Nigeria: Magodo Fiasco – Human Rights Lawyer Slams Odumosu, Calls for Apology for Arrested Guards

-Purveyors out to blackmail CP, Lagos Police insist

-Say statutory powers of the police is to have unfettered access to public places

Chiemelie Ezeobi

Following the fiasco that happened at Brooks Estate, one of the many private estates at the Magodo area of the state, a human rights lawyer and activist, Inibehe Effiong, yesterday, slammed the Lagos State Commissioner of Police (CP), Hakeem Odumosu, over the role he played in the incident.

However, the state police command, in a reaction issued by its spokesperson, CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, said the estate was not locked down by the CP, saying the purveyors were out to blackmail him for some personal reasons.

The statement stated that Odumosu who was recently promoted to the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police due to his hard work and commitment to duty, visited the estate on January 1, 2022, to meet a strategic partner at a function after going round, visiting some places in the state to ensure safety of Lagosians.

The private security guards at the estate had prevented the CP from gaining access without clearance from his host, as was stipulated by rules guiding the highbrow area.

Taking umbrage to what he saw as an insult to his office and person, Odumosu, had ordered the arrest of four of the security guards and one of the estate residents until social media uproar fast-tracked their eventual release, although he was alleged to have later rearrested them yesterday.

Reacting to the incident and the continued avowal of their innocence by the police, Effiong said the argument that the outgoing CP could enter any place without being questioned was legally unfounded.

In a series of post on his Twitter handle, Effiong wrote: “Since his visit to Magodo Brooks Estate was private, it was perfectly within the right of the private guards at the estate to have subjected him to the usual clearance protocol of the estate.

“It is true that the police has the right to enter any place in a state to carry-out search, effect arrest or discharge such other official functions. However, this power is not limitless, it is subject to certain procedures.

“Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees citizens the right to privacy, including privacy of their homes. For the police to search the home of a citizen, a search warrant must be produced and the officers seeking to carry-out the search must first subject themselves to be searched to forestall planting of incriminating items by the officers.

“The CP claims he went to the estate for a strategic security related meeting. Magodo Brooks Estate to the best of my knowledge is a strictly residential estate. It is not a place, where government business is carried-out.

“For the CP to arrest security guards, because they simply asked him to call the particular resident of the estate, whose private party or event he came to attend is nothing but gross abuse of power.

“It is immaterial that the CP moved around with his security team. Any nonentity with money in this country can hire dozens of policemen, and even military officers, to move around with him.

“Had there been proper communication prior to the CP’s visit, he would have been cleared immediately he arrived. It is preposterous for Mr. Odumosu to expect the guards to panic and open the access gate upon sighting his convoy.

“That will amount to dereliction of their duty. If we are going to change this country, we must stop venerating public officers as demi-gods. In Nigeria, we have become accustomed to arbitrariness and abuse of power by public officials. This action by Odumosu is illegal and reprehensible. Odumosu owes every person that he arrested apology.”

However, the statement by the police read in part: “The Commissioner of Police was accompanied by his armed security details and was driven in his official car bearing an official number plate and a pennant, including all the paraphernalia of office.

“On reaching the estate gate, he was properly introduced notwithstanding the visible security details in uniform including a dispatch rider in his convoy, yet he was prevented from entering the estate by some overzealous private security guards.

“All appeals to the security men to allow the CP go to see someone at a function where an urgent matter bordering on security was to be discussed, fell on deaf ears even when they had foreknowledge of his coming.

“In spite of this deliberate humiliation, the senior police officer remained calm. When it became obvious that the security men were going overboard, the CP after about 30 minutes humiliation, ordered the arrest of four of the security men, leaving one.

“However, in order not to make the estate porous, the Commissioner of Police immediately posted well-armed policemen at the gate to support the security man left behind.

“A few minutes later, a female resident of the estate later identified as Adebola Fatiregun who didn’t witness the incident but heard of it, stormed the gate in anger, inciting other residents against the Commissioner of Police and his aides. She was also arrested for inciting violence and conduct likely to cause a breach of peace.

“All those arrested were taken to the Isheri Police Division where they made statements. They were subsequently released few minutes after, following intervention of notable individuals.

“At no time did the Commissioner of Police shut or lock down the estate. The police boss could not have done that for whatever reason, knowing that the estate is a residential one.