After more than twenty years of painful mourning, justice finally came to families of four Ladipo Traders, who were extra-judicially killed by Policemen in 2001, as Justice Olufunke Sule-Amzat of a Lagos High Court sitting in Yaba, ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation to pay N400 million as compensation to families of four traders.
The four traders Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemeka Ezeofor, Izuchukwu Ezeama, and Aloysius Osigwe, popularly Known as the Ekwulobia Four, because they hail from Ekwulobia, Anambra State, were traders at Ladipo International Auto Spare Parts market before they were killed by Policemen attached to Surulere Division on July 21, 2001, extra-judicially.
The trial Judge, while delivering judgement last Thursday in the fundamental rights suit filed on behalf of the deceased by human rights activists, Akaraka Chinwe Ezeonara, Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye, ordered the Police to pay the family of the deceased N400 million as compensation .
Justice Sule-Amzat however, exonerated the Lagos State Government (the 3rd Respondent in the suit) through its Attorney-General, from the killing.
Aside IGP, the Judge also found former Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Marvellous Akpoyibo (Rtd), culpable.
The other five 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 judgement, 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 their fundamental rights.”
It would be recalled that the case file was returned from the Court of Appeal to High Court, to hear the suit de novo. The appellate court had ordered in a judgement, that the High Court should hear the suit following the dismissal of the suit by Justice Oyindamola Ogala. Justice Ogala had in a ruling dismissed the application, holding that the right to life of the deceased person could not have been commenced by the Applicants on behalf of the deceased persons.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Applicants through their counsel, Mrs Funmi Falana, filed an appeal.
The Court of Appeal in a judgement held that, it was 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 rights of its members that had been breached.