Bridget Emengo, a female lawyer and former staff member of the law firm of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Afe Babalola, Afe Babalola & Co has alleged intimidation and harassment by the firm and the Nigeria Police following her lawsuit against the Babalola and some senior lawyers in the company.
She was reacting to a report which stated that the police arraigned her at the Wuse Zone 6 Chief Magistrates’ Court, for allegedly writing a defamatory statement on oath against Afe Babalola’s law firm and a senior partner of the firm, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN.
In a statement sent to press, the lawyer explained that police officers arrested her at home on Sunday evening (October 3, 2021) following a petition written by the Afe Babalola law firm.
Emengo stated that the petition and her subsequent arrest were predicated on a lawsuit she had instituted against the company for wrongful termination of her employment, alleged violation of her fundamental human rights and that of her son as well as the defamation of her character, which said were “all orchestrated by Kehinde Ogunwumiju”.
Her appointment was terminated on February 28, 2020.
According to her, the arrest was illegal and could have stopped her from being present at the court proceedings which was slated for October 4, 2021.
However, fortunately for her, the court could not sit after being informed of her arrest on Sunday evening.
The court adjourned sitting to October 22.
According to documents obtained by The Lawyer, the suit filed by Emengo is between her, Bridget Omunukpon Emengo and Credan Chikamsi Emengo as claimants and Aare Afe Babalola and 10 others as defendants.
The other defendants include Adebayo Olanipekun (SAN), Olu Daramola (SAN), Kehinde Olamide Oguwumiju (SAN), Tunde Babalola (SAN), Peter Oluwaseun Olomola, and Oluwasina Ogungbade.
Others are Sunday Ojonugwa Onubi, Ademola Khamar Abimbola, Ayakanyejah Ndah, and Funmilayo Longe (all carrying on law practice under the name and style of Afe Babalola & Co).
She wrote: “My attention has just been drawn to this publication https://lawtimes.ng/lawyer-faces-prison-over-alleged-defamation-of-afe-babalolas-firm-staff/ which does not represent the real facts in issue.
“To correct the impression, let me categorically state that I was arrested on Sunday evening and if not for my knowledge of the law and proper procedure, the initial attempt to arrest me was in a Gestapo manner as there was no letter of invitation, no copy of complaints or information about the complaint and most importantly, no arrest warrant shown to me so I insisted on seeing all of these to validate the people and the arrest.
“Find attached my distress message posted on a closed lawyers’ group here on Facebook to alert them to any attempt to arrest me without due process: ‘Good afternoon learned friends, my name is Bridget Emengo. I was sitting in my house this afternoon and I got a knock on my gate. Upon enquiries, a man in mufti, waving a police badge from the monitoring and mentoring department, FCT command claimed to have a complaint where my name featured and I was being invited to the police station.
“‘Upon further enquiry, the policeman in mufti refused to disclose his name and they couldn’t tell me what the complaint was about or who wrote the complaint.
“‘I asked to be given the invitation so that I could honour it tomorrow morning, being Monday as I am with my kids aged 2 and 6 but they couldn’t provide it but said I must come along with them today compulsorily.
“‘My husband, therefore, asked why I couldn’t be allowed to honour the invitation to the police station tomorrow since I was not under arrest and it was just an invitation. At that point, the team leader (the spokesperson) said I was under arrest.
“‘So I also asked for the arrest warrant. He, therefore, said he was going to get one and has now left to do so but there are 3 police officers in front of my gate with a Hilux truck blocking my entrance.
“‘I just figured I should let you guys know this as learned friends because this is very suspicious to me. I have my suspicions, I’ll keep this house posted.’
“I was taken from my house from Sunday and only released today after which I later sent this update to my colleagues in the same closed lawyers’ group here on Facebook as promised.
“’Good evening learned colleagues, I am sorry for the long silence after my last post on Sunday evening, the team leader of the policemen who came to arrest me – one DSP ABEL of the Monitoring and Mentoring Unit of the FCT Police Command later returned with the original copy of the petition written against me and the arrest warrant, so I accompanied them to the police station.
“’The petition upon which the arrest warrant was issued was written by witness firm of AFE BABLOLA & Co, (my former employers) simply because I instituted an action against them for wrongful termination of my employment, violations of several of my fundamental human rights and that of my son as well as the defamation of my character, all orchestrated by Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN simply because I am a woman and from a minority tribe which he claims is not ‘the Baptized tribe’ and has deposed to facts and pleaded documents in support of all my claims before the court.’”
Emengo said the “complaint was signed by Olamide Mojogbotoluwa Adekunle néé Ehifun and the allegation against me in the petition was that the averments in my witness statement on oath are in their opinion false”.
“Interestingly, they alleged in the petition that because they are denying same, the averments in my witness statement on oath and the content of Exhibit ‘V’ in suit No. NICN/ABJ/29/2021 constituted the offences of perjury, blackmail, defamation of character and injurious falsehood by reason of their mere denials.
“Curiously the law firm of AFE Babalola and Co., apparently chose to file a petition to the Nigeria Police Force because they believed that as opposed to filing a statement of defence to my action like legal practitioners are expected to do, a petition to the Nigeria Police Force alleging perjury, defamation of character and injurious falsehood is the proper process to traverse the contents of my witness statement on oath.
“The Nigeria Police Force interestingly agreed with them and predicated on same, issued and strategically executed an arrest warrant against me, just the night before my case in NICN/ABJ/29/2021 filed against the law firm of AFE Babalola & Co., since June 2021 and served on all the defendants about 3 months ago, was slated to come up for mention.
“I was remanded in police custody because my oral application for bail that Sunday night on self recognizance was refused. I was arraigned yesterday afternoon between the hours of 3:30 pm and 4 pm and granted bail in the sum of N300,000.00 with 2 sureties in like sum, being civil servants of grade level 13 and resident in the FCT.
“My bail could not be perfected yesterday because time was far spent and we were informed that the magistrate handling the charge does not accept affidavit of means deposed to at the magistrate court zone 6 registry and headed in the magistrate court for bails as he only accepts that headed in the High Court of the FCT, which registry had obviously closed by then and was some kilometres away. I was therefore further remanded in police custody for the night.
“Very early this morning at first light, and well before the court would open to perfect my bail, I was driven by Officers of the MMU all the way to Keffi to be remanded at the Keffi prison even though I never heard any pronouncement about me being kept in Keffi prison custody when the ruling was read.
“In any case the attempt to remand me in prison custody today failed as the officials of Keffi prison were very surprised at my presentation to their prison this morning and rejected me on the ground that since the inception of the Nigerian Prisons Covid protocols, all-female inmates were sent to Suleja Prisons because that’s where they have the quarantine facility for women.
“The officers of the MMU, therefore, had no option but to return to the court to have the remand order changed to ‘Suleja prison custody’, but by the time we returned to the magistrate court 10 in zone 6, for the Honourable Sadiq Abubarka, Esq., my bail had already been perfected so I was released.
“I am grateful for the show of love from this platform.
“For the record, the hearing of the FIR was adjourned till the 28th October 2021 for hearing at Court 10, Chief Magistrate Court, Zone 6, before the Honourable Sadiq Abubakar.”