There are clear indications that police officers are working to undermine investigation into the case of Alexandra Ossai, the woman who was allegedly kicked in the stomach by her Lebanese manager, Kaveh Noine, causing her to lose her seven months old pregnancy.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the Gracious Mercy Hospital in the Fagba area of Lagos, where she is currently receiving treatment, Saturday afternoon, plain cloth policemen were seen prompting the tired-looking and agonising woman to make statements, ignoring the concern from her lawyer that she is not in the right state of mind and too physically battered to talk.
Mrs. Ossai, 34, was a supervisor at a Lebanese owned printing firm, Toppan printing Company, where she earned a paltry N12,000 monthly salary.
On December 13, Mr. Noine allegedly assaulted her for not properly discarding a used carton. The alleged assault was so vicious that it was said to have broken her placenta and damaged the face of her seven months old foetus. She underwent an emergency surgery to remove the foetus.
The case attracted a lot of buzz on social media following speculations that the police, who were called to investigate the matter, ironically helped the accused to escape through the backdoor of the company. PREMIUM TIMES is unable to verify that allegation.
Muddling-up the investigation
PREMIUM TIMES observed that the police investigation seems uncoordinated with detectives from the Area F command and the Police X-squad working at cross-purposes. Mrs. Ossai’s relatives are suspicious that investigators from X-squad are trying very hard to exonerate Mr. Noine and his company, Toppan.
In fact, the original officer from Area F, simple identified as Jimi, has been detained for three days after officials of Toppan accused him of collecting bribe from Mrs. Ossai to portray the case in her favour.
He tearfully denied ever collecting money from Mrs Ossai.
“I did not know the complainant nor the suspect. All I did was to state the fact of the case. These people are just using their influence to punish me for saying the truth,” he was overheard telling a relative of Mrs Ossai in Yoruba.
The frail-looking Mrs Ossai, who is in need of better medical attention claimed she was ordered to report at the Glorious Mercy Hospital by the policemen to write a statement who ignored all her pleas of being too weak to do so. She also claimed that officers were prompting her on what to write in her statement.
“I don’t know if that was right but they were telling me what to write. They also ordered me to disclose my mother’s address but I refused to do so for my safety,” she said.
“She was in a lot of pain when giving her statement,” said Courage Erhuen, Mrs Ossai’s Lawyer.
“After writing a sentence she will stop for several minutes before continuing. This is a person that just came out of surgery two weeks ago. I told them (the police) not to force her to give the statement but they said they have to do their job,” he added.
Mrs Ossai has been staying at her mother’s after the emergency surgery.
Despite agreeing to treat her without asking for a deposit as commonly done by hospitals in the country, she feared the police might intimidate the doctor to issue a report that does not state the true details of the injuries she suffered.
Her fears may not be unfounded.
Two weeks after the emergency surgery, the hospital is yet to issue a medical report. Shehu Abdulkareem, the doctor of the clinic said the medical report would be ready when the surgeon who conducted the emergency surgery returned from his trip before the end of the year.
“With what I’ve seen so far, I’m afraid that the investigation might be jeopardised. In this country you don’t trust the police. If care is not taken all the evidences might be swept under the carpet. It is glaring that the medical doctor is afraid to say something about the medical report, which is a key evidence for us to pursue this case,” Mr. Erhuen said.
But the Lagos police spokesperson, Ngozi Braid, denied the police was plotting to jeorpadize the case.
“The police will never leave any stone unturned in making sure that justice is achieved,” Ms. Braid said, in response to an enquiry by PREMIUM TIMES. “The Lebanese has been arrested since Friday and is still in police custody. Meanwhile, investigations are still ongoing.”
A hungry victim
Throughout the encounter with the police at the hospital, Mrs Ossai was in immense pain. She talks in whispers with a permanent grimace plastered on her face as she tried to endure the pangs of pains biting from the suture at her torso. At about 2.20 p.m., she complained of hunger stating she had not eaten all day.
She also appears to be in need of better medical attention as the Grace hospital is ill equipped to care for her. After waiting for more than an hour for her prescription all she got were some yellow paracetamol capsules.
“I have been buying my medicine myself since after the surgery,” she said. “I need help and nobody seems to care about me.”
Frustrated at the questioning from the investigating officer, she broke down after a while.
“I leave everything to God if the Police choose not to do the right thing. But as long as God lives, Kaveh’s offspring will end up in canals just like my son,” she said, sobbing.
Contradictory arrest history
The police claim Mr. Noine is now in their custody after speculations he fled the country.
But the details of Mr. Noine’s arrest is also shrouded in controversy. The Punch newspaper quoted the spokesperson of the Lagos Police command, Ngozi Braid, as saying Mr. Noine was arrested in Kano where he fled to after the incident.
“In the course of our investigation, we discovered that Noine was still in the country; he had fled to Kano. Our men traced him to Kano, arrested him and have brought him back to Lagos,” she was quoted as saying.
But an investigating officer from the police’s X-squad in Lagos told PREMIUM TIMES at the hospital on Saturday that Mr. Noine was not arrested in Kano. He said the suspect surrendered himself at the state police command in company of the company’s administration officer. The officer asked not to be named because he was not authorised to divulge that information.
Following outcry on social media, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered that the matter be properly investigated and asked top cabinet ministers to oversee the investigation.
President Jonathan was shocked by reports of a pregnant Nigerian worker losing her baby after being beaten up by her Lebanese employer,” the special adviser to the President on Media, Reuben Abati, said. “The President has ordered the police, ministers of Interior, Labour, Women Affairs, Health and the NHRC [Nigerian Human Rights Commission] to investigate for sanctions and remedial action.”
However, lawyers and relatives of Mrs. Ossai believe with the manner the investigation is being handled, Mrs. Ossai might not get justice for her alleged mistreatment.
A history of violence
People who know him say Mr. Noine, the alleged assailant is known for his anger management problems.
Mrs. Ossai allege he is infamous at the company for insulting and physically assaulting employees.
She said he is known for throwing scissors and other sharp objects subordinates. According to her, he treats his Nigerian subordinates with utter disdain, slapping and kicking them at the slightest provocation.
She said this particular case wasn’t the first time he assaulted her. Some months ago, she recalled, she punched her in the chest for something so insignificant she couldn’t remember what it was.
Officials of Toppan could not be reached for comment as the company is said to have closed for the festive season.