Mr Benedict Uwalaka, a Leadership Newspaper photojournalist, who was allegedly brutalized by a Director of TOS Funeral Homes (undertakers), Bayo Ogunsola, and his accomplice, yesterday, narrated his ordeal on how he was battered while covering the release of corpses of victims of the Dana Airline crash, last year.
Recounting his ordeal before Magistrate B.O. Osunsanmi sitting in Ikeja,the photojournalist said he was beaten almost to a stupor by the accused persons. Uwalaka, who gave the account in an emotion laden voice was led in his Examination-in-Chief by the Police Prosecutor, Inspector Benson Emuerhi.
He said: “On August 9, 2012, I went to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), for the release of the corpses of the ill-fated Dana Airline crash. “I saw a lot of reporters and photojournalists from different media houses both from within and outside Nigeria. “We were there for many hours when some one shouted that they had started to release the bodies. “We all rushed to the scene and discovered that they used two vehicles to block the ambulance that carried the dead bodies.”
He said: “From a distance of about 30 metres, I 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 but this man in black shirt, who I later identified as Ogunsola came and dragged my camera.
“He started giving me blows. While he was beating me I still held onto my camera. Someone wearing a white shirt came from behind, pulled my leg, hit my head with something and so collected the camera. “I was soaked in blood as a result of the beating. It was later when I watched the television account that I saw that he hit me with a bottle.”
In his statement at the Police station, he told the court that he wrote the man in black shirt and white shirt since he didn’t know their names.“I was later told by my colleagues that the man in black shirt was Ogunsola, who had been arrested by the Police and the one in white shirt was Idowu. “I was treated at LASUTH and asked to stay for 24 hours for medical observation.”
“My photojournalist colleagues showed me pictures, I equally watched it on TV and downloaded a picture on Internet. I saw myself soaked in blood,” Uwalaka said in tears. The prosecutor tendered the statement Uwalaka made at the police station, medical report from LASUTH and the downloaded picture from the internet as exhibits in the case.
Though the defence counsel, Tunji Ayanlaja (SAN), objected to the downloaded internet picture as exhibit based on admissibility issue, the court admitted it. The magistrate adjourned the case till May 10, 2013 for further hearing.