Barring any last-minute changes, the police will this week file criminal charges against Senator Elisha Abbo for allegedly assaulting a nursing woman at an adult toy shop in Abuja.
The Senate on Wednesday condemned the Senator for allegedly assaulting the woman in the Wuse area of Abuja on May 11.
The red chamber subsequently set up a bi-partisan ad hoc committee headed by a former governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu, to probe the action of the Peoples Democratic Party Senator.
The embattled senator, who represents Adamawa North in the Senate, allegedly slapped the woman following a brief argument.
The viral video footage had generated outrage among Nigerians with activists marching to the Force Headquarters and the National Assembly to demand Abbo’s prosecution for assault.
It was learnt that police detectives had been able to establish a prima facie case against the lawmaker.
Apart from the evidence deduced from the video, which showed Abbo repeatedly slapping his victim for intervening in an argument between him and the shop owner, the admission by the Senator in a statement last week was also said to have added to the weight of evidence against him.
The Federal Capital Territory Police Command interrogated Abbo on Thursday and subsequently detained him for 24 hours.
He was released on bail on Friday and directed to return for further questioning this week.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt on Saturday that the force planned to arraign Abbo on Friday, but shelved the move due to the inability of the investigators to obtain the original footage of the assault from the Closed Circuit Television camera which captured the incident.
It was learnt that the investigators wanted to subject the original video to a forensic analysis in order to ascertain that it had not been manipulated.
A source, who is familiar with the investigation, told one of our correspondents that the detectives could not secure the original footage because the shop owner was out of town.
The senior police officer stated that they would arraign Abbo to show to the world that it did not condone gender violence in any form regardless of the social status of the perpetrator.
The officer stated, “Our preliminary investigation has indicted the senator and the plan was to arraign him on Friday for assault but the detectives were not able to obtain the original video from the CCTV which we needed to vet to ensure that it had not been manipulated. So, the arraignment would hold this week.”
Another source explained that the police did not want to rush the arraignment to avoid mistakes or legal loopholes that could be exploited by Abbo’s lawyer.
He stated that the force decided to delay the arraignment while ensuring a diligent investigation to avoid costly mistakes during the prosecution of the lawmaker.
The source also noted that the police needed to access the original video to confirm whether the lawmaker damaged any property in the shop which could increase the counts against him.
He added, “We don’t want to sacrifice diligent investigation on the altar of speed. Rather, we want to strike a balance between the need to charge him to court timeously and the need to do the right thing.
“When you are investigating a case involving a high calibre person, you have to be sure you have a watertight case, because the accused would hire the best lawyers who could exploit every technicality and loophole to get their client off the hook.”
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that detectives had questioned the victim, but had yet to interact with the shop owner who would serve as the key prosecution witness during Abbo’s trial.
When asked if the Senator would be arraigned this week, Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said investigations into the case had not been completed.
However, he said “the right thing would be done as the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has assured Nigerians that justice will be served.”
Apology not enough to save Abbo –Senate, women activists
Meanwhile, the Senate said on Saturday that despite the public apology tendered by Abbo, it would proceed with the Senator’s probe.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, constituted a panel to investigate the assault, following a point of order raised by the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani, on the issue.
The Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya; Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; and Senator Opeyemi Bamidele supported Sani by condemning Abbo’s alleged action.
Lawan said it would be unfair to both the lawmaker and the victim if the Senate should pass a judgment based on the viral video clip without listening to Abbo.
However, hours after the ad hoc panel was constituted, Abbo, who was absent from the Senate plenary on Wednesday, rushed to the National Secretariat of the PDP in Abuja where he addressed journalists and apologised to Nigerians and his victims for his action.
But the Chairman, Senate ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said on Saturday that the public apology by Abbo was not enough to stop the Senate panel from going ahead with its assignment.
He said, “The Senate has not taken any definite position on the issue. We only constituted an ad hoc committee to investigate the matter. We have not passed any verdict on the Senator.
“We are aware that Senator Abbo has tendered a public apology and regretted his action but that does not stop the Senate from going ahead with its own investigation.
“A responsible institution like the Senate should follow due process in a matter like this by ensuring that all parties are giving fair hearing.
“The Senate will base its decision on the report of the ad hoc committee whenever it is submitted and considered.”
Also, despite his apology, women activists have insisted that Abbo should face trial to teach others a lesson.
The President, Women in Politics Forum, Ebere Ifendu, described the action of the Senator as “both barbaric and animalistic.”
She said, “Senator Abbo has also by his misconduct desecrated the ethos of the revered public institution of the Nigerian Senate. The generality of Nigerian women consider his action to be repugnant and appalling as with all other forms of violence against women.
“We request that Senator Abbo be charged to court for prosecution as his action is tantamount to both a crime and a tort. It is our view that to do otherwise will be a blatant disregard for the rule of law and the principles of equality before the law of the land.”
Also, the Executive Director, The Cece Yara Foundation, Grace Ketefe, said Abbo should be suspended for six months from the Senate without pay.
She said, “Apology should be just a part of the bargain; it should not completely insulate a wrongdoer from facing the consequences of their action.
“Alternatively, the Senate may suspend Abbo for something like six months without pay. In any case, the man should not be allowed to go scot-free simply for tendering an apology. The apology should be accompanied by due punishment, but in less severe form.”
The Chief Executive of Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Hajiya Mufuliat Fijabi, said, “His apology is not acceptable for several reasons, including the fact that he would not have slapped a woman like that and because there are several more like him out there who may be thinking that if they commit violence against women and girls, all they need do is to apologise. Nigeria has the VAP Act in place and the law should be allowed to take its full course. Nobody is above the law.”
The Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said apology was not enough.
“I am not satisfied; it’s an assault and it’s an offence. So, he should face the law and be convicted for his offence. His apology is an admission of guilt. This will send a strong message to batterers that those who occupy positions of power should not abuse it. Nobody is above the law.”