A driver attached to the Cross River State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Calistus Okune, has been remanded in the Afokang Prison in Calabar for beating two officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
It is believed that Okune acted on orders of his boss, Mr. Peter Egba, after the Toyota Corolla that he was driving was impounded for several offences, including driving without using seat belt and use of fake government number plate.
The incident was said to have happened in front of a magistrate, who presided over cases of traffic offences, during a mobile court session facilitated by the FRSC.
While one of the affected FRSC officials was beaten up and had his uniforms torn by the aggrieved driver, the other had a deep cut in his head.
One of the assaulted FRSC officials, Fidelis Eteng, who spoke with newsmen, said trouble started after he had impounded the vehicle for the offences.
According to him, the commissioner rushed to the scene shortly after the vehicle was impounded and in the course of argument, he (commissioner) gave an order to the driver and others to “deal with” those responsible for the seizure.
He said, “We stopped the vehicle first when we noticed that he (Okune) was driving without using a seat belt. Later, we had to impound it on discovering that it bore a fake government number plate. The driver also had no driving licence. We immediately took the car to the mobile court arena where he was booked.
“Shortly afterwards, the commissioner came and started ranting.
“He said he was going to ensure that those involved would be sacked. It was while the argument was on that he ordered Okune to assault me. The commissioner himself later joined in the beating and also used stone to injure a colleague in the head.”
Angered by the disregard for judicial authority on duty, the sitting magistrate, Dorothy Duke, ordered that the driver be remanded in Afokang Prison until February 3, when the case would be heard.
Officials at the state Ministry of Justice were said to be angered by the development as the wife of the commissioner, who is a cousin to the magistrate, was said to have appeared on the scene and also confronted the magistrate.
The state Sector Commander, Mr. Ikechukwu Igwe, who condemned the action, said he had notified the Ministry of Justice and the Commissioner of Police of the development.
Igwe also showed newsmen letters already written to the state government over the flagrant use of fake government number plates on private vehicles owned by top officials.
Egba, however, denied giving order to his driver to assault any FRSC official.
“I went to the scene immediately because my little boy was in the vehicle. I was polite when I approached them; but before I knew it, they started pointing their fingers into my eyes and it was at that point that my driver intervened and a fight broke out. They actually tried to beat me up,” he said.