THE Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Maitama Police Station, Abuja, CSP Magawata, has questionably succeeded in mediating in a case of road accident involving a lawyer and a man alleged to have biological link with a lawmaker and a minister in Nigeria, but covered up a criminal use of fake plate number on one of the vehicles involved in the crash.
Apart from failing to probe the fake number plate and bring the culprit to justice, the DPO also did not sight the offender’s vehicle throughout the period he superintended over the mediation process.
Driving in a black Ford Edge along the Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 2 on 16th November at about 3:20pm, Mr. Bashir Zuntu had crashed into Barrister Julius Atanawhemera’s Toyota Celina car from behind.
Zuntu was alleged to have immediately negotiated his way from the scene and zoomed off. But he was unlucky; one of his number plates fell off at the scene.
An occupant of his car however alighted to sympathize with the lawyer before the culprit sped off.
With the support of Atanawhemera, the police in Maitama, where the incident was reported, began to track the fleeing driver.
There was however a major setback in the bid to apprehend him, as according to the lawyer, the number plate that fell from his vehicle, with which he was being tracked, proved to be fake when the Vehicles Inspection Officers (VIO) were engaged to conduct a check on it.
The ICIR independently investigated the number plate on Wednesday, December 23, 2020, at the Vehicle Inspection Office, Abuja; it was confirmed to be fake.
Atanawhemera argued that Zuntu was eventually arrested through the tracking of the number provided by the person who came down from his car at the scene of the accident.
The man who gave the number had allegedly fled as well, sensing the consequences of the impact of the crash, coupled with the fact that the principal offender had vanished with his vehicle.
He was, however, the first to be apprehended before Zuntu’s hideout was allegedly uncovered.
The lawyer noted that he began to suspect foul play after Zuntu was apprehended, as according to him, the accused was allowed to flee from detention and travel out of the country by the police, so he would evade punishment.
Though the lawyer claimed the fleeing driver was a son of a serving senator and a cousin to a serving minister, the DPO told the ICIR that “his parents are politicians,” and that “he is a core civil servant.”
Atanawhemera also said the DPO confided in him that some influential politicians had called him in respect of the case and that the suspect had travelled out of the country.
Peeved by the dimension his case was taking at the Maitama police station, Atanawhemera – a Principal Counsel –wrote the FCT Police Commissioner on 14th December 2020, demanding that the police furnish him with a certified true copy of the report of a preliminary investigation into the case, after four weeks of lodging a complaint about the matter. The receipt of his letter, seen by The ICIR, was acknowledged the same day by the FCT police.
He made the request through the Freedom of Information Act (2011).
The lawyer claimed that despite providing the police with financial support and other aids for him to get justice, the suspect remained at large.
Atanawherema said all citizens of the country are equal before the nation’s laws and that the “Nigeria Police Force is created under the enabling laws to fight and discourage crimes and not created to encourage crimes.”
The lawyer said he is more pained with the accused disappearance because he claimed to have supported the police to track the accused “at a huge financial cost and time expense.”
Speaking with The ICIR on the matter on Monday 21 December 2020, the DPO said the parties would be meeting him around noon that day to find an amicable way to resolve the rift.
He also denied the allegation by the complainant that the accused escaped from custody and the country.
He said the accused did not flee as alleged by the lawyer but travelled out of Abuja on official assignment.
Meanwhile, the lawyer told our reporter after the meeting that the meeting went very well.
He said a brother to the accused – a policeman – whom he had known before the accident occurred, offered to repair his car and he agreed.
The agreement resulted in amicable resolution of the case and he had withdrawn the matter from the police station, he stated.
But in a sudden twist of the event on Wednesday, December 2020, he alleged again that he was no longer hearing from the man who agreed to repair his car.
Though the lawyer had withdrawn the case from the police station at the time of filing this report, The ICIR sought to know what the police would do to the case of fake number plate on the accused’s vehicle.
This time, the police DPO in Maitama would not tolerate any question regarding that. He declined request from The ICIR on the matter. He said the matter had been settled and there was nothing more to discuss over it.
Zuntu was contacted by our reporter to state why he used fake number on his car.
He denied having any case at the station the first time he was sent a text message, after failing to pick calls. He said: “I really don’t know what you’re talking about, as I don’t have any case in any police station at the moment. Please, revert back to Julius, this must be a mistake. Thank you.”
Our reporter sent another message to him to confirm or deny if he is one Mr Bashir Buntu who had just concluded a case of accident at the Maitama police station.
He said: “Yes, but I don’t have any case, it has been withdrawn in written. The case is now officially closed.”
Then, our reporter sent his number plate, which was confirmed to be fake by the lawyer and the ICIR at different offices of Vehicle Inspection Officers, to him in a Whatsapp message to confirm if it is genuine or not.
Zuntu responded through a Whatsapp message that he didn’t know anything about it. He said the car was for sale and that he was no longer in possession of the car.
He directed our reporter to contact the Maitama police station for whatever information he needed on the matter.
“I have handed the car to the owner. I have no business to do with both parties. I have no case with anyone anymore, both barrister and the owner of the car have gotten their compensation for the damage caused. I’ll appreciate it, if you go to the station for more detail,” he stated.