Four young Ladipo traders, who were indigenes of Ekwulobia, Anambra State, Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemeka Ezeofor, Izuchukwu Ezeama and Aloysius Osigwe, were allegedly shot by some police officers attached to Area ‘C’ Police Command, Surulere, on July 1, 2001, following a robbery incident. They were shot on the grounds that they were armed robbers allegedly working for one Chief Jude Okoli. The deceased were living in a two-bedroom apartment in the boys’ quarters at 48, Olaitan Oduralu Street, Kilo Bus Stop, Surulere, Lagos.
While three of the deceased were said to have been shot by the police while attempting to arrest them, the police, after realizing that there was nothing incriminating them as armed robbers, allegedly shot and killed the fourth deceased person, Osigwu, to cover up the dastardly act. The remains of the slain youths, it was learnt, were allegedly hurriedly buried by the police.
According to the leader of EIYA, the police did not prosecute Okoli till his death in an auto crash in 2006, a situation it believes confirms he was innocent, including the four deceased who were bread winners of their families. “Not only did Chief Jude Okoli, before his death, in 2006, identify the deceased as legitimate traders at Ladipo Market and not armed robbers as claimed by the police, the leadership of Ladipo Main Market, Mushin also identified the deceased as their genuine members and not criminals as alleged”, the group stated.
families of the deceased traders have waited for years in vain to receive the remains of their sons.
Over the years, efforts by the families to get justice have proved abortive as the court action instituted against the government and the police was thrown out.
Their matter was taken before Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, by Akaraka Chinweike Ezeonara, Chris Okpara, Remiguis Ezenwanne and Ifeanyi Okoye, all traders at the Ladipo Market, as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th applicants respectively, on behalf of the slain youths against the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Attorney General of Lagos State, a former Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Chief Marvellous Akpoyibo (then of Area ‘C’ Police Command, Surulere) and the Divisional Police Officer, Aguda Police Station, as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th respondents respectively.
The matter dragged on for years with the applicants demanding for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of their murdered colleagues under the Fundamental Human Rights Rules, 2009, which give right to life, liberty and dignity as guaranteed by Sections 33, 34 and 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
The youths were represented by Osas Justy Erhabor, a former Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, and Abioye Akerele.
Justice Ogala struck out their case in a ruling.
Delivering her ruling, Ogala raised query as to the competence of the application under the fundamental rights procedure.
In the latest petition to the President signed by Akaraka Chnweike Ezeonara, on behalf of EIYA, titled, ‘Application to genuinely order institutions of authorities to do justice in the case of four innocent youths of Ekwulobia murdered in cold blood by trigger happy police in Lagos, ’ the youths are demanding full investigation into the incident and the release of the remains of the youths to their families for proper burial.
The petition read: “It is now a decade and four years in this case of the Ekwulobia four innocent youths murdered. Over the years, we have remained in the wilderness of jungle justice in spite of our efforts from one institutions of government to another including the court of law. Though we accept disappointment, we cannot lose hope. Not that we didn’t know there are higher courts to appeal but we don’t have money to continue.”
The youths expressed disappointment with the Lagos State Commissioner for Justice, the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Panti, Lagos State, O/C, Panti, the National Assembly, as well as civil society organisations on the incident, saying they failed to help. “We urge you to kindly order the current IGP, Solomon Arase, to do the needful according to our Constitution, because he was Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in Panti, when the incident took place. With ‘Change’ as your mantra, we humbly demand the remains of our innocent murdered brothers from the police authorities, adequate compensations as well as retributive justice on their murderers. We want to count it among changes of your first hundred days in office,” the petition stated.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, the father of one of the deceased traders, Aloysius Osigwe, Chief Sebastine Osigwe, said the family was yet to come terms with the death of their son.
“My child was killed in cold blood in 2001. My boy and his friends were killed by the police but their remains have not been released to us. I want government to give us justice. He was murdered for no cause but there must be justice. He was the one helping the family financially when he was alive”, the octogenarian said.
“Because of his death, his mother has been bed-ridden and I also can no longer see. I am 80 years old and finding it difficult to live now because his siblings are not doing well financially, he was the only one we relied on. The loss has made us to be in want, we cannot forget him,” he lamented.
The elder brother of Anthony Ezenwafor, Pastor Azubuike Ezenwafor, also lamented the ‘I don’t care attitude’ of government to bring those behind the murder of his brother to book. “This is something we are trying to forget because the situation has put our aged mother in a poor health condition. It is not something to be remembered all the time and that is why we handed the matter to Akaraka to pursue for us. Government has not done anything for the family, not even compensation. The whole town was pursuing the matter when it first happened, travelling from Enugu to Abuja and Lagos looking for justice but nothing has been done,” he stated.
“The worst thing is that we didn’t see their corpses as police failed to release them to us. At that time, one of the policemen in charge of the case bragged that if we pursued the case too far, they would make sure we did not see the boys’ corpses and that is what they have done”.
Akaraka said with the latest petition, the family was optimistic of getting justice.