NOPRIN CALLS ON EDO POLICE COMMAND TO ACCOUNT FOR THE KILLING OF THE ‘EDO 5’ KILLED UNDER SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES.
NOPRIN has received disturbing information concerning yet another extrajudicial killing in Edo State on November 24, 2013. Those killed this time are one Mr. Samuel Imaikop (42), a farmer and four labourers he hired to work in his farm. NOPRIN is investigating this recent killing and previous similar cases of reckless police killings in Edo State. This is with a view to unravelling and publicising the truths about these killings and following up to ensure that police authorities carry out thorough investigations that will lead to redress for the victims’ families and accountability for the police officers responsible.
The November 24 killing in Benin, Edo State.
Mr Samuel Imaikop (42) a farmer from Nsital LGA of Akwa Ibom State and resident in Benin City was married with two wives and 7 children. His second wife is pregnant.
According to information from the late Samuel Imaikop’s family members which were corroborated by witnesses, on Sunday November 24, 2013 at about 9 am, Samuel, along with four casual labourers he hired to work for him in his farm, were shot dead by police officers at a check point along Benin Bye-Pass.
The dead bodies of the five men were dumped at the back of a white police Hillux van and driven to the Edo Sate Police Headquarters on Sapele Road, Benin City. The late Samuel’s Nissan bus was driven by a policeman following behind the police van to the Edo State Police Headquarters.
Prior to the incident, the late Samuel had left his house that morning to deliver bundles of firewood loaded in his bus to his customer at Cemetery road. After this, he drove to ‘2 plus 2’ (a location where casual labourers stand and wait to be hired for daily labour) and picked up four labourers to work for him in his farm at Ute community.
The Family’s Account
The late Samuel Imaikop’s relatives informed NOPRIN that their late brother was a farmer. The day before the incident- Saturday 23 November, he went to his farm at Ute community in Edo State with one of his younger brothers and the four labourers whom he picked up at ‘2 plus 2’ and engaged for a pay to clear some portions of his farm. He had bargained with the four labourers and they agreed on the price of 25 thousand naira for the clearing of the farm.
Later in the evening, the deceased Mr. Samuel drove the labourers back with an understanding to pick them up again the next day to go and complete the job.
The deceased was also a supplier of fire woods to some restaurants in town. On that evening at the farm, he loaded some firewood in his bus to be supplied the next day to one of his customers.
He dropped off the four hired labourers and drove home with the firewood.
On Sunday morning, the day of the tragic incident, he first went and supplied the firewood at ‘Madam Spot’ a restaurant somewhere along Cemetery road, Benin. He was supplying the woman firewood two times in a week.
Having dropped the firewood, he stopped over again at ‘2 plus 2’ and picked up the same four labourers to go and complete their job in the farm. On their way to the farm, somewhere at Benin By-pass, some police officers opened fire at them, killing all the five men in Mr. Samuel’s bus. The police officers loaded the dead bodies of the five men into their van and drove to the office of the SARS at the State Police Headquarters.
At the Police Headquarters, the bodies of the five men were dumped on the ground and displayed publicly as armed robbers with some weapons displayed as exhibits recovered from them. One of the five shot men was still conscious but bleeding and writhing in pains at the time of their being paraded by the police.
Police claims; unclear and doubtful
It is not clear how the police arrived at the judgement or conclusion that the killed men were armed robbers. There was no evidence that they were shot during a robbery operation or that they had a tip off or prior information about them and then laid in wait for them.
The police have not convinced the family of Samuel Imaikop and members of the public about their claim that those men were armed robbers. Instead, they resorted to intimidation by subjecting the late Samuel’s immediate younger brother- Pastor Ime Imaikop Brownson to brutality, detention and cruel and dehumanising treatment for daring to come to the station to inquire about his dead brother.
Considering the hazy circumstances surrounding this particular incident, and recalling previous similar cases, there is serious doubt in the minds of the public about the claim by the police that these men were armed robbers. The family members of late Samuel Imaikop insist that their brother and husband was not an armed robber.
Police brutalise victim’s brother- Pastor Ime Imaikop Brownson
Pastor Ime Imaikop Brownson, the immediate younger brother to the deceased Samuel Imaikop, upon hearing about the incident of police carrying dead bodies in their van and his brother’s bus being driven by a policeman and following the police truck behind, he traced the police and the dead bodies to the State Police Headquarters where he identified his brother among the dead. He was shocked and immediately fell down crying.
Some policemen pounced on him and began to beat him accusing him of being one of the armed robbers. They dragged him inside the police station and one of the policemen emptied a bag of salt on his head while others were matching on him as he lay flat on the ground at the police station crying in grief. He was pleading with the police to ‘forgive’ him, telling them that he was not a robber and that his brother was a farmer and not a robber. They kept beating him as he knelt down and continued to plead, saying he thought that his brother was involved in an accident. After a while, an Inspector came and asked that his statement be obtained and thereafter, he should be put in the cell. Later again, the Inspector came back and asked the officer taking his statement to stop taking his statement. He was later put in the cell with a threat that any other person who comes to see him or to inquire about any of the dead ones will also be detained. He remained in detention from that Sunday November 24 to Thursday November 28 and neither ate food nor drank water. His detention was not recorded in the crime register.
The next day, when his wife came with a lawyer, he was brought out and asked to complete making his statement, after which he was sent back to the cell. His wife was not allowed to see him or give him food.
The next day again, his wife came back with another lawyer who was not allowed to see him. Then his wife later came back with another lawyer- Barrister Afolabi who eventually secured his release on the fifth day. He has since then been sick.
The late Samuel Imaikop’s bus is still parked at the police station. There is need to examine the bus to see if there’s evidence of gunshots (bullet holes) on the bus.
