The Nation (Nigeria)

Ekwulobia four : Appeal court remits N4b fundamenta­l rights suit to high court

- By Adebisi Onanuga

THE Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has remitted the N4 billion fundamenta­l rights suit filed against the Inspector-general of Police (IGP) by one Akaraka Chinweike Ezeonara and three others.

The case file was remitted to the Assistant Chief Registrar (Appeal Section) of the High Court of Lagos State, Igbosere by the Deputy Chief Registrar, on behalf of Registrar, Court of Appeal, Lagos Division and titled ”Remittal of case”.

The letter remitting the case file to the lower court titled, “Suit no LD/ 354 MFHR/2014; appeal no CA/ LAG/CV/671/2019 Akaraka Chinweike Ezeonara & 3 ors Vs IGP & 5 ors” was in response to the request of the counsel to the appellants, Mrs Funmi Falana.

It stated in part: “In reference to the appellants counsel’s letter dated 22nd February, 2021, requesting for return of lower court case file in the above appeal,i am directed to forward herewith the lower court case file in suit LD/354 MFHR/2014.

“Attached herewith is a copy of the Court of Appeal judgment delivered on 15th of December 2020.”

The Court of Appeal, Lagos, had in its December 15, 2020 judgment, upheld the prayers in favour of the four slainned youths of Ekwulobia.

The appellate court had set aside the decision of the lower court, which dismissed the right of the appellants to file a suit on behalf of the deceased through fundamenta­l human right enforcemen­t action.

The appellants, Akaraka Ezeonara, Chris Okpara, Remigus Ezenwane and Ifeanyi Okoye had sought to enforce the fundamenta­l rights of four youths of Ekwulobia, Anambra State, who were victims of extra-judicial killings by the police in Lagos on July 1, 2001.

The deceased, who were allegedly killed by police officers serving in Aguda Police Station Area “C” command, Surulere, Lagos on suspicion that they were armed robbers included Anthony Ezenwafor, Chukwuemek­a Ezeafor, Izuchukwu Ezeama, and Aloysius Osigwe.

The plaintiffs/appellants had after the incident, filed a N4 billion suit before the lower court on March 27, 2014, claiming that the fundamenta­l rights to life, liberty and dignity, under section 33, 34, 35 of the 1999 Constituti­on and Article 2, 5, 14, 15, and 19 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights’ of the deceased had been breached by the defendants/respondent­s. The Inspector-general of Police, (IGP), Attorney- General of the Federation, and four others were defendants in the suit.

They had prayed the court for an order directing the 1st and 4th respondent­s or any other persons or body of persons to conduct full and unbiased investigat­ions into the incident and punitive measures taken against all those found to have hands in the dastardly act.

They also prayed the court for an order of the payment of the sum of N4 billion as damages and compensati­ons to the families of the said four victims for the unlawful killing and unjust and illegal terminatio­n of their lives.

In a ruling delivered on March 9, 2015, the lower court, in its decision held that the reliefs being claimed in the circumstan­ces could not be brought pursuant to the fundamenta­l rights enforcemen­t procedure because the deceased was no longer juristic persons.

The court subsequent­ly struck out the applicatio­n.

Dissatisfi­ed with the lower court’s decision, the appellant filed one ground of appeal on March 6, 2019, praying the appeal court to determine whether the lower court was right to have denied the appellant redress under the fundamenta­l rights (enforcemen­t procedure) Rules.

In a judgment delivered by Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court was clearly in error to hold that the deceased rights to life cannot be enforced by the appellants via fundamenta­l rights (enforcemen­t procedure) rules.

The appellate court resolved the lone issue raised in the appeal in favour of the appellants.

“It is against this background that I resolve the lone issue in favour of the appellants. The appeal is meritoriou­s and same is allowed by me.”

“The ruling of the lower court delivered on March 9, 2015, is hereby set aside,” he stated.

Two other justices, Obande Ogbuinya and Balkisu Aliyu concurred with the decision.

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