Dana crash: Photojournalist recounts ordeal with undertakers

LAGOS — The Leadership Newspapers photojournalist, Mr Benedict Uwalaka, who was allegedly battered by a Director of TOS Funeral Homes (undertakers), Bayo Ogunsola, and his accomplice, yesterday, gave a vivid account of how he was brutalised while covering the release of corpses of victims of the Dana Airline crash, last year.

A Photojournalist with Leadership Newspaper, Benedict Uwalaka was beaten and brutalized by mortuary attendants at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH)

A Photojournalist with Leadership Newspaper, Benedict Uwalaka was beaten and brutalized by mortuary attendants at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in 2012

Giving his account before Magistrate B.O. Osunsanmi sitting in Ikeja, Uwalaka said he was beaten almost to a stupor by the accused persons.

The photojournalist, whogave 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 explained further that he started looking for an angle where he could get a good shot since he could not go back to the office without shot of what happened at the scene.

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.”

When asked for the evidence of his injury by the prosecutor, Uwalaka burst into tears.

“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.

However,Magistrate, Osunsanmi admitted the picture saying: “The witness identified the camera shown in picture as his own so picture admitted as exhibit.”

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