Police authorities, during an #EndSARS panel’s hearing, in Abuja, on Monday, denied liability for the killing of a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) reportedly shot by a police officer in July 2018.
Twenty-three-year-old Linda Igwetu was allegedly shot by a police officer identified as Benedict Peters around Ceddi Plaza, in the central area of Abuja, on July 4, 2018, the day she was meant to conclude her national service.
Her sister, Chinenye Igwetu, who petitioned the #EndSARS panel in Abuja, said she was shot while returning home from where she had gone to celebrate her successful completion of the scheme with her colleagues.
“I want justice for my sister. I want my family to be compensated, even though no amount of money can bring my sister back,” Chinenye had told the panel.
The Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police (IGP), Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, through their lawyers, denied liability for the killing at the hearing of the case by the #EndSARS panel in Abuja on Monday.
#EndSARS panel is the common name given to the various panels of inquiry set up in about 28 states and Abuja to probe cases of rights violations and brutality perpetrated by the operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and other police tactical units.
That of Abuja, an 11-man Independent Investigative Panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), resumed sitting on Monday after lack of funding crippled it for over six months.
The petition on the killing of Linda Igwetu was one of the first cases heard by the panel headed by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, on Monday.
Addressing the panel, police lawyer, Fidelis Ogwobe said the IGP and the FCT police commissioner “cannot be vicariously held liable” for Linda’s death.
Mr Ogwobe urged the panel to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the man accused of the killing, Benedict Peters, a former police inspector, “is being tried for culpable homicide” at the FCT High Court in Maitama.
The police challenged the jurisdiction of the Abuja #EndSARS panel to entertain the petition on the killing.
Chinenye, the petitioner, asked for compensation of N250 million for the alleged murder of her sister by the police.
Pwadumdi Okoh, the petitioner’s lawyer, objected to the call by police authorities for the dismissal of the case.
She insisted that police authorities were “vicariously liable” since Mr Peters was at the checkpoint where he shot the deceased “as an agent of the IGP and the Commissioner of Police”.
Subsequently, the panel adjourned the matter for report of the progress made in the criminal trial of the accused police officer.
Family of slain member seeks N200 million compensation
The petition filed by the family of one Festus Idehen allegedly killed extra-judicially by the police in 2016 came up for hearing on Monday.
The family seeks to be awarded N200 million for the killing.
Counsel for the family, Kuyik Usoro, while presenting his final address to the panel on Monday, said justice must be seen to be done in what he said was a clear case of violation of the right to life of Mr Idehen by the police.
Police lawyer, Umoh Inah, said he could not file his reply address because he was served the complainant’s address late.
The panel chairman, Mr Galadima, directed the lawyer to the police to present his written address unfailingly on October 20.
Meanwhile, the officer in charge of the FCT Police legal department, James Idachaba, said many of the legal officers of the force who were handing the various petitions retired during the panel’s protracted hiatus.
“My Lord, we seek the panel’s indulgence for a short adjournment to enable us put our house in order, because most of the lawyers handling petitions at this tribunal have retired during the (#EndSARS panel break in Abuja),” Mr Idachaba said.
Meanwhile, counsel for the police, Malik Taiwo, who handles the case of alleged unlawful arrest and detention of Mustapha Sabo, could not present his address because he was also said to have been served the complainant’s address late.
Godwin Ijeoma, who is in charge of the case of alleged extra-judicial killing of Kenneth Ummunna, was said to have retired from the force.
Mr Galadima directed the head of the police legal team, Mr Idachaba, to take over the matter and respond to the addresses by the complainants.
The case was adjourned till November 1.
The federal and state governments resolved to set up the #EndSARS panels following the #EndSARS anti-police brutality protest which held for weeks in many cities in the country in October last year.
Organisers have been mobilising to mark the first year anniversary of the historic protest on October 20, which will be exactly one year peaceful protesters participating in the #EndSARS demonstrations at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State, were shot at by soldiers.
Authorities, including federal and state governments, had warned against the protest. But responses from the organisers have been that of defiance.
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