- Apologises to Nigerians
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Should he be put on trial for allegedly assaulting a nursing mother at a shop in Abuja and convicted, Senator Elisha Ishaku Abbo, representing Adamawa North in the National Assembly, risks being jailed for five years.
Abbo, who is currently under probe by the Senate and the police, also faces being suspended from the Senate for 14 legislative days.
The assault, which happened in May, but whose video of the incident leaked on Tuesday, triggering a nationwide outrage, received condemnations yesterday from Abbo’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is from the same Adamawa State like the senator; Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; and human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), among others.
Abbo, in a statement wednesday, however, apologised for his behaviour and begged Nigerians for forgiveness.
Giving an insight on what could happen should Abbo be put on trial, a lawyer, Mr. Joel Akomolafe, told THISDAY that if the case is established, the senator could be charged for assault and battery, and if found guilty, might be jailed for term ranging between three to five years as provided by Sections 262 to 264 of the Penal Code, which deal with the offence.
He said the sentence could be less, between three months and one year if it could be proven that the senator’s action was not intentional but provoked.
But he called for caution, stating that the senator may probably have acted in self defence or retaliation since the camera only showed just a part of what transpired.
Another lawyer, Mr. Frank Chude, who shared the same sentiment with Akomolafe, however, stated that the punishment could be more than five years if there were grievous injuries, which include loss of an eye, blasted eardrums, among others, to the victim.
He added that the judge, however, could exercise his discretionary power by giving the senator option of fine or imprisonment, or both, if convicted.
At its plenary wednesday, the Senate set up a seven- man ad-hoc committee to probe the alleged incident.
Also following the order by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, for the investigation of the incident, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command has invited the senator for questioning.
THISDAY gathered that the senator might be charged for criminal assault.
The Senate committee, headed by Senator Sam Egwu, representing Ebonyi North, which has two weeks to submit its report, commenced sitting behind closed doors, shortly after yesterday’s plenary.
Abbo, a fresh senator, if found culpable by the committee after investigation, may be suspended for a maximum of 14 days.
According to Order 67(4) of the 2015 Senate Standing Rules, which is being used by the Ninth Senate, titled: “Suspension after Naming, “When a senator is named by the President of the Senate, if the offence is a minor one, the President of the Senate may order the senator to withdraw for the rest of the legislative day; but if the matter appears to the President of the Senate to be of a more serious nature, the President of the Senate shall put the question on motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed, that such suspension being for any time stated in the motion not exceeding 14 legislative days.”
The Senate’s resolution to probe the incident was sequel to a motion moved to that effect by Senator Uba Sani (Kaduna Central).
Sani, who came through Orders 14 and 15 of the Senate Standing Rules, said the incident must be investigated and appropriate action taken if the senator involved was found guilty.
According to him, he received no fewer than 111 calls from concerned Nigerians within and outside the country over the alleged assault, since Tuesday.
“The viral reportage of the incident is highly damaging to the senator concerned and the Senate as an institution. My image is at stake as a serving senator and I believe the image of other senators too,” he said.
Also contributing, Senators Bamidele Opeyemi (Ekiti Central) and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), made similar submissions which made the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North), to call for the composition of an ad-hoc committee .
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, in his ruling, said the Senate as a responsive and responsible institution would not condone any act of violence from any senator.
He set up the seven-man committee to thoroughly investigate the incident and report within two weeks.
Other members of the committee include Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), Mathew Urhoghide (Edo South), Dauda Jika (Bauchi Central), Danladi Sankara (Jigawa North East), Stella Oduah ( Anambra North) and Mohammed Sani (Niger East ).
However, the police have invited Abbo for questioning.
THISDAY gathered that the embattled senator is expected to appear before the police today.
A video that has gone viral on social media captured the senator assaulting a woman who was trying to settle an argument between him and a sales woman.
The sales woman had complained about one of the three girls in the company of the senator, who had vomited in the shop, wondering why she could not go outside to vomit.
The woman’s comments were said to have infuriated the senator, who flew into a rage and accused her of poisoning the air-conditioning system.
In the ensuing arguments between the senator and the sales woman, the nursing mother, who was described as her friend, tried to intervene but the senator slapped her three times unaware that a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) was recording the incident.
The senator’s police orderly witnessed the assault without taking any step to stop it.
The Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, Mr. Bala Ciroma, told THISDAY wednesday that the command had extended an invitation letter to the senator.
He also said the police had established contact with the victim of the assault and has commenced investigation in earnest into the case.
“I have been to the Senate with my detectives to extend the invitation to him. We expect to see him by tomorrow (today),” he said.
An earlier statement by police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, had said the IG had ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault by Abbo.
“The IG directed the commissioner to provide a personal and round-the-clock supervision of every facet of the investigation, including the forensic analysis of the video currently in circulation as well as the actions/inactions of the policeman seen in the video footage,’’ the statement said.
Reacting to the incident yesterday, the PDP said as a law-abiding and upstanding party, it detested and condemned such an act of lawlessness and callousness as exhibited in the video.
“Our party is also shocked that the harmless victim of the unprovoked assault is said to be a nursing mother, who ought to be protected.
“Though this is a personal conduct of an individual, which has no bearing with the culture of our party, the PDP, however, holds that no responsible person will condone such an attitude.
“In the light of this, the NWC has commenced investigation into the matter and summons Senator Elisha Abbo in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the PDP and code of conduct of our members,’’ PDP stated in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan wednesday in Abuja.
Atiku also condemned the assault and called for a probe into the incident.
The former vice president, in a tweet through his verified Tweeter handle, @atiku, said: “I’ve seen the alleged assault video involving Senator Elisha Abbo. The video is sad, inexcusable. I know the senator quite well. But the law is clear and leaders must lead by example.
“I advise him to publicly apologize, voluntarily go to the police and show a good example expected of a young leader. I also call on our party, the @OfficialPDPNig to take necessary disciplinary action and the @PoliceNG to ensure the law takes its full course.”
Dabiri, also in a tweet, criticised the senator’s action, saying that with his character, it is surprising how he defeated Senator Binta Garba in the last election.
In his reaction, Falana said he had written the Inspector-General of Police to investigate the Abbo over the assault.
Falana, at a conference on ‘Agenda setting for citizens’ interaction with stolen assets recovery: Abacha loots recovery and utilisation as case study,’ organised by Human Environmental Development Agenda in Abuja, said he would press for the arraignment and prosecution of the senator if he was indicted.
“Of course, since he is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven, as they say in Nigeria, we are asking for investigation but if he is indicted, of course, we are going to press that he be arraigned and prosecuted for assault occasioning harm punishable under the penal code applicable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,” he added.
Senator Apologises, Begs for Forgiveness
The embattled senator, however, apologized yesterday to Nigerians and all mothers for his conduct.
The senator, who addressed a press conference at the national secretariat of the PDP, said his action was regrettable.
Abbo, who sobbed while reading the text of speech, asked that he should be forgiven, adding that to err is human and to forgive is divine.
He said: “I personally apologise to Barbra and her family for my action, which has brought immense discomfort in our body polity.
“l have never been known or associated with such actions in the past in my life. Regardless of what transpired prior to my expression of anger, I am sincerely sorry and plead that all men and women of good conscience should have the heart to forgive me. To err is human, to forgive is divine.
“To the Church of God everywhere in the world, I am sorry. As an Ambassador of Christ, much is expected of me.
“My family and religious upbringing do not give approval to such conduct and for this, as a leader, I seek forgiveness before God and all those who feel offended by my action.
“Indeed, this episode has taught me a very great lesson both as a private citizen and a public officer, particularly as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, upon whom public confidence is reposed on me.”