A human rights organisation, Centre for Human and Socio-Economic Rights (CHSR), has accused the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and the Directorate of Public Prosecution of covering up the prosecution of a police officer who allegedly killed two unarmed citizens in Makoko in 2018.
At a press conference on Friday, Alex Omotehinse, the president of CHSR, said the police officer, Seun Awolu (alias Ijaya), attached to Adekunle Division, shot at unarmed persons at a church in Makoko in 2018, killing two and injuring others.
The incident happened during an enforcement exercise by the Lagos State Task Force on land grabbing at Christ Apostolic Church, Ori Oke, Makoko, which was authorised by Jide Bakare, the then chairperson of the task force.
Mr Omotehinse said despite the investigation and the legal advice by the DPP for the prosecution of the identified officer, there is no record of him in court.
Witnesses of the incident, human rights activists, and other concerned individuals were present at the press conference.
In a copy of the legal advice issued in 2019, which PREMIUM TIMES obtained, the ministry of justice said it was set to prosecute the officer for manslaughter.
“After carefully considering the facts available in the duplicate case file, this office is of the considered opinion that there are sufficient facts to establish a prima facie case of Manslaughter contrary to Section 225 of the Criminal Law, Ch. C17, Vol. 3 Laws of Lagos State, 2015 is disclosed against the page B3 SEUN AWOLU A.KA IJAYA,” the advice reads in part.
Mr Omotehinse said all attempts to get the charge number or the court where the alleged officer was charged to have failed, as the ministry of justice was not coming forth with details, which suggested a cover-up.
On May 10, 2018, Mr Bakare, the former chairperson of the Lagos State task force on land grabbing, mobilised and led a team of armed officers to the Apostle Church Ori-Oke Alala Temidire in the Makoko area of Yaba LCDA, to execute an order.
According to the narration of witnesses, during the invasion of the church, police officers started shooting sporadically into the community and unleashed violence on the Ori-Oke Alala Temidire Makoko. Two persons died from bullets shot by the officers during the incident.
The invasion also resulted in injuries, displacement of thousands of residents, destruction of properties worth millions of naira, and the community church, which was burnt to the ground.
Mr Omotehinse said two residents, Kolawole Iwalokun and Seyi Akintimehin, were murdered by a trigger-happy officer identified as Seun Awolu.
Following the incident, the church and a lawyer wrote petitions to the then Commissioner of Police, Edgar Imohimi, and called for the investigation of the incident and prosecution of erring officers.
Reacting to the petitions, Mr Imohimi, on May 15, 2018, said all police officers in the unit that went on the assignment had been brought to State Headquarters for proper investigation.
“As a first step, the head of the policemen who ordered the police to the assignment and who incidentally is the head of the Anti-Kidnapping unit has been relieved of his appointment to give way for impartial investigation.
“Also, a letter of investigation had been sent to the head of Land grabbers unit at the Ministry of Justice and he has given his statement as to the assignment and what transpired.
“We are also in the process of obtaining statements from the leadership of the church and other witnesses,” he said.
Despite assuring members of the public that “investigation would be thorough and anyone found guilty of abuse of power would be penalised,” the group said Mr Imohimi did not take any action against the officers.
On May 19, 2018, dozens of residents of Ori Oke, Makoko, marched to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), to protest the killings and destruction of property by police officers.
The Deputy Common of Police in charge of SCID, Panti, Yetunde Longe, told the protesters that the state command did not send or approve the team of police officers to the said operation.
She told the protesters that the officers identified to be at the scene of the violence had been arrested and investigation was on-going and the command could not rest until justice prevail.
In a similar vein, residents of the community on March 23, 2018, marched to the Government House, Alausa to submit a petition to the governor and speaker of the Lagos state house of assembly on the incident.
A petition was also written to the Inspector-General of Police on the incident.
Mr Omotehinse said in November 2018, the policemen from the FCIID Alagbon invited the leadership of the church that their petition to the IGP has been approved and assigned to them for investigation.
After obtaining the statements of the leaders and inviting the alleged persons, police personnel at FCIID Alagbon said they had forwarded the case file to the DPP for advice.
Mr Omotehinse said to the surprise of the families of the victims, the police did not communicate the progress of the matter, which led them to write the Attorney-General of Lagos state on the matter.
“In their response dated 4th February 2021 signed by O.A. Alagbe a state counsel states that he was directed to inform us that the legal advice in respect of the matter had been written by their office and information has been dispatch for filling at the high court for the prosecution of the matter that our organization may apply to the office for the certified true copies (CTC) of the said legal advice.
“Based on the response from the office of the DPP, we applied for the certified true copy of the legal advice, and a certified true copy of a supplementary legal advice dated 20th January 2021 was given to us which shows that legal advice on the matter has been truly issued since on 3rd September 2019 where they stated that the office shall prosecute Seun Awolu (aka Ijaya) for the offence of manslaughter,” Mr Omotehinse said.
Stating some of the facts that led to the decision to prosecute Mr Awolu, the DPP said he “admitted he carried a rifle and did not book it and also did not know the amount of ammunitions in the said AK47 rifle he carried without booking.”
The DPP said there was no prima facie evidence against the seven other persons named in the case, including Mr Bakare, a director at the Ministry of Justice, who led the team.
Mr Omotehinse said despite the legal advice, the ministry of justice has refused to charge the culprits.
“There is no record to show that the DPP is ready to prosecute these evildoers. All efforts to get the file number from the DPP office had proved abortive. By this action and inactions, it shows that the DPP office has compromised.
“The fact remains that the Ministry of Justice is only trying all within his capacity to kill this case because it involved one of their senior officers who happened to be the former chairman of the Lagos State task force on land grabber an agency under the ministry of justice,” Mr Omotehinse said.
The group called for an urgent prosecution of the indicted officers.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Grace Alo, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice over the allegation, she said the reporter should “do a letter to the DPP’s office for the above request.”
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999