Army fails to produce witnesses at inquest of man allegedly killed by soldiers

Nigerian Army

The army counsel said all the soldiers involved in the alleged crime have been transferred.


The coroner’s inquest into the death of Adewale Olupitan-Hassan, who was allegedly attacked by soldiers in Lagos, continued on Wednesday, with the army saying that their witnesses “are not reachable.”

“Those who are supposed to be here, who knew about the incident are not reachable for now,” said A.E Airende, who represented the Chief of Army Staff, Onyeabo Ihejirika, and the Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Raphael Isa.

The two army chiefs had ignored the coroner’s order to appear before him last month to explain their roles in the death of Mr. Olupitan-Hassan, a retired director at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.

They did not also send a lawyer to represent them, forcing the coroner to advise that their summons be advertised in newspapers.

At the last adjourned date earlier this month, the army chiefs sent their legal representatives.

However, the court failed to sit.

Mr. Airende said that while the parties concerned (Messrs Ihejirika and Isa) reside in Abuja; the witnesses have largely been moved out of the state.

I.I Peter, a Captain, is in Makurdi; Haruna Umar, a Lance Corporal, has gone for a course at the School of Supply and Transport, Benin; Stephen Ajih, a Sergeant, has been attached with the PHCN; according to Mr. Airende.

“Sergeant Ajih is attached to the high tension patrol in Ajah but he is hardly in Lagos, they are constantly on patrol,” Mr. Airende further said.

“The only one that could have been available is one Emmanuel Ali, the personal driver to the General Officer Commanding 81 Division, but he’s not,” Mr. Airende added.

The soldiers’ counsel asked the court to adjourn to November 28, to enable him assemble the witnesses for cross examination.

Tajudeen Elias, the coroner, said that the date is “a bit too far.”

“Inquest is not something that should take a longer time, it is not to apportion blames to parties,” said Mr. Elias. “It is to come out with findings to prevent similar occurrences in the future,” the coroner added.

The counsel to the deceased’s family, Chukwuyem Atewe, described the soldiers’ position as “rather surprising.”

“Within a space of 2 – 3 months, all of the soldiers involved in the incident have been dispatched out of the state,” Mr. Atewe said.

Mr. Elias fixed November 14 for Mr. Atewe to cross examine his witnesses and November 28 for the army witnesses to be cross examined.

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