A Lagos High Court sitting in Yaba has ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation to pay N400m as compensation to families of four Ladipo market traders who were extra-judicially killed by police officers in 2001.
Others who were found culpable include a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Marvelous Akpoyibo (retd).
But Justice Olufunke Sule-Amzat absolved the Lagos State government (the 3rd respondent) through the Attorney General of Lagos from the killing.
The four men – Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemeka Ezeofor, Izuchukwu Ezeama, and Aloysius Osigwe, who hail 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 July 21, 2001.
The suit brought through an application for enforcement of fundamental human rights was filed by a human rights activist, Akaraka Chinwe Ezeonara, as well as Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye.
The other five respondents failed to appear before the court throughout the case, despite having been served with the court processes and hearing notices.
While delivering her judgment on Wednesday, the judge held that the fundamental liberties of the Ekwulobia four, including their rights to life, and 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 added 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 oppourtunity under the guise of carrying out arrests. A firearm is prima facie a dangerous weapon, the handler owes the public the duty to handle same with reasonable care. Their actions are not in accordance with the provisions of the Police Act, and amounts to a violation of their fundamental rights.”
In 2021, the Court of Appeal ordered that the case file be returned to the High Court to be heard afresh, following the dismissal of the suit by Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos State High Court.
Justice Ogala, in the 2015 ruling dismissed the application for being incompetent, on the ground that the applicants could not commence the suit on behalf of the deceased persons.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, applicants through their counsel, Funmi Falana filed an appeal, which was upheld.
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