The esprit de corps among uniform personnel was thrown overboard as operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) attached to the Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly, shot Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) officials for stopping his wife over seat belt violation.
The quest for power and the misuse of it still pervades in Nigeria as many top government officials or their relatives still believe they are above the law.
That was what played out at Umuikea Junction along the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State last weekend when two officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were shot by the DSS officers attached to the Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Chikwendu Kalu.
It was gathered that trouble started when the wife of the speaker and two other occupants were flagged down by the FRSC officials for not using their seat belts. However, she claimed that the officers hit her car.
It was gathered that she later came back to the spot with her security aides, beat up the FRSC officers and called her husband for reinforcement which promptly arrived.
According to a witness, Mr Ikenna Isigusoro, the FRSC patrol team had flagged down the vehicle conveying the speaker’s wife for seatbelt violation. He explained that: “The lady was in her vehicle with two other women and none of them was wearing seatbelt. As the road safety officers were talking to them about it, they flared up and started assaulting the officers.
“She later called her husband’s security aides, who rushed to the scene and started shooting and in the process, one of the FRSC officers was hit in the arm, and the other in the neck and waist.”
Though the FRSC officers are recuperating at the Living Word Mission Hospital, Aba, the incident has caused serious disaffection between the road safety, the office of the speaker and the DSS.
An official of the FRSC, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so said, “the wife of the Speaker should have stopped to find out why she was being stopped, either take correction or correct the officers. It is a two-way thing and this controversy would have been over quietly.”
He wondered why the road safety officers were treated in that manner “as they had everything necessary to prove that they are authentic officers of the Corps”. “They had a truck, they were in uniform and without arms. So, nobody should claim they did not stop because they were not sure if they were actual officers of the FRSC,” the officer said.
The officer added, “please why should the wife of the speaker refuse to stop for FRSC officials, is she a political office holder too?”
But addressing journalists in Umuahia, the speaker said according to his wife’s account, she was travelling to Aba with her chief detail and a friend when they were “accosted aggressively” by FRSC officers manning a checkpoint at the Arungwa junction.
According to him, when his wife’s car stopped, the FRSC officer hit the vehicle repeatedly with a stick and ordered the occupants out of the car, then dragged the chief detail out and in the process manhandled her.
The speaker further stated that his wife told him that she was roughly pushed down when she attempted to intervene, adding that she sustained injuries all over her body.
He vehemently denied ordering the shooting of the FRSC men, saying that he was in Umuahia when he received a distress call over the incident and that his own chief detail went to the scene to find out what was happening.
Kalu added that he was not aware of all that transpired, as he was not at the scene.
He said both the FRSC officers and the security agents might have exhibited “an unacceptable level of overzealousness”, thereby escalating an incident which could have been managed amicably.
The speaker expressed surprise that “the FRSC officers went as far as manhandling his wife’s chief detail, who is an officer of the Department of State security (DSS)”.
However, an attempt to check the health status of the officers at the Living Word Mission Hospital in Aba, was rebuffed when our correspondent visited the facility.
When contacted, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Leye Oyebade, said the Inspector-General of Police had ordered an investigation into the incident and that justice will prevail in the matter.
And on Tuesday, the FRSC Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, issued a statement warning against what he called incessant attacks and harassment of his officers.
The statement issued on his behalf by the Corps spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem, quoted Oyeyemi as frowning against “the wanton attacks on road traffic marshals”.
He dwelled on the Abia incident, noting that the shot FRSC personnel were left by the roadside “to die”. Oyeyemi thanked motorists who stopped and took the injured officers to the hospital.
The FRSC boss lamented that many operatives had been abducted, killed, assaulted, ran over, threatened and shot.
“It is also disheartening that some of the attackers misinformed the unsuspecting public by releasing manipulated information to gain public sympathy,” he said.