There was confusion in the premises of the Evbuoriaria Magistrate Courts in Benin-City, Edo State, on Wednesday when soldiers stormed one of the courts to set free a couple being arraigned by officials of the state War Against Indiscipline (WAI) for traffic offence.
The army officers, it was gathered, had earlier stormed the premises of WAI located at the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism where they beat up staff of the agency in their bid to rescue the arrested suspects.
The authorities of WAI had arrested a couple and impounded their Mitsubishi car with registration number EDO, BEN 451 FH, along Airport road for allegedly violating traffic rules.
It was gathered that the couple put a call to some persons who were also arrested along with them before a detachment of soldiers numbering about seven stormed the premises, shooting sporadically into the air before beating up some staff of the agency.
Following the intervention of the Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Transport, Lawrence Loye, who is a retired Major in the Nigeria army, the soldiers however left the premises without taking the suspects away.
After that, officials of the agency, in line with the state traffic and sanitation laws, were said to have immediately dragged the suspects to a magistrate court who promptly slammed charges against them for obstruction and disobeying traffic light.
The suspects who were at the court premises with the officials of WAI awaiting the assigning of the case to a magistrate were caught unawares when a detachment of soldiers stormed the premises with a Toyota Hilux van and dragged the suspects out of the WAI vehicle to their vehicle.
The army officials who brandished their guns, threatened to shoot at anybody who obstructed them, a development which resulted in staff of the courts running for cover.
Reacting to the development, a Chief Magistrate described the action of the army officers as shameful, and directed staff to write a petition that would be submitted to relevant authorities.
In his reaction, the state chairman of WAI, David Olukogha, said the soldiers who carried out the action were attached to Setraco Construction Company, adding that the soldiers acted on the order of an expatriate who works with the construction company.
He gave the names of the suspects as Edna Oriakogba (driver), Paulinus Ekwugwu, Eddy Inogie and Okwolise Lucky.
According to him, “a lady was arrested at Airport road after disobeying the traffic light and was brought to our office. Rather than appealing to the officer for leniency, she put a phone call to another person. Within some minutes two men came and started ranting, and before we knew it, they made another call, and in less than 10 minutes, an army van pulled up with about seven officers immediately beating up everybody in the office, injuring several persons trying to remove the vehicle but they couldn’t before rescue came.
“When rescue came, we were able to arrest the woman and the persons she called to rescue her and were taken to court for trial and for harassment, obstruction, intimidation, and molesting and inflicting injuries on government workers.
“While we were still at the court we heard that they (soldiers) went to the state ministry of works and beat up staff. One of their victims was stabbed in the eye, another had a broken leg and are currently at the hospital.
“After the ministry they came to the court premises and chased away policemen, magistrate, staff and released the suspects under trial. This is very sad,” he said.
He however called on the authorities of the 4th Brigade in Benin-City to call soldiers to order, fish out the officers who were involved in the release of the suspects as well as take necessary action.