A 33-year-old woman, Olufunmilayo Erioluwa, who was accused of assaulting a policeman and later freed by a court, has said she was made to suffer over a dog.

A 33-year-old woman, Olufunmilayo Erioluwa, who was accused of assaulting a policeman and later freed by a court, has said she was made to suffer over a dog.

According to the hairstylist, she was unjustly detained and remanded in the Kirikiri Custodial Centre because the dog owner was connected to the police.

She was released on June 27 after 44 days in prison.

She expressed gratitude to a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, and his legal team, saying she could have “died in detention having been traumatised by the incident.”

“I want to beg Nigerians who saw my picture when the police posted it on Twitter to arise and fight for me because I am weighed down by it all; it’s too much on me,” Erioluwa added.

The woman was arraigned for allegedly assaulting the policeman less than 24 hours after the police arraigned Afrobeat singer, Seun Kuti, over a similar charge.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, wrote about the incident on his Twitter page on May 16.

The post read, “Somewhere in Ogombo yesterday, she assaulted a police officer. She was arraigned today and has been remanded in the Kirikiri custodial facility till June 6 when the case comes up again in court.”

Attached to the post was a picture of Erioluwa firmly holding the uniform of the policeman, who was smiling.

The PPRO also attached an original copy of the court document to the post.

The story published by various media platforms was that Erioluwa assaulted the policeman during a stop and search and squeezed his uniform with impunity.

The woman, who could not share her side of the story as of then, said she was framed.

The dog misunderstanding 

According to Erioluwa, the case resulted from an “insignificant incident” between her and a neighbour, with whom she had a misunderstanding.

“That evening, I wanted to go out and buy food when I saw one of my neighbours with her child and their dog, which was in the middle of the road. I had to chase the dog because I didn’t want to ask her or her daughter to leave the road for me.

“So, the woman got angry that I chased the dog. She sought to know the source of such effrontery to chase away her dog. I didn’t even know she was serious until she started raining abuse on me. She said she would report me to the landlord; that I couldn’t give birth to a child and that was why I poured sand on her pet.

“I went inside and reported her to my boyfriend, who came out and warned her to stop using such statements to mock me. He asked her if she went with me to any hospital where the doctor declared me barren. After the exchanges, I left,” she said.

Erioluwa continued, “That night, around 7.30 pm, I was at a friend’s burial when someone came to me to say that some policemen were looking for me.

“I didn’t want to put my boyfriend in trouble, so I went to meet them. I found out that Mama Ezinne went to the station to bring a policeman and three others to arrest me.

“I was surprised because we didn’t fight; I didn’t touch her and she didn’t touch me either.”

Erioluwa explained that the policeman, who was smiling in the Twitter photograph, had slapped and dragged her to the point of exposing her breasts before she tried to free herself from his grip.

She also stated that the policemen did not have any arrest warrants or identification cards, but beat her up because she demanded to know her offence.

“When they saw me, the policeman asked if I was Funmilayo, and I said yes. He said I was under arrest and I asked him, ‘What happened sir, what did I do, and from which police station?’

“The policeman replied angrily, ‘Are you stupid?’ He asked what right I had to ask a policeman questions. I said, ‘I have to ask because I don’t know what wrong I had done to be arrested. You didn’t show me any identification card, and you just ask me to enter into your van?’

“I told him that I was not going anywhere with him. The next thing, he slapped me, grabbed my clothes, and started dragging me, pressing my breasts in the process.

“He boasted that he had dealt with other ladies like me and nothing happened and that after dealing with me, nothing would happen. All the while, he was dragging and beating me.

“So, as I tried to rescue myself from his tight grip and also cover myself a little because my breasts were out, his colleagues started taking pictures, saying I was in trouble and that they would make sure I rot in jail; that I had assaulted a policeman,” she added.

Erioluwa emphasised that she could not have assaulted a policeman in the presence of his colleagues and that she was just trying to defend herself from his aggression.

She said, “I cannot beat a policeman. The picture is clear; they only accused me. They were four policemen with guns; no identification cards and no arrest warrant.

“The policeman smiling in the photograph said he was going to torture me and my friend. They pushed, beat and tortured me because of a domestic animal, a dog.”

Court proceedings

Erioluwa, an indigene of Oju Local Government Area of Benue State, was arraigned before the Eti-Osa Magistrates’ Court on May 17, 2023.

She was arraigned before Magistrate M. O. Alao on two counts bordering on assault and resisting arrest.

The police prosecutor, Jacob Samuel, prayed the court to remand her in police custody.

Granting the request, Alao ordered that she be remanded for 21 days pending the completion of police investigation.

The charges preferred against her read, “That you, Olufumilayo Erioluwa, on May 14, 2023, around 9pm, at Ajah, Eti-Osa, in the Lagos Magisterial District, did commit a felony with a serious assault on one Olufowobi Nureni, an inspector of police, thereby committing an offence under Section 174 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

“That you, Olufumilayo Erioluwa, on the same date, time and place, in the aforementioned magisterial district, assaulted, resisted, obstructed and unlawfully prevented one Olufowobi Nureni, an inspector of police attached to the Ogombo Divisional Headquarters, in the course of executing his lawful and official duty, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 174 (b) (c) and (e) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State.”

The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case was adjourned till June 6

On June 6, Inibehe and his legal team appeared in court to represent the woman, but the Kirikiri Custodial Centre, where she was held, did not produce her.

