A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed hearing for January 19, 2022 in a N50 million suit filed by The Guardian newspaper reporter, Mr. Eniola Daniel, against the Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Shola Jejeloye; the Lagos State Government and Police authorities for the brutal assault unleashed on the journalist by policemen of the taskforce.
Justice Yellin Bogoro will preside over the suit in which the journalist is alleging that thugs engaged by the taskforce and policemen under Mr. Jejeloye’s supervision tortured and brutalized him on February 28, 2021 while he was covering the destruction of shanties in the Oshodi area of Lagos by members of the taskforce.
In the Originating Summons filed on behalf of Mr. Daniel by human rights lawyers, Ms Chioma Nwaodike and Ms Obioma Okonkwo, pursuant to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2019, the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the journalist named as respondents CSP Jejeloye, the Inspector-General of Police, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, and the Governor of Lagos State.
He is asking the court to declare that the act of beating, slapping, punching, physically assaulting him, confiscating and damaging his Nikon Digital Camera, Sony Digital Voice Recorder, Bluetooth earphone, and his mobile phones while he was carrying out his journalistic duty on February 28, 2021 at Ladipo Market in Oshodi in Lagos by police officers attached to the taskforce, under the supervision of CSP Jejeloye violates his fundamental rights to dignity, freedom of expression and his right to freedom from compulsory acquisition of property, all rights protected by the Constitution and the African Charter.
The journalist is also asking the Court to direct the respondents jointly and severally to pay him N50 million as damages for the violation of his rights to human dignity, freedom of expression and freedom from compulsory acquisition of his property.
In a 31-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, Mr. Daniel recounted that on February 28, 2021, he went to Ladipo Market in Oshodi where members of the taskforce, led by CSP Jejeloye and assisted by some thugs engaged by the taskforce, were destroying and burning some shanties and make-shift buildings erected around the market.
He recalled that he was recording the activities of the taskforce with his video camera, interviewing eye-witnesses and taking pictures of the damage caused by the taskforce when a thug helping the taskforce members to demolish buildings charged towards him upon an order given by men of the taskforce and physically assaulted him by raining slaps and blows on him and hitting him with planks.
Mr. Daniel said the taskforce members, who are police officers, then joined the thug in assaulting him, adding that while CSP Jejeloye watched, they hit him with their fists, rifle butts, boots and planks even after he introduced himself as a journalist with The Guardian newspaper, and explained that he was only carrying out his professional duties.
According to him, the men of the taskforce confiscated all his devices, namely his Nikon Digital Camera, his Sony Digital Voice Recorder, Bluetooth earphone, and his mobile phones and damaged them in the process, again despite introducing himself as a journalist.
Mr. Daniel said in an effort to stop the thugs and policemen from continuing to hit him, he showed the policemen his official identification card but to his bewilderment, the police officers, totaling nine men, continued to torture him by beating and hitting him with their fists, boots, rifle butts and raining punches on him.
He deposed that the policemen hurled abuses at him, calling him a bastard and threatening to kill him, adding that they warned that his body would not be found by his family members after they killed him.
Mr. Daniel said as he was apprehensive that the police officers would carry out their threat and he started crying out for help to attract attention in the hope that onlookers would save him but that his cries for help only infuriated the police officers who then tried to silence him by targeting his head and eyes with their blows until he lost consciousness.
He recalled that when he regained consciousness, he had been put in a “Black Maria” van and handcuffed, adding that he was informed by an officer detailed to watch him that CSP Jejeloye had left instructions that whenever he regained consciousness, he should be brought to him.
Mr. Daniel said when he was taken before CSP Jejeloye, the police officer asked him if he had any other recording device with him that captured the incident, warning that it would be in his best interest to surrender any device to him to erase such recordings.
He said after informing CSP Jejeloye that all his devices had been confiscated and destroyed by the taskforce men and the thugs working with them, the police officer ordered his men to check through the damaged phones to confirm that there was no picture of the incident and if there was none to return the damaged phone to him while his other recording devices were confiscated.
Mr. Daniel recalled that when CSP Jejeloye was satisfied that there was no more evidence of the incident on his phones, he directed his men to release him.
He said after leaving the scene of the incident, he was taken to a hospital for medical treatment. He exhibited a copy of the medical report and pictures of him taken after the beating.