The Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Commissioner of Police for Lagos, and two other people have each been fined N400 million by the Lagos High Court in Yaba for the extrajudicial death of four Ladipo Market shopkeepers in July 2001.
The other two are the Divisional Police Officer at Aguda Station in Surulere and Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Marvelous Akpoyibo (retd), a former Area C command officer in Lagos.
The money will be given to the four dealers’ families as a kind of recompense.
But, the Lagos State government (through its Attorney General) was exonerated by Judge Olufunke Sule-Amzat, who rendered judgment in the case today.
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 killed extra-judicially by the police attached to Surulere Division on July 21, 2001.
A human rights activist, Akaraka Chinweike Ezeonara, alongside Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye had filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit on behalf of the deceased traders.
Despite having been served the court processes and hearing notices, five of the respondents failed to appear before the court throughout the case.
Only the Lagos State Government through the Attorney General filed and submitted a counter affidavit in opposition to the applicant’s originating summon against them.
In 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.
The judge also noted 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 his reaction to the suit, the President-General of the Ekwulobia, Imeobi, Obinwanne Youth Association/Indigent Families of the Victims, Akaraka Ezeonara said he was relieved that justice was finally served after 20 years.
He pleaded with the authorities to ensure that the order is implemented so that the families can finally have closure.