The Lagos High Court awarded the sum of N400m jointly and severally against the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Commissioner of Police, Lagos and two others over the extra-judicial killing of four Ladipo Market traders in July 2001.
The others are a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Marvelous Akpoyibo (retd), formerly of the Area C command, Surulere and the Divisional Police Officer, Aguda Station, Surulere. The money is to be paid as compensation to the families of the four traders.
Justice Olufunke Sule-Amzat, who delivered judgment in the case on Wednesday, absolved the Lagos State government (through its Attorney General) from the killing.
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 opposing the applicant’s originating summons 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 were 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 amount to a violation of their fundamental rights.”