Nigerians were shocked and outraged last week following the release of a video showing a Senator assaulting a young woman. The video, which was obtained by an online newspaper, showed Senator Elisha Abbo from Adamawa North Senatorial District raining slaps on a shop’s sales girl in Abuja. Abbo, the Senate’s youngest member, descended on the woman for allegedly insulting him.
According to the timeline on the video, the incident occurred on May 11, about two months after he was elected Senator. After the assault, the senator told the policemen accompanying him to arrest the victim and another woman in the shop. He neither apologized at the time nor paid the victim’s medical bills. The matter was reported at the Maitama Police Area Command Headquarters on Nile Street on May 14 but the police told the victim to “go look for Mr Abbo’s telephone number or they would not be able to do anything about it.”
Following the public outcry that greeted the video’s release, Inspector General of Police ordered an investigation. The Senate did the same upon a motion by Senator Uba Sani. It set up an ad hoc committee headed by former Ebonyi State governor Sam Egwu to probe the incident. The committee is expected to submit its report within two weeks.
Senator Abbo tried to pre-empt them. At a press conference, he apologised to mothers, Nigerians, his party PDP, National Assembly, his family, the victim and her family as well as all Nigerians who were embarrassed by his conduct. He said, “l have never been known or associated with such actions in the past. 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.”
Senator Abbo’s action is utterly condemnable and he must face the music. Although he apologized, he only did so because a close-circuit camera exposed his ignoble deed. If not because of the video and the public outcry that followed it, he did not apologise for two full months. Assault is a serious offence, made worse by Elisha Abbo’s standing as a Senator of the federal republic. His misdeed brought disgrace to the country’s highest law making body, scandalised Nigerian men, outraged Nigerian women and dragged the country’s name into the mud internationally.
We commend the Senate for opening an investigation into the issue and urge the committee tasked with the duty to hasten work and submit its report in good time. We recall that in 2004 when Senator Isa Mohammed, then vice chairman of the Senate Committee on States and Local Governments slapped his chairman, Senator Iyabo Anisulowo, Senate suspended him for two weeks. Senator Abbo deserves a much harsher punishment. He should be kicked out of Red Chamber altogether or at least, suspended for a minimum one year. We must send a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.
In addition, the police should carry out a thorough investigation and charge the Senator to court as soon as possible as assault is an offence under the Penal Code, which is applicable in the FCT. If found guilty, the law must take its course since no one is above the law. Not just Abbo, but the policemen who were with him when the incident occurred must be punished accordingly. It is appalling that policemen watched while an unprotected citizen was being assaulted. Policemen must note that their duty is to protect all citizens, not only the highly placed ones. At least they should have stopped the Senator from assaulting the woman, rather than obeying his “order” to arrest her.
IGP should also investigate Maitama Police Area Command on Nile Street and find out why it sat on the matter for over a month after it was reported to it. Anyone found culpable must be punished for negligence and dereliction of duty.
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