Mr Kofi Bartels, a Port-Harcourt based journalist, has dragged the Nigeria Police to court for assault.
The journalist in a suit filed at the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, against the Inspector-General of Police, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police and Attorney-General of the Federation as first, second and third respondents, respectively is seeking the sum of N650m as damages for his allegedly torture and brutalisation by personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Rivers State on June 4 2019.
In the suit filed by his counsel, Festus Ogwuche and six others, Mr Bartels also sought reliefs bordering on enforcement of his fundamental human rights and freedom of speech as enshrined in the constitution.
Mr Bartels in his suit alleged that he suffered a swollen knee after the SARS personnel hit him several times with wooden bars while he was trying to take photographs of the harassment of a boy the officers at Mgbuoba, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
Also, Mr Bartels is seeking the order of the court to force the respondents to initiate criminal proceedings against the officers involved in the abuse of his rights.
Narrating his ordeal on social media a day after the incident, the journalist said he was driving in “my area and saw SARS officers beating up a boy who lives in the area. His mum fries Akara for a living and I knew immediately that they wouldn’t be able to ‘settle’ the officers.
“He kept shouting “what have I done”, while they tried to force him into their bus. They were beating the hell out of him and don’t know if he would have survived. I made to go plead with them but at a point hesitated and chose to take a shot of the bus and number plate.
“I was given the beating of my life right on the road. They started by smashing my knees repeatedly with wooden bars. As I type this, my left knee is swollen and my right knee seriously bruised. I have pains in my head, neck and back.
“I was handcuffed like a common criminal and shots were fired to disperse a small crowd that had gathered. After the second round of beating, I was taken to SARS HQ in Port Harcourt where I was beaten more mercilessly by the SARS officers who took me there. This was the beating of my life. About three others also joined in. They take turns to slap, punch, kick me all over my body in a detention room, while I was struggling with a swollen knee. At least 6 officers, one at a time. One swore he would have “wasted” me if his team were the one who picked me up. I was told to get ready to be thrown into their cell where I would receive the worst torture, including sexual abuse by male inmates.
“A couple of them told me to watch my back, saying this is my end in Rivers State, due to the human rights issues we treat on radio involving SARS and the police generally.
“My phones were seized and I had no way of communicating with anyone. I was saved at the last minute when word got to their former boss and they were ordered to release me unconditionally.
“The pains were unbearable last night and I’ll have to go for a skull and knee Xray today.
“Several times, I’ve had to use my media platform to shout on behalf of the voiceless in our society who have had their rights trampled upon by people meant to protect them. I got my own first-hand experience yesterday. Some of the officers made me know how they felt about that…. literally” he wrote.