Barrister Justin Gbagir, Chairman of the Makurdi branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), was reportedly beaten up by security agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the Makurdi Division.
Currently, Gbagir is being treated at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH).
Speaking with reporters at the hospital, Gbagir said trouble started when he went to the EFCC office after receiving a telephone call that one of his female colleagues, Barrister Aver Shima, was being held by the EFCC.
“Yesterday, Tuesday 8/6/2021 at about 6:59pm, Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Michael Gusa Esq, called to intimate me that our colleague who is also the Branch Treasurer was detained by the EFCC.
“On further inquiry, I found that our colleague was detained on allegation that she gave legal advise to the Chairman of Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) upon which the latter signed a document which is subject of investigation by EFCC.
“Our said colleague is a law officer with Benue State Ministry of Justice and assigned to offer official legal services to SUBEB. She also Chairs one of the Rent Tribunal Panels.”
He said that on getting to the EFCC office, he met stiff opposition from the security operatives at the gate who also threatened to gun him down.
He said this made him and few other colleagues, including the State Director of Public Prosecution, to move across the road in front of Royal Choice Inn, a hotel directly opposite EFCC office.
The NBA chairman said one of the operatives still accosted them and ordered them to leave the place.
He said the three government officials, including the state’s attorney-general, solicitor-general and a senior special assistant to the governor on legal matters, went into the EFCC office and later the solicitor general requested that he (Gbagir) should go in as well.
“I followed him into the EFCC office premises. As we entered, the Solicitor General introduced me to the EFCC Head of office that I am the Chairman, NBA Makurdi Branch, and offered the sit he was previously sitting before he went out to bring me. As I made to sit down, the EFCC Head of office said I cannot sit down because I am “an agitator”.
“I then asked whether I was brought in as an accused? When he did not answer me, I told the AG that with due respect, I cannot be made to be standing talking to the EFCC Head of office, and sought the leave of the AG to leave.
“As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between seven and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eye glasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises. Outside the premises, they threw out my foot wear which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating,” he added.
Gbagir, however, concluded that from what happened to him, it was obvious that the EFCC had failed in their primary responsibility.
He said they do not want lawyers to accompany their clients to the commission’s office because of their unwholesome activities.
EFCC deny allegation
Reacting to the allegation in a statement posted on the Commission’s WhatsApp platform, one Bayo Adeniran, a spokesman of the anti-graft body, said it is not true that Gbagir was beaten.
“We are investigating someone for forgery at SUBEB, and we invited her for interview. At about 8pm, some people came in mass after closing of work led by NBA Chairman protesting that we should release the woman.
“They were advised to leave EFCC premises in other to pave way for dialogue and eventually the said woman was released to the Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Justice.
“The NBA Chairman was not even around as the time the woman was released and he was never beaten as claimed. EFCC Operatives are always civil in carrying out their official duties,” Adediran stated.