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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 N400 million as compensation to families of four Ladipo market traders, who were extra-judicially killed by police officers in 2001.
The presiding judge, Justice Olufunke Sule-Amzat handed down the order on Wednesday in her ruling on the matter.
The four; Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemeka Ezeofor, Izuchukwu Ezeama, and Aloysius Osigwe, who hailed from Ekwulobia in Anambra State, were traders at Ladipo International Auto Spare parts market before they were extra-judicially killed by the police attached to Surulere Division on July 21, 2001.
Delivering judgment in the fundamental human rights suit filed for the deceased by rights activists, Akaraka Chinwe Ezeonara, Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye, the judge ordered the police to pay the families of the deceased persons.
Justice Sule-Amzat, however, exonerated Lagos State Government (third respondent in the suit) through the Attorney General of Lagos from the killing.
Aside IGP, the judge also found former Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Marvelous Akpoyibo (retd) culpable.
The five other respondents in the suit failed to appear before the court, despite having been served with the court processes and hearing notices.
The judge in her judgment 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 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 same with reasonable care.
“Their actions are not in accordance with the provisions of the Police Act, and amounts to a violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased persons,” the court held.
Recall that the case file was returned from the Court of Appeal for High Court to hear the suit denovo.
In a judgment, the appellate court had ordered that the High Court to hear the suit following its dismissal by Justice Oyindamola Ogala.
Justice Ogala had in a ruling dismissed the application, on the ground that right to life of the deceased persons could not have been commenced by the applicants on behalf of the deceased.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the applicants through their counsel, Mrs. Funmi Falana, filed an appeal.
The Court of Appeal, in a judgment held that, it is 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.