A Lagos High Court sitting in Yaba, Southwest Nigeria, has indicted the police for the extrajudicial killing of four Igbo traders in Ladipo market in 2001.
The victims are Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemeka Ezeofor, Izuchukwu Ezeama, and Aloysius Osigwe, all from Ekwulobia, Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria.
They were traders at Ladipo International Auto Spare Parts Market and were extrajudicially killed by the police attached to the Surulere Division of the Lagos State Command on July 21, 2001.
But delivering judgement in a fundamental human rights enforcement suit brought by a human rights activist, Akaraka Chinwe Ezeonara, as well as Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye on behalf of the families of the victims, Justice Olufunke Sule-Amzat absolved the Lagos State government (the 3rd respondent) through the Attorney General of Lagos from the killing.
The court specifically indicted a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos and indeed the police for the gruesome murder of the four Igbo traders.
Justice Sule-Amzat, however, in her ruling ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation to pay N400 million as compensation to their families.
Apart from the 3rd Defendant/respondent, the five other respondents (police) failed to appear before the court throughout the case, despite having been served with the court processes and hearing notices several times.
In its judgement, the court held that the fundamental liberties of the four Igbo traders, 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 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 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 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, according to TVC News reports.
However, not happy with the decision of the court, the applicants through their counsel, Funmi Falana filed an appeal, which was upheld.
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