The police inspector and the neighbour were also absent from court, as the matter was adjourned till June 13, 2023.

Abuse of power

Inibehe, whose law firm took up the case, said their findings showed that the arrest and prosecution were baseless.

Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, Inibehe said the police could not provide any evidence or witness, hence his appeal that the case be struck out.

He said, “The case has been struck out and she has been freed. The police could not produce the complainant and witness in court. She is no longer facing trial; we worked to get her out of the custodial centre.”

Inibehe said from the way the case was going, it was clear that the police had nothing concrete to tender before the court.

He stated, “This is pure abuse of power. It is a case of personal animosity, a disagreement between two neighbours but because the other was connected to a police officer, they teamed up to frustrate the young woman.

“The complainant, the policeman, who claimed he was assaulted, Olufowobi Nureni, and Erioluwa’s neighbour, did not show up in court for all the times the matter was in court. The Kirikiri Custodial Centre did not also produce her in court, and the case was adjourned a third time till June 27, 2023. This act was deliberately perpetrated by the police to delay her judgement since they did not have any proof to present in court.”

Speaking further, Inibehe noted that if his team did not take up Erioluwa’s case, she would have been left to rot in jail.

He stated that the police infringed on the woman’s rights, which allowed her to know why she was being arrested.

The human rights fighter also emphasized that the Twitter post of Erioluwa’s picture had traumatised the woman.

He said, “They oppressed her (Erioluwa) with their malicious prosecution which was instigated because she is vulnerable and economically disadvantaged.

“They used the instrumentality of the state to scandalise her in the public on account of the public statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer; her reputation has been scandalised and she is traumatised.

“The photograph shows her breast was visible. How can you say a young lady unarmed has assaulted a police officer in the company of the other three armed officers?”

Struggling with the pains society goes through in the hands of those who should protect citizens, Inibehe said, “This is just a fair example of the impunity, lawlessness and gross disregard for human rights that the police are known for. It is another demonstration of the abuse of police power.

“I investigated the matter; we interviewed her and we were convinced that she was innocent. We didn’t just take up the case because it concerned the police.”

“So this was not about a criminal resisting arrest either. My client is not a criminal. She did not commit any crime or offence known to the law. My client never fought the lady, and there was no case of assault. It was a case of a quarrel between neighbours, which is a civil matter.

“So, I don’t understand how disagreement between two neighbours without any case of violence will result in the case of four policemen to go make an arrest.”

The police were alleged to have collected the sum of N10,000 from Erioluwa’s friend, who was equally arrested over the matter.

Inibehe described this as “condemnable and illegal.”

“They took N10,000 from her boyfriend for bail. The boy himself was also detained. These are the abuses that have to be interrogated. For me, what was done to this lady is inconceivable and should never be tolerated,” he added.

The activist vowed that he and his team would consider legal redress to seek compensation for Erioluwa.

“We should not allow things like this to happen in our country,” he added.

Why I did not appear in court – Neighbour

The neighbour, Iya Ezinne, said she had not been on talking terms with Erioluwa for about a year, adding that she called her (Erioluwa) barren after she called her daughter a prostitute.

She said, “She lives in a wooden apartment close to my house, an uncompleted building. So, they sometimes pass through my compound if they don’t want to go through their entrance.

“This whole issue started around 8.30pm. I and my daughter were sitting outside and discussing the PoS business that she wanted to begin. This lady (Erioluwa) passed and passed again; she kept going to and fro her house through where we were sitting; she passed us four times. I don’t know what came over her. The fourth time, she splashed sand from her slippers on me and my dog; my dog was on my lap.

“I asked her why she did that and we started quarrelling. What pained me the most was when she called my 17-year-old daughter ashawo (prostitute) and I told her ‘if I curse you now that at your age you do not have a child you will be angry’.

“I told her to go and give birth. While we were exchanging words, our caretaker came and settled the quarrel. I and my daughter went out that night.”

Iya Ezinne, who gave her name as Gift, said she was called that Erioluwa had damaged her two windows and thrown her gas cylinder outside.

She said it was at this point she decided to involve the police.

“Around 10pm, someone called me that the lady had entered my room and that she nearly killed my dog and that she pulled out my two windows.

“According to them, my husband came back and repaired the window and asked my friends not to tell me so that peace could reign.

“After some minutes, another person called me that she saw my husband repairing the window and she (Erioluwa) said no one would sleep in that house, so she went and spoilt the windows again. My husband then became angry.

“They said that she said if she saw me, she would either kill me or I would impregnate her that night. I was scared, so I ran to Ogombo (Police Station).

“I had to pay N5,000 at a hotel nearby so I and my daughter could spend the night because she already damaged our windows,” the woman added.

When asked why she did not show up in court while the case was ongoing, she said God told her to leave the case.

She also noted that Erioluwa’s friends, church members and pastor begged her to not appear in court.

“The police wanted to charge her for damages, but I said no, God told me that I should not collect a dime from the lady; that was why I did not come to court.

“The retired policeman that went with me to the police station came to beg me, stating that her church members came to beg him too; he said if the court did not see me that they would release her.

“After the whole issue, I considered the cost of repairing the house she damaged and I decided to pack out,” she added.

But Erioluwa denied the claims.

“She is lying; I did not spoil her window. The only thing I did was pull her window and I did not know that they used rope to hold it; I explained it earlier, even at the police station.

“I did not go into her room or throw out her gas cylinder,” she added.


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