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Dana crash: Photojournalist narrates beating

25 April 2013, 07:10

Ikeja - A photojournalist has told an Ikeja Magistrates' Court how he was allegedly brutalised by a top official of a funeral home on the day the bodies of the victims of the Dana Air crash were released.

Mr Benedict Uwalaka, who works with the Leadership newspaper, testified on Wednesday in the trial of Bayo Ogunsola, a Director of the TOS Funeral Homes, Lagos, over an assault and unlawful damage.

He was led in evidence by the prosecutor, Inspector Benson Emuerhi.

The witness said that he was covered in his own blood after he was beaten by Ogunsola and one other person, simply identified as Idowu, who is still at large.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ogunsola was arraigned on Aug. 31, 2012, on a two-count charge.

Emuerhi told the court then that Ogunsola destroyed Uwalaka’s camera worth about N715,000 during the beating.

He said that Emuerhi committed the offences when relatives of the June 12, 2012, crash victims were at the funeral home to collect the bodies identified through DNA tests.

Testifying on Wednesday, Uwalaka said: "On Aug. 9, 2012, I went to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) for the release of the bodies of the victims of the Dana Air crash.

"I saw reporters and photojournalists from different media houses.

"We were there for many hours before someone shouted that they had started to release the bodies."

Uwalaka said that they rushed to the place, only to discover that two vehicles had been used to block the ambulance carrying the corpses.

 He said that from a distance of about 30 metres, he took pictures of the ambulance twice.

"The next thing I heard was, `What did you snap? Show me your camera. Give me your camera.’

"I held onto my camera tightly but this man in black shirt, who I later identified as Ogunsola, came and dragged my camera.

"He started giving me fist blows; while he was beating me, I still held onto my camera tightly,’’ he said.

Uwalaka added: "Someone wearing a white shirt came from behind, pulled my leg; hit my head with something and collected the camera.

"I was soaked in blood as a result of the beating.

"It was later when I watched the television that I saw that he hit me with a bottle."

Uwalaka said that he was treated at the teaching hospital and asked to stay for 24 hours for medical examination.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that he began to cry when the prosecutor asked him to provide evidence of the injuries he sustained.

"My colleagues showed me pictures; I equally watched it on television and downloaded a picture on the internet.

"I saw myself soaked in blood," he said.

The prosecutor tendered as exhibits, Uwalaka's statements at the Area 'F' Police Station, Ikeja, a medical report from LASUTH and the downloaded picture.

Emuerhi prayed for an adjournment to enable him to also tender Uwalaka’s blood-soaked clothes as exhibits.

The Defence Counsel, Mr O. Ayanlaja, objected to the admissibility of the downloaded picture as an exhibit.

"It is not direct evidence; he did not take the photograph himself. I urge my lordship to reject it," Ayanlaja said.

However, the Magistrate, Mrs B.O. Osunsanmi, admitted the picture as an exhibit, saying that the witness identified the camera shown in the picture as his own.

She adjourned the case to May 10 for further hearing.



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