The coroner’s inquest into the cause of death of Ademola Aderinto continued at the Ikeja Magistrate Court on Wednesday with the police giving conflicting accounts of what transpired on January 9 when the protester was shot.
The inquest was initiated by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Access to Justice, a human rights group, following the death of Mr. Aderinto, 27.
Tajudeen Elias, the chief coroner, adjourned proceedings until April 25 for another police witness.
Counsel to Access to Justice, C.R Chibueze, described the police witness as one who “is not a witness of truth.”
Mrs. Chibueze also wondered why despite the plethora of evidence at their disposal – a post mortem report, statements from victims, and photographs – the police are still investigating the incident three months later.
Olumide Alagbe, the investigating police officer for the case, told the court that one unused bullet was recovered when he visited the scene of the shooting on January 10.
During cross examination by Yinka Farounbi, counsel to the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. Alagbe said that “no exhibit was recovered” from the scene.
At the previous sitting, Mr. Alagbe, who said he was testifying from the statement of Segun Fabunmi, the Divisional Police Officer who allegedly shot the deceased, claimed that the seven police officers who answered the distress call at the Yaya Abatan area were attacked with stones and bottles by about 200 people.
When asked how many of the exhibits used in the attack were recovered by the police, Mr. Alagbe said: “None. I visited the scene on the second day, on the 10th. They (LAWMA sweepers) have swept the place.”
When further asked the nature of the repairs done on their patrol van after the attack and how many officers were injured, Mr. Alagbe replied that the “body of the car” was repaired but that there was no photo of the vehicle before the repairs.
“There was no chance for me to snap the damaged vehicle…
Mr. Alagbe, who has spent 20 years in the police force, also gave conflicting answers on how many police officers were hospitalized after the alleged attack by the youths.
At the first cross examination by Mrs. Chibueze, Mr. Alagbe said that he had “no idea” of the number of officers injured after they were attacked with bottles and stones.
However, while answering questions from Mr. Farounbi, he said that the officers escaped from the attacks.
“We did not hospitalise any officer. They ran for their dear lives. If they had stayed, they could have been macheted and we’d have recorded more casualties,” said Mr. Alagbe, a police Inspector.
Mr. Alagbe emphasized that Mr. Fabunmi, a Chief Superintendent of Police, has been “properly detained” in police custody since the January incident.
On what offence Mr. Fabunmi had committed to be detained, Mr. Alagbe said that “it is left for the court to decide.”
He also declined to tell the court the outcome of the police preliminary investigation.
“We have forwarded the case file to the DPP (Directorate of Public Prosecution), they requested for it. If we had concluded our investigation before forwarding to the DPP, he would have been charged to court,” said Mr. Alagbe.
Mr. Farounbi, in summing up his cross examination, told Mr. Alagbe that he had been economical with the truth.
“You are here to fabricate lies of what happened to this honourable court,” Mr. Farounbi said.
While answering questions from Mrs. Chibueze, Mr. Alagbe reiterated that the police officers were only responding to a distress call sent to the station when they were attacked.
When asked “at what point the officers stepped out of their vehicle during the attack,” Mr. Alagbe was silent.
“That question look somehow,” he later said before adding that “they came down immediately.
On whether it was possible for an “uncorked gun to trigger off,” Mr. Alagbe said that it was not possible.
“It now means that the DPO was ready to shoot the citizens when he got there,” said Mrs. Chibueze.
Cyril Ejiofor, the police attorney, promptly objected to that line of questioning.
The atmosphere in the court was relaxed, with Mr. Alagbe sometimes cutting an agitated figure during questioning.
The police said they would present their next witness, the officer who received the distress call on January 9, at the next adjourned date.