Justice Abdulaziz Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday heard how a Lagos-based journalist, Otunba Olomofe was allegedly assaulted by some officers of the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS).
Olomofe, who had slammed a N500 million rights enforcement suit on the Nigerian Custom Service, told the court that he was promised death at the Seme Area Command of the service for inquiring into smuggling activities.
The Badagry-based journalist made the allegation while testifying in the suit filed to enforce his rights to life, freedom of expression and the press.
Joined as respondents in the suit are The then Comptroller-General of customs Mr Abdullahi Diko Nde, The Seme Area Controller of Customs; Mr Muhammed Ndalati, and a Deputy Comptroller of Customs Mr Emmanuel Nkemdirim.
Others include: Ibrahim Turaki an Assistant Comptroller of Customs at Seme. Sam Madubueke alias “big Sam of Ibiye”, Suleiman Momoh alias “Basket”, one Elijah and Shehu.
While being led in evidence by his counsel, Jiti Ogunye, Olomofe said, “On that fateful day, I received a call from Ibrahim Nuhu Turaki who is an Assistant Comptroller in charge of Import at the Seme area command of the NCS;
“I had earlier sent a questionnaire to the Command, requesting for its comment on the smuggling of light arms and ammunitions, trafficking of persons, importation of prohibited poultry and dairy products, which are all under the prohibition list of the country.
“I went to The NCS Seme command, in the company of a colleague, MC Dominic Nkempyie who reports for the Tide Newspaper, and we arrived there at about 5pm and reported to the customs area public relations officer, who took us to Turaki’s office.
“On our way to his (Turaki) office, I observed the presence of Momoh, Madubueke, Elijah and Shehu (sixth to ninth respondents); I was ushered into Turaki’s office by the PRO, and Turaki insisted that the PRO should stay and be a part of the meeting.
“He also sent for the Deputy Comptroller (Nkemdirim) and then asked Madubueke, Momoh, Elijah and Shehu to come into his office to be a part of the meeting.
“In response to the questionnaire, Turaki and Nkemdirim explained to us that it ought not to be a question and answer segment, adding that as journalists, we could get to the root of investigations and gather our reports.
“They therefore said that they could not answer the questions.
“After the meeting, we made to leave but then, Ndalati (Seme area controller) came to the threshold of Turaki’s office and said to Turaki and Nkemdirim (referring to me) “both of you have saved this journalist from my firing squad today, otherwise, there would have been ambulances to convey casualties from here”.
“I immediately said I was sorry and that I meant no harm but only bent on promoting good relationship with the NCS, and then I respectfully opted to leave.
“Before I could move out, I was pounced upon by some ferocious men led by Momoh, Shehu and Elijah who were notorious for their border activities; and I heard them says “You will die here today, so that journalists will learn to leave border alone, we will kill you and nothing will happen.
“I was beaten to stupor and one of eyes was almost blind with blood, i was then dumped in a pit and from the pit, I heard Ndalati telling the others that they had beaten me enough, adding that it will now serve as a warning to other journalists.
“Following concerns and insistence of some passersby who identified me as a well known journalist, as well as attentions drawn to me in the pit, I was then taken out from the pit to the Customs Mess Clinic.
“There at the Clinic, Turaki came and apologized to me adding that I was not the target but that they had wanted to maim Mc Dominic Nkempyie.
“I was then taken to another hospital in Badagry and on my way from the hospital, I stopped over at the police area K command to make a statement.
“Eventually, I was taken to Mecure diagnostic Centre at Oshodi for several diagnostic tests.
“Some days after, I got a call from the then Comptroller General of Customs, (Diko Nde) who also apologised to me over the incidence; he added that the news reports were causing him embarrassment and promised to take up the issue since he was now abreast of it.”
Olomofe said that he still suffers trauma in his left eyes as a result of the assault and torture meted on him at the Seme Command of The NCS.
He, therefore, urges the court to allow justice prevail.
After his testimony, Justice Abdulazeez Anka fixed May 16 for cross examination and continuation of hearing.
In his suit, the applicant is claiming the sum of N500 million as damages against the NCS, for the assault he suffered at Seme border post of the NCS.
Olomofe is also asking the court to declare that the respondents infringed on his right to life “as guaranteed by Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.”.