activities of the State Director of SASA, Hon. Solomon Chukwuebuka Onwuemene (who is the 3rd respondent in the case), the Admin Officer of SASA (Mr. Fred Nweke, who is the 4th respondent in the case), and the Officer in Charge of Torture in SASA (Mr. Kenechukwu Okolie, who is the 5th respondent in the case); and therefore, challenged the applicant to provide proofs that the above-mentioned staff of SASA were employed by the state government.

The counter affidavit read in parts: “That Paragraphs 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the applicant’s affidavit are false. In response to paragraph 3, the 1st and 2nd respondents state that the 3rd to 5th respondents are not employees, agents or contractors of the 1st and 2nd respondents.

“In response to paragraph 4 of the applicant’s affidavit, the 1st and 2nd respondents state that state organs/entities in Anambra State are created by law, executive orders or other contracts duly executed by the State Government.

“The applicant is challenged to provide any law, executive order, official gazette or any other contract duly executed by the Anambra State Government creating and/or constituting the alleged Special Anti-Touting Squad.

“In response to paragraph 6, the 1st and 2nd respondents state that they are not responsible for the activities of the 3rd to 5th respondents or the alleged Special Anti-Touting Squad complained of in this suit. The applicant is challenged to produce evidence that either the Special Anti-Touting Squad or the 3rd to 5th respondents are employed directly or indirectly by the Anambra State Civil Service Commission, or that they receive their salaries out of the consolidated fund of the state.”

Continuing, it said: “In further response to paragraph 5 of the applicant’s affidavit, the 1st and 2nd respondents state that they have no hand in the travails of the applicant described in this suit. The 3rd to 5th respondents never acted on the instructions of or on behalf of the 1st and 2nd respondents in allegedly arresting, detaining, torturing or extorting the applicant. The applicant is hereby challenged to produce evidence at the trial that the 3rd to 5th respondents acted on the instructions of the 1st and 2nd respondents in the circumstances complained of in this suit.

“That the 1st and 2nd respondents are not in any position to deny or admit paragraphs 7. 8. 9 and 10 of the applicant’s affidavit as the 1 and 2 respondents were never part of the transactions alleged in the said paragraphs.”

It further stated that the Anambra State Government led by Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo never had any arrangement with Hon. Chief Hipolite Ekwegbara, Deways Global Resources Nigeria Ltd. or any other private person or company to sell revenue emblems to tricycle operators in Anambra State; and challenged the applicant to prove otherwise by cogent evidence. It also added that the state government never had any arrangement with the applicant to sell any such retail franchise to him either directly or through any other person; and that the applicant never paid any money to the Anambra State Government for any such arrangement either directly or through any other person authorized by the state government.

It further read: “That the 1st and 2nd respondents are not in any position to deny or admit paragraphs 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 of the applicant’s affidavit as the 1st and 2nd respondents were never part of the alleged transactions narrated in those paragraphs.

“That paragraphs 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38 of the applicant’s affidavit are false and hereby denied. In response, the 1st and 2nd respondents state that they never arrested, detained or tortured the applicant. The 1st and 2nd defendants never extorted any money from the applicant. The 1st and 2nd respondents never threatened to kill the applicant or expel the applicant from Anambra State

“That the 1st and 2nd respondents are not liable to the applicant in this suit. The 1st and 2nd respondents shall rely on all legal and equitable defenses available to them in respect of this suit.”

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