A PRESSS CONFERENCE ON THE EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING OF MR SAMUEL IMAIKOP AND THREE OTHERS BY THE POLICE IN EDO STATE

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December 18, 2013

WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR ‘THE UTE 4’ AND AN END TO EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS IN NIGERIA

TEXT OF

A PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING OF MR SAMUEL IMAIKOP AND THREE OTHERS BY THE POLICE IN EDO STATE

Ladies and gentlemen of the media,

Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) and Edo State Human Rights Community welcome you very warmly to this press conference.

We are all already too familiar with the extrajudicial killing in Benin City, the Edo State capital of Mr. Samuel Imaikop (42), a farmer and three labourers he hired to work in his farm at Ute village in Edo State on November 24, 2013.

We wish to make a clarification at the onset that our initial petitions and reports on this case referred to ‘Ute 5’ referring to Mr. Samuel Imaikop and four others. However, our later findings reveal that those killed with Mr. Samuel Imaikop were actually three not four. We found that the fourth person among the initial ‘four others’ paraded by the police was not at all connected with Mr. Samuel and three others killed along with him by the police. That fourth person was an ‘armed robbery suspect’ held in police custody long before the murder and parade of the dead bodies of Mr. Samuel and the three farmers who were with him in his bus on their way to his farm at Ute village. The police accosted them along the Benin Bye pass, murdered them in cold blood and tagged them armed robbers. Therefore, we now refer to this case as ‘the Ute 4’, reminiscent of the 2006 case of the ‘Apo 6’ in Abuja.

You are also aware that despite widespread doubts about the police account of this tragic incident and the strident calls for proper investigation to determine the actual circumstances leading to the killing of ‘the Ute 4’, the Commissioner of Police, Edo State Police Command, has continued to labour in vain rehashing the same story in his effort to drive it down the throat of the public that the four men they killed were armed robbers. It is very disturbing how senior police officers continue to defend the murder of innocent citizens even when they know the truth or even when they later find out that their subordinate officers in the field have misinformed and misled them.

It is no longer a matter of conjecture that the police in their bid to advertise their efficiency in fighting crime, or in their bid to regain public confidence, go out of their way to kill innocent people and parade them as armed robbers. In some other cases, they act out of revenge after the killing of their men. In few known cases when the police have killed in error, they still go about trying to malign their innocent victims instead of admitting their error and doing the needful. They do this in a bid to ‘protect the image of the police’.

We are happy that in this current case, a Coroner’s Court sitting in Benin presided over by Mr. F. E. N. Igbinosa has ordered the Edo State Police to exhume the bodies of the four victims and to produce them immediately for examination by medical experts other than the police pathologists to ascertain the actual cause of their death. The Magistrate however said that police pathologists could be part of the examination. We note the emphasis on independent investigation. And this should be of great significance to the police. The police cannot constitute themselves into the accuser, prosecutor, judge and executioner, all at once, as they often do.

We note that the police prosecutor, Inspector Adah John had, during the hearing asked the court for more time to prepare for the case. We are happy that the Coroner did not grant the police this request which was a mere time-buying strategy to allow the dead bodies to decompose and for them to further destroy evidence. We are aware that the police were duly and properly served notices of summons, but in their usual trick came arguing for delay of the hearing when it is human bodies which are subject to decomposition.

NOPRIN, ANEEJ and Edo State Human Rights Community join the poor and helpless family members of the victims to call on the Edo State Police to immediately comply with the order of the Coroner Court as soon as they are served and ensure immediate exhumation of the dead bodies before they decompose and evidence destroyed.

All of us as citizens must take interest in this case and help to impress it on the police and political authorities to ensure that they put an end to rampant police killings of citizens. If we allow this case to go unchallenged without the killers brought to account, the lives of every one of us will remain at risk in the hands of those paid through our tax and commonwealth to protect us and our properties.

As we noted in our petition to the IGP, we are concerned that this recent killing is one killing too many of similar cases of reckless police killings that have taking place in Edo State in recent times. In our petition to the IGP dated December 8, 2013, we called on the IGP to ensure a thorough investigation that will lead to redress for the victims’ families and accountability for the police officers responsible.

We commend the Coroner for the order on the police to exhume the dead bodies. It is very important that the truth be unravelled and justice done. Part of that justice will be to ensure that innocent men killed unjustly must be accorded the cultural right to decent and befitting burial by their families.

We hereby reiterate our call on the police to comply with the order of court for immediate exhumation of the dead bodies for thorough investigation to ascertain the actual circumstances and truth surrounding the killing of Samuel Imaikop and three others. There must be legal consequences for this murder, including redress and accountability.

