Embattled Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi Branch, Mr. Justin Gbagir has been grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief investigator on his allegation of assault by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, Gbagir said that the interview by the Director of Intelligence Unit at the EFCC which started yesterday at the office of the Benue State Attorney-General was concluded today when he wrote a formal statement on what transpired at the Makurdi Office of the EFCC last Tuesday.

Gbagir said that aside from the impairment to his left eye, he has started experiencing hearing challenges due to the alleged beating by the EFCC operatives. He warned that “I told them that I have other options to seek redress” if the perpetrators are not brought to justice.

Below is the full text of the interview.

“I am Justin Gbagir, Chairman of NBA Makurdi Branch who was assaulted and beaten by the operatives of the EFCC on Tuesday, the 8th of June, 2021.

“It is unfortunate that EFCC which claims to operate within civic norms will come out to blatantly deny that they did not assault and beat me up.

“The beating was so severe that I was admitted at Benue State University Teaching Hospital and administered some drugs and injections. As a result of the beating, I also sustained injury in my left eye. As I speak with you, I cannot see very well with my left eye.

“Yesterday again, I started experiencing problem with my hearing. So I am also currently having hearing challenges. I am yet to go for medical check-up to sustain (sic) the level of damage that might have been done to my ears.

“But yesterday someone came from Directorate of Intelligence – which he said is like Military Police in the Army – to listen to us from the headquarters. We met at the office of the Honourable the Attorney General of Benue State and we took turns to narrate what happened. So when we finished, he specifically requested me to put my statement in writing and because it was already dark we agreed to reconvene at 8.30 this morning, which we did. And I put my statement in writing.

“I am actually shocked, scandalized and embarrassed with the allegations that EFCC have made in their Press Release that I went there with thugs to forcefully release a detainee. I want to say it in very clear terms that all the lawyers that were there with me – including the Honourable the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and Director of Public Prosecution and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Legal Matters – we were just nine, including myself, 10. And all the people that were there – except the Director of Finance and Administration in the State Ministry of Justice who was also there, who is not a lawyer – the rest of us were lawyers. I don’t see how colleagues who went to EFCC Office to facilitate the release of their colleague will be called thugs.

“Today, the AG also requested the person that came from Abuja to request for CCTV footage from their (EFCC) office. This happened directly within their compound and their CCTV footage must have captured what happened. So if they fail to produce their CCTV footage, I think it will also be another way of trying to deny or hide the facts.

“By and large, I think the EFCC are not being truthful; their denial of all the allegations is baseless. I think we are not going to leave the matter like that. In my statement which I wrote today, I told them that I have other options to seek redress. But I am giving them an opportunity for them to sort out this issue, punish the perpetrators, and then we discuss further on whatever demands that I might have.

“At the moment, I don’t want to make demand yet; I am yet to fully ascertain the level of damage they have done to my eye, to my ears and other general health conditions. So when that is ascertained by medical experts, I will also know what demands I will be making for compensation. At the moment, I don’t want to say that because I am yet to get the proper medical report in that regard.

“Today again, the NBA Makurdi Branch insisted on making a Press Statement particularly in view of the statement by EFCC. After they (EFCC) had reached out to our (NBA) President with a view that they would investigate the matter, they went ahead to issue a statement denying the facts. So the Press Conference just finished a while ago and I think in a very short it will also be in the public domain on the position of NBA Makurdi Branch.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that Gbagir had alleged that he was manhandled at the instance of the EFCC Makurdi Zonal Head. Narrating his ordeal, Gbagir said: “As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between 7 and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises. “Outside the premises, they threw out my footwears which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating,” he said.

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