Police Extrajudicial Killing: Court Awards #400m Compensation to Families of Four Ladipo Traders – Rights Monitors
JUSTICE Olufunke Sule-Amzat of a Lagos High Court sitting in Yaba has ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to pay N400m as compensation to families of four Ladipo Market traders who were extra-judicially killed by police officers in 2001.
Wed, March 15 was announced on the popular Human Rights radio program “Labe-Ofin” (Rule of Law) by the Human Rights Monitoring Agenda (HURMA Global Resource Initiative) on Bond FM 92.9, Radio Nigeria. The date was announced as the date to get the long pending judgement of the four traders who were extrajudicially murdered by men of the Nigerian Police Force in Lagos State.
The Executive Director of HURMA encouraged members of the Human Rights group to attend enmass .
The four traders, Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemeka Ezeofor, Izuchukwu Ezeama and Aloysius Osigwe, who hailed from Ekwulobia, Anambra State, were traders at Ladipo International Auto Spare parts Market before they were allegedly extra-judicially killed by the police attached to Surulere Division on 21st July 2001.
However, the judge, while delivering judgment today in the fundamental rights suit filed on behalf of the deceased by human rights activist, Akaraka Chinwe Ezeonara, as well as Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye, ordered the police to pay the family of the deceased the said sum.
Justice Sule-Amzat exonerated the Lagos State government (the 3rd respondent in the suit) through the Attorney-General of Lagos from the killing.
Aside from IGP, the judge also found the former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Assistant Inspector-General (AIG), Marvelous Akpoyibo (retd) culpable.
The other five respondents in the suit failed to appear before the court, despite having been served with the court processes and hearing notices.
The judge held that the fundamental liberties of the Ekwulobia Four, including their rights to life, and the dignity of the human person, were clearly breached by the police officers, as they were executed despite not being sentenced by any court of law, nor were they found to have resisted arrest.
She further held that the police are empowered to investigate crimes and not to kill citizens. “The officers mismanaged their firearms as there was no evidence of provocation.
“There has been a growing incidence of police shooting people at the slightest opportunity under the guise of carrying out arrests. A firearm is prima facie a dangerous weapon, the handler owes the public the duty to handle the same with reasonable care.
“Their actions are not in accordance with the provisions of the Police Act, and amount to a violation of the victims’ fundamental rights.”
It would be recalled that the case file was returned from the Court of Appeal for the High Court to hear the suit de novo.
The appellate court had ordered that the High Court should retry the suit following its dismissal by Justice Oyindamola Ogala.
Justice Ogala had in her judgment dismissed the application. She held that the right to life of the deceased person could not have been commenced by the applicants on behalf of the deceased persons.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, the applicants, through their counsel, Mrs. Funmi Falana, filed an appeal.
The Court of Appeal in the judgment held that it was clear that the action before the lower court was properly brought under the auspices of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules because it was brought by an Association for the purpose of enforcing the right of its members that had been breached.