Thank you for your attention.

Okechukwu Nwanguma

Program and Advocacy Coordinator

NOPRIN Foundation

Phone: 234 08064974531

David Ugolor

Executive Director

African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)

Kola Edokpayi

For: Edo State Human Rights Community

BACKGROUND TO THE NOVEMBER 24 KILLING IN BENIN, EDO STATE.

Mr Samuel Imaikop (42) a farmer from Nsital LGA of Akwa Ibom State and resident in Benin City was married with two wives and 7 children. His second wife is pregnant.

According to information from the late Samuel Imaikop’s family members which were corroborated by witnesses, on Sunday November 24, 2013 at about 9 am, Samuel, along with three casual labourers he hired to work for him in his farm, were shot dead by police officers at a check point along Benin Bye-Pass.

The dead bodies of the four men were dumped at the back of a white police Hillux van and driven to the Edo Sate Police Headquarters on Sapele Road, Benin City. The late Samuel’s Nissan bus was driven by a policeman following behind the police van to the Edo State Police Headquarters.

Prior to the incident, the late Samuel had left his house that morning to deliver bundles of firewood loaded in his bus to his customer at Cemetery road. After this, he drove to ‘2 plus 2’ (a location where casual labourers stand and wait to be hired for daily labour) and picked up three labourers to work for him in his farm at Ute community.

The Family’s Account

The late Samuel Imaikop’s relatives informed NOPRIN that their late brother was a farmer. The day before the incident- Saturday 23 November, he went to his farm at Ute community in Edo State with one of his younger brothers and the three labourers whom he picked up at ‘2 plus 2’ and engaged for a pay to clear some portions of his farm. He had bargained with the three labourers and they agreed on the price of 25 thousand naira for the clearing of the farm.

Later in the evening, the deceased Mr. Samuel drove the labourers back with an understanding to pick them up again the next day to go and complete the job.

The deceased was also a supplier of fire woods to some restaurants in town. On that evening at the farm, he loaded some firewood in his bus to be supplied the next day to one of his customers. He dropped off the three hired labourers and drove home with the firewood.

On Sunday morning, the day of the tragic incident, he first went and supplied the firewood at ‘Madam Spot’ a restaurant somewhere along Cemetery road, Benin. He was supplying the woman firewood two times in a week.

Having dropped the firewood, he stopped over again at ‘2 plus 2’ and picked up the same three labourers to go and complete their job in the farm. On their way to the farm, somewhere at Benin By-pass, some police officers opened fire at them, killing all the four men in Mr. Samuel’s bus. The police officers loaded the dead bodies of the four men into their van and drove to the office of the SARS at the State Police Headquarters.

At the Police Headquarters, the bodies of the four men were dumped on the ground and displayed publicly as armed robbers with some weapons displayed as exhibits recovered from them. Another ‘armed robbery suspect’ still conscious but bleeding and writhing in pains, but not connected with the dead four was also paraded along with the four and made to confess as being a member of the ‘robbery gang’ including the four.

EDO STATE POLICE CLAIMS- UNCLEAR AND DOUBTFUL

It is not clear how the police arrived at the judgement or conclusion that the killed men were armed robbers. There was no evidence that they were shot during a robbery operation or that they had a tip off or prior information about them and then laid in wait for them.

The police have not convinced the family of Samuel Imaikop and members of the public about their claim that those men were armed robbers. Instead, they resorted to intimidation by subjecting the late Samuel’s immediate younger brother- Pastor Ime Imaikop Brownson to brutality, detention and cruel and dehumanising treatment for daring to come to the station to inquire about his dead brother.

Considering the hazy circumstances surrounding this particular incident, and recalling previous similar cases, there is serious doubt in the minds of the public about the claim by the police that these men were armed robbers. The family members of late Samuel Imaikop insist that their brother and husband was not an armed robber.

POLICE BRUTALISE VICTIM’S BROTHER- PASTOR IME IMAIKOP BROWNSON

Pastor Ime Imaikop Brownson, the immediate younger brother to the deceased Samuel Imaikop, upon hearing about the incident of police carrying dead bodies in their van and his brother’s bus being driven by a policeman and following the police truck behind, he traced the police and the dead bodies to the State Police Headquarters where he identified his brother among the dead. He was shocked and immediately fell down crying.

