BY ACHOR ABIMAJE
Penultimate week, a Jos-base legal practitioner, Osim O. Jones was arrested and paraded as criminal before newsmen by men of the state’s Special Military Taskforce (STF), ‘Operation Save Haven.’ Jones opens up to ACHOR ABIMAJE in this interview asking for a public apology from STF or meet him in court.
What transpired between you and your client Madam Rose, a Jos-based business woman that soldiers of Jos Special military Taskforce (STF) branded you ‘lawyer to child traffickers?
On the 11th of this month (May), which fell on Thursday, after I went to court and returned to my office around 11.45 am, One Chukwudi and Okechukwu, sons of Madam Rose came to my office to inform me that their mother was arrested by men of STF and I asked for what reason. After I finished with what I was doing, I went with them to STF headquarters and when we arrived, we met two young military men at the entrance to the gate of the STF headquarters and so when I introduced myself to them, they in turn informed one Michael that a lawyer and two young men were at the gate.
So they ushered us in. As we were entering their headquarters, one captain accosted me with a thunderous voice asking to know whether I was the lawyer that facilitated the sale of a child?
I told him no and he said if not because I was a lawyer, he would have slapped me and I told him he can’t do that because I had the envelope of the instructions I gave.
Did you explain to him the processes to be followed in child adoption?
I told him about the processes that is involved in the adoption of a child, but he was not convinced as he fired back at me asking whether I knew that monetary transaction was involved and I told him point blank that I didn’t know whether money was involved, that I was consulted to process the process of adopting a child which is a process you have to apply to the Ministry of Women affairs to be taken to court after the report of the Women Affairs. The process involved in child adoption could take up to one, two or up to six months depending on the mood of the court proceedings.
They queried why I gave receipt to my client and I replied that it was receipts for part payment fee to facilitate the process of the adoption which involves the collection of consent of adoption of a child. The Women Affairs Ministry supposed to profile the applicant. This is not the first time I’m into child protection. I have written two books on child rights advocacy. One of them is on understanding the rights of the child and enforcing the rights of the child. I have facilitated so many trainings within and outside this country and I am not a new person in this business. I can’t traffic a child. I’m into child protection and these people are seeking to adopt the baby in question. I put a call through to the state’s Ministry of Women Affairs and I told them we need a form for formalisation of the adoption and they brought the form to their office opposite the State Library Board and I collected it and because that day was church service day ,and the following day was on Thursday when Mrs Rose and the mother of the baby to be adopted were arrested by STF.
How were you treated at the STF headquarters during the period of you encounter with STF officers on duty?
I have never been that bullied in my life. Do you know that STF stationed me in one place and they collected my hand set, collected my wedding ring and I could not communicate with anybody, the only saving grace I had was seeing one lawyer around who work with Legal Aid Council that they called to come and identify me whether I’m a lawyer or not. He came asking me whether I have paid for my license fee and the years I have put in as a professional lawyer. I told them to hear me out before they do anything and one soldier there threatened to slap me which I warn him that he has no right to do that to me, telling them that whatever I did was within the ambit of the law . Every transactions I did, I issued receipts and they are with me here in my office.
Were you arrested by men of the STF at any point in time over this matter?
I was never arrested by men of STF at all, I went there in the company of Okechukwu and his brother, two sons of Madam Rose and the woman in question was the landlady of the woman that wanted to adopt a child and they all live in Agwan-Rukuba neighborhood in Jos. I asked my interrogators to tell me what was my offence in the whole matter and they told me to wait till I see the press and explain to them and when they brought the press men, they never allowed me to present my side of the story. I am a public person, I can’t sell a child ,there is a need for the world to know that I am not guilty of the allegations leveled against me. I was never arrested and if there is any proof to that effect, I challenged them to prove it. I was only told that local vigilante arrested the girl, the mother of the baby to be adopted at where she went to drink beer and they were asking her about her daughter’s whereabouts after which they handed her to men of the STF in the neighborhood. I slept in my house, work on that Thursday and later went to STF headquarters on my own volition in the company of the two sons of Mrs. Rose. I was never arrested and was forcefully paraded to the world as a member of child trafficking syndicate. I kept on telling General Rogers, the STF Commander that I can never be involved in selling of children, but he ignored my plea of innocence as he told me to wait for the arrival of the newsmen. Fortunately I served before now as the public relation officer of NBA in Jos, that is why I had to put the record straight. I never facilitated or run a child trafficking syndicate. As the public was made to believe. STF lied against me. I don’t know what transpired between Rose Onu, Gladys Amaechi and Sandra, I only facilitated the process of the adoption of the child as required by law and if you listened to the reportage, the woman said when she saw the child, they came to the lawyer’s office so that the lawyer can take up the adoption process. The law says in adoption, the child to be adopted might have stayed together with the person to adopt her for three months . Even bringing the press into this matter is forbidden by the law guiding Child Rights Act.
What are you doing to redeem your image from the damage this case might have done to your personality?
First of all I have to go on air and in the print to challenge the STF to come forward to provide who arrested me at Angwa-Rukuba neighborhood of Jos. I am also demanding for an apology from STF authority to retract that news report linking me with facilitating of sale of a child and if they fail to do it, I will head to court because they have charged me for criminal conspiracy over what I did not know.