Two legal practitioners have accused policemen from the Ogun State Police Command of assault, saying they were beaten for alleged disrespect to the Ijebu Ode Police Area Commander, ACP Funsho Ajao.
Punch Metro learnt that the victims - Adekoya Adebayo and Sola Ajisebutu - had gone to a bar at Molipa, in the Ijebu Ode area of Ogun State, to meet a client for a business discussion.
After the discussion, the owner of the bar reportedly took Adebayo to Ajao's seat in the pub, seeking to start a relationship between the lawyer and the police boss.
However, after the introduction went awry, Adebayo stormed out of the bar and was about entering into his car when a policeman allegedly accosted him.
The policeman was alleged to have queried the lawyer for not prostrating for the commander and slapped him.
Adebayo's friend, Ajisebutu, who had a physical disability and used crutches, was said to have been pushed to the ground when he attempted to mediate.
Adebayo, who claimed that his fiancée was also assaulted, told Punch Metro that the chamber he worked with, Kayode Oshiyemi and Co, had not been in friendly terms with the office of the area commander.
He said prior to the incident, the chamber had written petitions against the area commander for allegedly fraternising with a rich man in the state to frustrate the course of justice in a case involving another client.
He said, "On Sunday, August 6, 2017, I was heading to my house in Molipa, with my friend and fiancée in my car, when a client called that I should stop over at a bar near the Goodluck Filling Station, Molipa.
"I got to the place around 11.30pm because of traffic. After a brief discussion with the client, I decided to leave. The bar owner, who was a friend, grabbed my hand and said he wanted me to meet with somebody.
"He took me to a table where the area commander was seated. There were empty beer bottles on the table. Even before the introduction, as a cultured Yoruba man, I had bowed and greeted him without knowing who he was. The bar owner said, 'Meet the area commander'. We exchanged pleasantries.
"However, I remembered that there had been a matter between the chamber I work with, and the office of the area commander. But I maintained my composure.
"During the introduction, he got to know I worked with the Kayode Oshiyemi's chamber and his countenance changed. Immediately, I sensed trouble and hurried out of the bar.
"I was about to enter my car when one of the policemen, who was in mufti, asked why I was standing straight to address the area commander and that I should have prostrated. I told him the area commander was not up to a magistrate or a high court judge that we stand to address daily.
"He slapped me. The other policemen, who were in uniform, beat me and used the butts of their guns to hit me. My fiancée was also assaulted."
His friend, Ajisebutu, who was observing the scene, reportedly intervened and asked the policemen to stop the assault.
He was allegedly pushed.
He said, "Based on my condition, I could not fight with them. I saw as they were punching and hitting him with their guns. I was trying to ask what he did wrong when they pushed me. I decided to stay away. They were about eight policemen."
The head of the Kayode Oshiyemi and Co. chamber, Kayode Oshiyemi, said he had petitioned the Office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 2, over the assault.
The petition, dated August 13, 2017, also copied the Office of the Attorney General, Ogun State Ministry of Justice; and the Commissioner of Police, Ogun State.
Oshiyemi after recounting the incident, said his firm had previously written petitions against Ajao over his alleged bias and corrupt practices.
He said, "It is the deliberate omission of the police authorities to act in respect of previous petitions written against ACP Funsho Ajao that makes him feel he is untouchable. He has gone too far this time, as it took the intervention of another police officer, named Anthony, who recognised our client to rescue him from being further maimed."
He called for investigations into the incident to avert a "looming breach of the public peace and public protest."
The Ogun State police spokesperson, Abimbola Oyeyemi, faulted the narratives of the lawyers.
He said, "The area commander went to the place to relax and on getting there, he met a prominent person in the community. The person tried to introduce him to the lawyer. I don't know if the lawyer had known the area commander before or not. But as the man was doing the introduction, the lawyer said there was no big deal in meeting the area commander and should he kill himself over that? The man doing the introduction, who is the lawyer's brother, felt embarrassed. The man reprimanded him for the action.
"He flared up and started abusing the area commander. It is not possible for all that to be happening and the security details of the area commander will just sit and watch. They queried his manners. They wanted to get him arrested, but his brother slapped him. The area commander would not descend low to be exchanging words with somebody who was misbehaving in that manner.
"Is he the only lawyer in Nigeria? We have thousands of qualified lawyers in the Nigeria Police Force as well. Before someone will rise to the rank of an area commander, if he were a lawyer, he would have become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria."
Abimbola condemned the disrespectful attitude of some lawyers to police officers, saying the command would not be intimidated.
The owner of the bar, identified only as Alhaji, said the lawyer was to blame for the fracas.
He said, "Adebayo frequents my bar and I once told him I was going to see the area commander. He asked if I could facilitate a meeting between them. He said the commander did not like to relate with young lawyers.
"I had not got the chance until the area commander came to the bar with his boys to relax. If I knew the lawyer was drunk that night, I wouldn't have done what I did. 'He insulted the area commander and the policemen were provoked. He also said a traditional chief sitting with the police officer wore ropes around his neck, instead of beads. The oba almost cursed him. He brought everything on himself. I can't take sides with him because of our closeness."