The Divisional Police Officer in Umuneke Ngor area of Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State and policemen under him have been accused of beating the Chief Magistrate of Umuneke Ngor Magistrate Court, Ngozi Onyenemezu.
The Assistant Secretary of the Owerri, Imo State chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association, Chinedu Agu, made the allegation in an interview with newsmen on the court premises on Friday.
Agu said the magistrate and some lawyers were beaten and assaulted by the police over the discharge of three armed robbery suspects by Onyenemezu.
The lawyers beaten were the defence counsel for the armed robbery suspects, Emma Eke and Chukwuemeka Anyanwu.
Eke and Anyanwu were allegedly beaten, arrested and bundled to the Imo State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department in Owerri.
They were arraigned before Magistrate Court 1 in Owerri on Friday.
Agu described the action as an impunity that needed to be checked.
He said three accused persons were arraigned before the Umuneke Ngor Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where Eke and Anyanwu raised a preliminary objection on the grounds that the charge was defective and urged the court to strike it out and discharge the accused persons. The court was said to have entertained arguments from the counsel and the prosecution and adjourned the matter till Thursday for ruling.
Agu said: “In its ruling, the court upheld the arguments of the counsel and struck out the charge.
“Immediately the ruling was delivered and while the court was still sitting, the police went berserk.
“They shouted and rained vituperations on the magistrate and made to rearrest the accused persons.
“When the court wanted to call them to order, the policemen made for the magistrate like rabid dogs and the magistrate quickly took refuge in his chambers.
“Some other lawyers and litigants scampered to safety when the police started shooting into the air.
“Anyawu in the process escaped the beating by the police and scurried into the Magistrate’s chambers.
“The policemen, led by the DPO of that division, banged on the door of the magistrate’s chambers, accusing him of taking a bribe and threatening to break down the door if he didn’t open it.
“The DPO got hold of the accused persons and in the process of rearresting them, one escaped.
“He accused Eke of complicity in the escape of the other accused person.
“Before he could explain himself, he got hold of one of the nail-ridden chairs and smashed it on Eke’s head.
“Other policemen joined in this orgy and Emma was maimed and beaten into a pulp.
“It took the quick intervention of the Area Commander who arrived at the scene to rescue the magistrate.”
At the court on Friday, no fewer than 80 lawyers, led by a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in the state, Soronadi Njoku, announced appearances for the two lawyers who were arraigned by the police.
The presiding magistrate, ROC Nwoka, who granted the two lawyers bail on self recognisance, ordered the police to release a car belonging to one of the lawyers and make all records and documents available to the defendants for accelerated trial.
Nwoka adjourned the matter till July 30.
The Owerri NBA Chairman, Damian Nosike, said the branch would pursue the matter until justice was served.
Nosike, who described the alleged assault as a blow to the legal profession, demanded that those who beat the magistrate and lawyers be expelled from the police and arraigned.