Lagos judge flays police for collecting defendant’s N700, illegal torture
Justice Adeniyi Adebajo of a Lagos High Court, Igbosere has lampooned the Nigeria Police for collecting N700 belonging to a defendant.
While setting free two men who were unlawfully arrested, detained for alleged armed robbery and incarcerated for eight years, Justice Adebajo said the only evidence of robbery before the court was the forceful collection of N700 belonging to one of the defendants.
Amen Daniels, 30, and Friday Saturday, 26, both from Akwa Ibom State, were remanded in prison in 2006 by a Magistrates’ Court for conspiracy and armed robbery under Sections 402(2)(a) and 403(a) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos, 2003.
They were abandoned in Ikoyi Prisons without trial till 2010 when a lawyer, Charles Okungbowa, accepted to represent them pro bono.
Subsequently, on March 16, 2011, they were brought before Justice Adebajo and trial commenced on July 17, 2012.
In the course of the trial, the defendants, who were arrested at Ajah and Oyingbo while engaging in their lawful businesses, told the court that they only got to know themselves on the day of their arraignment at a Yaba Magistrates’ Court as co-suspects.
The prosecution witness, Sergeant Eroegbu Ibeabuchi, had claimed he was at Ajah Police Station at the time of the incident and worked in a team called Distress 99.
“On December 14, 2006, there was a distress call by a man who said he had been robbed. The team visited the area of the incident at about 1a.m and checked the bush there.
“We heard voices of people conversing in Akwa Ibom language, which we could not understand. Then, one of them said, ’Thank God, today is bad, tomorrow may be better’.
“The statement is convincing that they were the persons being sort. They were pursued and the police held Amen Daniel,” Ibeabuchi said.
But countering the police’s evidence, Daniel told the court he was arrested in broad day light along Lekki-Epe expressway, while returning to his mechanic workshop.
The second defendant, Saturday, who said he was selling his puff-puff before his arrest at Oyingbo Market, told the court that the N700 he had in his pocket was collected by the officers. He added that the policemen also collected N30,000 from his brother as money for his bail, yet refused to release him.
Delivering judgment, Justice Adebajo noted that although the police collected the said money from the victim, there was no evidence (receipt) to back it up.
He said the prosecution failed to prove its case against the defendants, just as he wondered why the complainant in the matter was never brought to court, neither was his statement recorded at the various police stations.
The judge also found it spurious that the police did not provide either the two locally made guns allegedly found with the defendants nor the five live cartridges.
He lambasted the police for shooting the defendants while in custody.
Justice Adebajo revealed that the court carried out an inspection of injuries on the defendants, which were confirmed by court registrar and both counsels.
“At no time in the course of the prosecution evidence was there a mention of anything being stolen or the person whose property was stolen.
“The only evidence of robbery before the court was the taken of N700 from the second defendant by men of the Nigeria Police who are usually armed when going on patrols or raiding,” said Adebajo.
The judge said: “I have looked at the evidence before me and it is my consideration and opinion that it will neither be safe nor reasonable to infer or presume conspiracy. Thus, the issue whether the prosecution has been able to prove the offence of conspiracy to commit armed robbery against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt is negative.
“It is of profound importance that the victim was not a witness in court and did not make a statement to the police either at Ajah Police Station or State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) Panti.
“Further, the prosecution’s sole witness stated that they recovered two home-made pistols and two GSM telephones that were not exhibited.
“In the circumstance of this case, I find that the production or otherwise of the weapons in evidence is of importance as the case of the prosecution is so slight, it need all possible hedging.
“The non-production of weapons are in my opinion, indicative of the fact that there was no armed robbery.”
Dismissing the purported confessional statement of the defendants, Justice Adebajo said: “There is no sufficient evidence before the court and I am of the opinion that in the course of the defendants’ incarceration at the police stations, they suffered gunshot wounds and the first defendant was further tortured. No statement that purports to be confessional would stand in the light of police brutality.
“I am satisfied that there is an absence of sufficient evidence against the defendants such as to live the court convinced that they had taken part in any crime.
“I find the defendants not guilty of the offences for which they were charged. The charge against the defendants is dismissed. They are discharged and acquitted,” Justice Adebajo said.
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