By Emmanuel UgwuÂ in Umuahia
An Umuahia high court has indicted the police and the pastor of a Pentecostal church for the death of a 22 year old student, Vincent Uwagbaokwu and ordered them to jointly pay N20 million asÂ compensation to the family of the deceased.
Uwagbaokwu was shot dead by police on the night of September 10, 2015 by a police patrol team invited by Pastor Martins of the Christ Empire International Church, Umuahia.
The four man patrol team had invaded the family home of the Uwagbaokwus at Ohobe Afara, Umuahia North local government on the fateful night on suspicion that the deceased had stolen musical instruments belonging to the church.
But in his judgment in suit No. HU/43M/2017, JusticeÂ Kenneth Okereke held that the respondents were guilty of conspiring among themselves for the cold blooded murder of the deceased, who was a student of Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo.
He said that the respondents failed to justify killing the boy, who was not even the suspect in the alleged stealing of the church property and was not armed at the time the police invaded their home.
“Vincent Ikechukwu Uwagbaokwu died an innocent man,” he said, adding that till date none of those involved in the killing has shown remorse and apologised for taking the life of the boy.
Justice Okereke said that the judgment would serve as deterrent to policemen who feel they could take life at will just because they were armed.Â
He also ordered that the pastor and all the policemen involved in the illegal operation should be arraigned in court for murder of the late student.Â
Following the extra-judicial killing of the boy, his father Mr. Emmanuel Uwagbaokwu had filed a suit in conjunction with a human rights lawyer, Jude Nwaokoro, asking the court to declare that the extra-judicial killing was a violation of the deceased’s right to life.
Â In the suit number HU/43M/2017 the applicants had asked for five reliefs including N10 billion ‘exemplary damage’ (compensation), an enforcement of the deceased’s fundamental right to life, and a declaration that the deceased was unlawfully and unconstitutionally killed by the respondents.
The applicants also asked the court to order the police to tender public apology to the family of the deceased and award any other relief the court may deem fit.Â
Pastor Martin is to pay the N20 million compensation alongside four police officers, namely, Ikechukwu Ogbonna (church deacon), Ex-SergeantÂ Ogbonna Alieze, Sergeant Eyong Inah, Corporal Obi Chimbuike and Constable Okafor Ugochukwu.
Speaking to journalists after the judgement, the lead counsel to the applicants, Jude Nwaokoro said that the judgment had resolved the issue of the violation of the fundamental human rights of the deceased.
Another counsel to the applicants, Peter Agbai said that the court judgment had sent “a strong signal” to any police officer who would indulge in rascality just because they carry guns.
“We pray they(police) will learn their lessons,” he said.
Father of the deceased, Emmanuel Uwagbaokwu said he was pleased with the judgment as the court has vindicated his son who was killed and tagged a criminal by police and PastorÂ Martins.
“Court has proved that my late Son Vincent was not a robber and was innocently killed by the police on the ordersÂ of the pastor who illegally engaged them,” he said.
Meanwhile the indicted persons are to be arraigned in court onÂ February 19, 2018Â as the attorney general of the state has filed information against the Pastor, Deacon OgbonnaÂ and the four policemen on two counts charge of conspiracy to murder and murder of the deceased.