By Stanley Onyekwere
For allegedly keeping dogs in his house, a 67-year- old retired staff of the defunct Nigeria Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) ,Chukwujuidu Aligbe, was arrested by the Police in Mararaba, and later remanded in Keffi Prison for two days.
Aligbe, residing at Hill Top Estate, Mararaba, Who is an elder in Four Square Gospel Church, Asokoro, is standing trial before a Mararaba Upper area court, was removed from prison through intervention of some members of his church.
According to a Police First Information Report(FIR) obtained from the court, the retired NEPA staff,was charged for “criminal conspiracy, disturbance of public peace and making atmosphere noxious to health.
It was gathered that the Commissioner of Police (CP) in Charge of Police Pensions Office at Force Headquarters, Abuja, had dragged the accused, his neighbour, to court for allegedly breeding dogs, other wild and dangerous animals.
The CP accused the elderly man of breeding about 40 dogs, monkeys and other wild animals, but the family source dismissed the allegation as false.
It was learnt trouble for Aligbe, started Wednesday, August 27, 2014, after two of his dogs engaged in a fight the previous night, resulting to unpleasant noise from their kennel in his court yard, which shares the same fence with the police commissioner’s.
However, the police charge sheet obtained read: “On the 27th of August 2014 at about 7:30 am, the Commissioner of Police in Charge of Pensions, FHQ, Abuja, resident at Hill Top Estate, Mararaba, reported to the DPO Mararaba ‘A’ Division that for over four years now, that you Chukwujuidu Aligbe of same address, breeding almost forty dogs, monkeys and other dangerous and wild animals in your dwelling residential house for commercial purposes.
“And being his neighbour at the above address, conspired with your wife name not known and the rest members of your family to keep these animals in such a way that they constantly bark, make all sorts of noise and pass faces within your premises which is only demarcated from his own by only a dwarf wall which is quite disturbing and noxious to his health and that of his family members of which all efforts to advise you to relocate the dogs proved abortive.
“You thereby committed offenses contrary to Sections 97, 113 and 192 respectively of the Penal Code as suggested.”
However, when asked if Aligbe actually kept wild animals as alleged, the member of the accused’s family said, “that is the aspect that is not true. We have no monkeys, nor wild animals. What we have here is only 10 dogs and few birds, which are in cages. “This allegation is not true. Where in this compound can one keep monkey and wild animals,” he queried?
“The truth is that he (the accused) has interest in dogs so when he retired, it started off as a commercial venture but this place is a multi-functional plot of land. He (the police commissioner) has never discussed this matter with him personally before.”
“No other person in the neighbourhood has complained for the past 14 years that he has been keeping the dogs. The dogs only bark when they hear strange sounds or movement or see strangers come in,” he said.
Although, on a visit to the Aligbe’ residence at Etsu Karu road, off Abacha Road, Mararaba, he refused to speak, for fear of being victimized, but a close family source, who preferred anonymity said following the incident, the CP in an apparent show of power, allegedly ordered the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Maraba, to arrest the accused, who was later remanded in Keffi Prison, where he remained for two days.
Also, Aligbe was said to have written his statement at the station only to be shocked by the criminal charges leveled against him before the court, by the police in the area, obviously acting on the directive of the CP.
It was further observed that at the residence of the retired NEPA staff, had onlydifferent breeds of foreign dogs and birds were being kept in his compound; and there are not wild animals in the home.
It also gathered that the trial judge, Vincent Gwahemba, had refused the accused bail earlier when the case was mentioned before the court, leading to him been remanded in Keffi Prison until last two weeks Friday, August 29, 2014, when he was released from prison.
But in a twist, at the resumed hearing on the matter last Monday, Gwahemba explored the possibility of settling the matter amicably out of court.
He said such a simple case ought not to have been brought to court in the first place, saying if the complainant had complained that the dogs in question were directly by his window, they can be moved to a more convenient spot.
Reacting to the matter, the Resident Pastor, Foursquare Gospel Church, Asokoro, Rev. Julius Msheliza said he was shock that a person could be imprisoned for breeding domestic dogs.
The resident pastor, who spoke with journalists after the court sitting, said they would ensure that justice is done.
“The accused is a member and an elder in my church, which makes me interested in the case, since I have to look after the flock God has placed under my care. That is why I am here.
“The case is still in court, we therefore wait to see what the final outcome will be. The final outcome will decide, whether we will be satisfied or not. So at this moment we are still waiting what the conclusion will be.
“I was disappointed the way he was arrested because I was in court when the whole issue started. He was accused of keeping dogs in his house and I don’t know when keeping has become a criminal case, and within 15 minutes he was thrown into Keffi Prison. To me that is not right”.
“My expectation is that rule of law should prevail and the right thing should be done. If a member of my congregation is found liable, then let the court take its full course but if the person is falsely or wrongfully accused, the accuser should be held accountable or reprimanded for accusing an innocent person,” Msheliza said.
Peoples Daily reports that following failed attempts made by both the judge and Police Prosecutor, Inspector Joseph Ahuwa, to settle the case out of court, as the counsel to the accused, O.S Oweazim ,Esq, appears not interested in the out-of court settlement option, the case was eventually adjourned to September 22, 2014 for continuation of hearing.