The Makurdi branch chairman of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Barrister Justin Gbagir, has accused operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of beating him up.
Gbagir said he was hospitalised after the thrashing by operatives attached to the Makurdi Zonal Office of the anti-graft body.
Addressing journalists at the hospital, he said that the incident occurred on Tuesday when he went to the EFCC zonal office in respect of a detained colleague, Barrister Aver Shima.
Gbagir said he got a call from the Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Michael Gusa Esq at 6:59 pm that Shima, who is the Branch Treasurer had been detained.
“On further inquiry, I found that our colleague was detained on allegation that she gave legal advice to the Chairman of Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) upon which the latter signed a document which is subject of investigation by EFCC.
“Our said colleague is a law officer with Benue State Ministry of Justice and assigned to offer official legal services to SUBEB. She also chairs one of the Rent Tribunal Panels,” Gbagir said.
The NBA Chairman said that when he got to the EFCC office, he was severely opposed by the operatives who threatened to shoot him.
He said that he and other colleagues, including the State Director of Public Prosecution,had to move across the road in front of Royal Choice Inn, a hotel directly opposite the EFCC office.
Gbagir said that one operative still came to order him to leave the place.
Afterwards, he said, the state’s attorney-general, solicitor-general and a senior special assistant to the governor on legal matters, went into the EFCC office and the solicitor-general came out to ask him to go back into the EFCC office.
He said he followed the solicitor-general back into the office.
“As we entered, the Solicitor General introduced me to the EFCC Head of office that I am the Chairman, NBA Makurdi Branch, and offered the sit he was previously sitting before he went out to bring me. As I made to sit down, the EFCC Head of office said I cannot sit down because I am “an agitator”.
“I then asked whether I was brought in as an accused? When he did not answer me, I told the AG that with due respect, I cannot be made to be standing talking to the EFCC Head of office, and sought the leave of the AG to leave.
“As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between seven and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises. Outside the premises, they threw out my footwear which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating.”
He said he concluded from the treatment meted out to him that EFCC do not want lawyers accompanying clients because of their unwholesome practices.
However, the EFCC denied its operatives beat up the Makurdi NBA Chairman.
“We are investigating someone for forgery at SUBEB, and we invited her for interview. At about 8pm, some people came in mass after closing of work led by NBA Chairman protesting that we should release the woman.
“They were advised to leave EFCC premises in other to pave way for dialogue and eventually the said woman was released to the Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Justice.
“The NBA Chairman was not even around as the time the woman was released and he was never beaten as claimed. EFCC Operatives are always civil in carrying out their official duties,” Daily Trust quoted one Bayo Adeniran, a spokesman for the commission, as saying.