November 25, 2008

Assault: Uzoma fails to appear before naval panel - Says she’s being frustrated

The lady recently assaulted by naval ratings attached to Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade, Miss Uzoma Okere, has accused the board of enquiry set up by the authorities of the Nigerian Navy to investigate the alleged assault of frustrating her efforts to testify before the panel.She made the allegation following the claim by a source, who is a member of the four-man board, that Uzoma had shunned all entreaties to appear before the panel to state her side of the November 3 incident in Lagos.

The source had told our correspondent on Monday that efforts made by the board headed by the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Sylvester Umosen, to convince the lady to appear before the panel had proved abortive.

But Uzoma, in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Monday, said it was not true that she declined to appear before the board.

Uzoma said she made desperate attempts to appear before the panel on three occasions, adding that her efforts were frustrated by the panel.

According to her, she was on her way to a venue in Victoria Island on the first appointed date before she was called that the venue had been shifted to another location in Apapa, adding that it was difficult for her to face Apapa on that day.

Uzoma explained further that she was indisposed on the next appointed date, adding that the board failed to turn up at the chamber of her lawyer in Onikan, Lagos, as agreed upon last Friday.

She said, ”It is not correct that I refused to appear before the panel. I was on my way to Victoria Island on the first date the panel asked me to come before they called again that they had moved to Apapa and I could not find my way to Apapa again that day. I was ill on the second appointment. But they later called me to pick a venue convenient for me.

”I picked my lawyer‘s chamber in Onikan and we agreed to meet there on Friday. (November 21) But they (naval board) did not come. All of us, including my lawyer, waited till evening before we dispersed. So it cannot be true that I did not want to appear before the panel.”

The panel was set up by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Isiah Ibrahim, on the order of the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, to probe the incident and ascertain the culpability of the naval personnel.

The board of enquiry began sitting in Lagos on Monday, November 17.

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