Sequel to the persistent failure of the 2nd Respondents (officers of 34 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Obinze, Imo State) to appear before the Imo State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Police Brutality and Related Extrajudicial Killings, SPACES FOR CHANGE’s | S4C’s Legal Officer, Kingsley Ogam-Okafor, Esq. moved a motion on February 1, to foreclose the 2nd Respondents’ right to cross-examine the Petitioner and her witnesses and adopted the final address in respect of the matter. S4C is continuing to provide legal representation to the victims of extrajudicial killings that followed the #EndSARS protests at Nwaorieubi in Mbaitoli Local Government Area, Imo State.
At the February 1 hearing, Mrs. A’s matter was the first to be called up for hearing in respect of her late husband shot dead by the officers of 34 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Obinze, Imo State. At the last hearing held on December 8, the Judicial Commission had granted the 2nd Respondents one more adjournment to enable them respond to the petitioners’ claims. Again, they failed to appear before the panel after repeated service of summons and hearing notices on them. S4C then applied that the 2nd Respondent’s right to cross-examine the witnesses and the petitioner be foreclosed since the 2nd Respondent has neither entered an appearance nor filed any defence in the matter.
S4C further sought to adopt the final address to enable the Commission conclude hearing on the matter and adjourn for recommendations. The Commission’s counsel submitted that all that the legal requirements of fair hearing in respect of the 2nd Respondent has been satisfied. He added that the failure and refusal of the 2nd Respondent to appear before the Commission or file a response amounts to the petitioner’s case being uncontroverted, unchallenged and therefore the Commission is bound to adjudge same as proved.
Delivering the ruling, the chairman of the Commission, Hon Justice Duruoha-Igwe (Rtd), ruled that institutions of state are not above the law and that the refusal of the 2nd Respondent to appear before the Commission was a bad omen that should not be tolerated in a lawful society. Accordingly, the 2nd Respondent’s right to cross-examine the witnesses and to open their defence was foreclosed. A consequential order granting leave to S4C to deliver the final address was also made.
Addressing the Commission on the merits of the petition, particularly the egregious violations of the right to life resulting from the conduct of the 2nd Respondent, S4C adopted the final address dated 12th of January 2021 and demanded compensation in the sum of One Hundred Million Naira (N100, 000,000.00) in favour of Mrs. A for the wrongful death of her husband. S4C also asked the Commission to take further steps to identify the officers responsible for the killing and bring them to justice. After the final address, the matter was adjourned for final recommendations to the Governor of Imo State.