George Kajo, Makurdi.
London Line Transport Company Ltd, Makurdi has petitioned Benue State Governor, Revd Fr Hyacinth Alia, over alleged invasion of its premises by the Assets Recovery Committee set up by the state government.
Members of Benue State Assets Recovery Committee on July 11, 2023, had stormed the premises of the company along Otukpo Road, Makurdi on that fateful day and carted away vehicles which they claimed were government vehicles taken away by the immediate past Governor of the stat, Dr Samuel Ortom.
In the petition dated July 14, 2023, signed by the Chief Executive Officer of London Line Transport Ltd, Chief Emmanual Viashima, and made available to press men, Chief Viashima alleged that officials of the committee led by Barr Tom Uja, forcefully broke into their premises, took stock of vehicles and carted them away.
“The committee members harassed alarmed workers who had started recording the invasion and seized some of their phones which were later returned”.
According to Viashima, upon been informed of the development, he rushed to the scene to make sense out of the entire chaotic scenario and to his utter disbelief, he was locked out of the premises and refused entry.
“Shocked by the action of the committee, i quickly reached out to my Landlords and lawyers who later arrived the scene, gained entry and upon enquiry, they were informed that there was a search warrant issued for the Committee to impound any Hilux, Prado and GAC brand of vehicles as well as any Bus found within the premises”.
He revealed that his lawyers raised issues on the invasion against the practice and procedure of executing Search Warrants which demands a search of the officers seeking to carry out the search to forestall planting of incriminating exhibits.
The CEO said inspite of the fact that the purported search warrant was patently, latently and inherently defective as it was not directed towards any named person or entity on the face of the said document which made its
authenticity contestable, his team rendered all forms of assistance to ensure that there was minimal rancour.
According to Chief Viashima, in spite of the information by his team to the Committee that the vehicles belonged to companies and individuals, the Committee mobilized persons to line up the vehicles in a convoy to be videoed, thereby setting up his business for maximum damaging publicity which would impact negatively on the genuine business of the company.
He said since the incident, the social media space and main stream media have been awash with the false impression that vehicles all belonging to the Benue State Government and taken away by former Governor, Samuel Ortom have been stashed in the company’s premises.
Chief Viashima described as uncalled for, the manner press men and crowd of fierce looking thugs occupied both the main premises and surroundings of the company while the operation lasted.
He drew the attention of Governor Alia to a Facebook post published on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 by Mr Tersoo Kulas, the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor on the incident where he maliciously posted photos of vehicles parked in premises that are not from the company as those towed away from London Line
He added that the reading public has feasted on the post with several un-salutary statements impugning and making a caricature of its corporate image; saying such pictures have also trended with attendant negative effect on the line of business they do which is essentially to cater for the vehicular needs of the patronizing public without regards to race, religion or political leaning.
Chief Viashima revealed that the company is already experiencing immediate consequences and direct fall out of the negative publicity as a result of the invasion.
“Contrary to claims by the Asset Recovery Committee that 30 vehicles were towed away from the company’s premises, vehicles forcefully taken away from the company by the committee were 32”.
He debunked the claim that all the vehicles carted away as well as the workshop belong to former Governor Samuel Ortom.
“The premises is only owned by my land lords, Oracle Business Ltd but London Line Transport Company Ltd has been
in lawful occupation of the premises on lease where it carries out repairs and refurbishment services for many years to a wide range of clients, including the Benue State Government as records would bear”.
He lamented that his wife’s Lexus 250 was terribly destroyed by the Committee in the process of forcibly toying and towing it away and proceeded to itemize each of the 32 vehicle carted away, their owners and vehicle particulars.
The company is demanding for general damages to the tune of N5 billion.
The letter which was addressed to the governor was also copied to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, National Human Rights Commission, the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Benue State Command.
Others are, President, Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi Branch, Secretary to the Benue State Government, Chairman, Assets Recovery Committee, and the Tor Tiv.