Wrongful police investigation procedure
There is every reason to doubt the claim by the police that these men were armed robbers. Similar claims in the recent past about similar killings by the police have turned out to be false. The police always circumvent the due process of investigation into such incidents. In this case, as in previous cases of extrajudicial killing, a Coroner’s inquiry into the cause of death has not been initiated as required under the law. It is also suspected that the police have hurriedly buried the dead bodies without allowing for proper investigation, including an autopsy.
The motive for this unlawful police killing is not firmly established. But there is suspicion that the police may have carried out a reprisal for the killing of their colleagues along the Benin bypass about two weeks ago by suspected armed robbers.
Invoking sad memories from the past
We recall the unresolved case of the Benin student whom the police killed and branded an armed robber. It took pressure from Civil Society groups in Benin before the police exhumed the body for examination. The examination proved the police wrong.
On May 27, 2013 a final year University of Benin Student, Ibrahim Momodu was shot dead by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ogida Police Station, Edo State, Mrs. Carol Afegbai, leading other members of her patrol team.
Although the police in Edo command claimed that late Ibrahim Momodu was killed while attempting to fire at the police, reports by the pathologists, who examined the remains of the late Ibrahim Momodu showed that he was shot from the back with three bullets, which torn his heart, before exiting through the upper part of his chest.
Ideally, the DPO and other suspected accomplices should have been subjected to orderly room trial, dismissed- if indicted, and arraigned in court for murder. However, the Edo State Police Commissioner, Mr. Folunsho Adebanjo redeployed the DPO and her orderly, according to him, ‘to have a smooth investigation’.
And, understandably, family members of the victim were suspicious of the motive of the police and insisted, through their lawyers that “the proper procedure for murder case is for the police after investigation to charge the suspects to court and thereafter, the court would order the duplication of the file to be sent to the office of DPP and not the other way round.’
We also recall the case of the Benin 5 who were arrested and branded kidnappers. The five young men: Mr. Chukwudi Eke, Mr. Chinedu, Mr. Ndubuisi Christian Nnalue, Mr. Godswill Chigbo and Isidielu Uche Onwuesi were summarily executed on October 16, 2010
The chronicle of events leading to the extrajudicial killing of the five victims started with a minor traffic accident involving the Audi car of one of the victims, late Mr. Chukwudi Eke and a Golf 3 with registration number AG 785 SLK car belonging to one Victor Okakah who was in the company of his wife.
Chukwudi was carrying his friend and another victim late Mr. Chinedu in his car when the accident occurred at the popular Ramat Park, Benin, Edo State at about 6: 30 pm. on Thursday, October 14, 2010. Others were arrested when they came to inquire about Chukwudi- their friend and brother, detained and executed along with him.
The Edo police authorities claimed that all the five victims ‘died when they and the police officers that went to effect arrest of their kingpin and a leader of the gang and to further recover their sophisticated weapons were ambushed by their gang members with heavy sporadic shooting which led to injury of the deceased….’ ‘That due to serious injuries of the deceased and on the way to the hospital for treatment gave up the ghost…’
Notably, not a single one among the police officers in the team had a scratch from the ‘heavy sporadic shooting which led to injury’ only of the suspects. The police killed them within two days of their arrest and detention. This was not enough time to conclude a thorough and exhaustive investigate of an alleged case of kidnapping. There was no effort on the part of the police to investigate the alleged kidnapping or to charge the suspects to court in accordance with due process. They were denied fair trial and fair hearing.
All the foregoing take our minds back to the outrageous ‘Apo 6’ killing of 2006. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, in his report, said: ‘if the Apo 6 were an isolated incident it would be a tragedy and a case of a few bad apples within the police force. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients – the false labelling of people as armed robbers, the shooting, the fraudulent placement of weapons, the attempted extortion of the victims’ families, the contempt for post mortem procedures, the falsified death certificates, and the flight of an accused senior police officer – are all too familiar occurrences.’
He further said in his report:
‘While armed robbery does plague much of Nigeria, the label of “armed robber” is very often used to justify the jailing and/or extrajudicial execution of innocent individuals who have come to the attention of the police for reasons ranging from a refusal to pay a bribe to insulting or inconveniencing the police’.
Even the federal government of Nigeria admits that the police do indeed improperly identify some—possibly many—of their victims as “armed robbers.” On December 17, 2005, in the wake of the Apo Six murders, then Minister for Police Affairs Alaowei Broderick Bozimo placed paid announcements in major Nigerian newspapers which read, in part:
‘It will be recalled that between the 7th and the 8th of June, 2005, we recorded a most bizarre encounter between some officers of the Nigeria Police Force and six youths at Gimbiya Street, Abuja. The incident culminated in the brutal killing of six civilians by the Police. On behalf of the Nigeria Police, Ministry of Police Affairs, and Federal Government, I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the deceased for the unfortunate Apo Six incident. . . .
Government has resolved, inter alia, as follows:
(i) that contrary to the earlier misinformation that the Apo Six victims were armed robbers, incontrovertible evidence shows that they were NOT ARMED ROBBERS. Government, therefore, exonerates the victims and apologizes to their families and in fact all Nigerians through this medium.
The statement came more than six months after the incident in question and only after the Justice Goodluck Commission recommended the prosecution of all the officers involved
The prosecution of the police officers responsible for the ‘Apo 6’ killing has since been stalled by deliberate acts of the police.
NOPRIN calls for a thorough investigation to ascertain the actual circumstances and truth surrounding the killing of Samuel Imaikop and four others.
This thorough investigation must include an autopsy and a Coroner’s inquiry to ascertain how and why they were killed. There must be legal consequences for this murder, including redress and accountability