Some policemen pounced on him and began to beat him accusing him of being one of the armed robbers. They dragged him inside the police station and one of the policemen emptied a bag of salt on his head while others were matching on him as he lay flat on the ground at the police station crying in grief. He was pleading with the police to ‘forgive’ him, telling them that he was not a robber and that his brother was a farmer and not a robber. They kept beating him as he knelt down and continued to plead, saying he thought that his brother was involved in an accident. After a while, an Inspector came and asked that his statement be obtained and thereafter, he should be put in the cell. Later again, the Inspector came back and asked the officer taking his statement to stop taking his statement. He was later put in the cell with a threat that any other person who comes to see him or to inquire about any of the dead ones will also be detained. He remained in detention from that Sunday November 24 to Thursday November 28 and neither ate food nor drank water. His detention was not recorded in the crime register.

The next day, when his wife came with a lawyer, he was brought out and asked to complete making his statement, after which he was sent back to the cell. His wife was not allowed to see him or give him food.

The next day again, his wife came back with another lawyer whom the police drove away. His wife was also not allowed to see him. Then his wife later came back with another lawyer- Barrister Afolabi who eventually secured his release on the fifth day. He has since then been sick.

The late Samuel Imaikop’s bus is still parked at the police station. There is need to examine the bus to see if there’s evidence of gunshots (bullet holes) on the bus.

WRONGFUL POLICE INVESTIGATION PROCEDURE

There is every reason to doubt the claim by the police that these men were armed robbers. Similar claims in the recent past about similar killings by the police have turned out to be false. The police always circumvent the due process of investigation into such incidents. In this case, as in previous cases of extrajudicial killing, a Coroner’s inquiry into the cause of death has not been initiated as required under the law. It is also suspected that the police have hurriedly buried the dead bodies without allowing for proper investigation, including an autopsy.

The motive for this unlawful police killing is not firmly established. But there is suspicion that the police may have carried out a reprisal for the killing of their colleagues along the Benin bypass about two weeks ago by suspected armed robbers.

INVOKING SAD MEMORIES FROM THE PAST

We recall the unresolved case of the Benin student whom the police killed and branded an armed robber. It took pressure from Civil Society groups in Benin before the police exhumed the body for examination. The examination proved the police wrong.

On May 27, 2013 a final year University of Benin Student, Ibrahim Momodu was shot dead by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ogida Police Station, Edo State, Mrs. Carol Afegbai, leading other members of her patrol team.

Although the police in Edo command claimed that late Ibrahim Momodu was killed while attempting to fire at the police, reports by the pathologists, who examined the remains of the late Ibrahim Momodu showed that he was shot from the back with three bullets, which torn his heart, before exiting through the upper part of his chest.

Ideally, the DPO and other suspected accomplices should have been subjected to orderly room trial, dismissed- if indicted, and arraigned in court for murder. However, the Edo State Police Commissioner, Mr. Folunsho Adebanjo redeployed the DPO and her orderly, according to him, ‘to have a smooth investigation’.

And, understandably, family members of the victim were suspicious of the motive of the police and insisted, through their lawyers that “the proper procedure for murder case is for the police after investigation to charge the suspects to court and thereafter, the court would order the duplication of the file to be sent to the office of DPP and not the other way round.’

We also recall the case of the Benin 5 who were arrested and branded kidnappers. The five young men: Mr. Chukwudi Eke, Mr. Chinedu, Mr. Ndubuisi Christian Nnalue, Mr. Godswill Chigbo and Isidielu Uche Onwuesi were summarily executed on October 16, 2010.

The chronicle of events leading to the extrajudicial killing of the five victims started with a minor traffic accident involving the Audi car of one of the victims, late Mr. Chukwudi Eke and a Golf 3 with registration number AG 785 SLK car belonging to one Victor Okakah who was in the company of his wife.

Chukwudi was carrying his friend and another victim late Mr. Chinedu in his car when the accident occurred at the popular Ramat Park, Benin, Edo State at about 6: 30 p.m. on Thursday, October 14, 2010. Others were arrested when they came to inquire about Chukwudi- their friend and brother, detained and executed along with him.

The Edo police authorities claimed that all the five victims ‘died when they and the police officers that went to effect arrest of their kingpin and a leader of the gang and to further recover their sophisticated weapons were ambushed by their gang members with heavy sporadic shooting which led to injury of the deceased….’ ‘That due to serious injuries of the deceased and on the way to the hospital for treatment gave up the ghost…’

Notably, not a single one among the police officers in the team had a scratch from the ‘heavy sporadic shooting which led to injury’ only of the suspects. The police killed them within two days of their arrest and detention. This was not enough time to conclude a thorough and exhaustive investigate of an alleged case of kidnapping. There was no effort on the part of the police to investigate the alleged kidnapping or to charge the suspects to court in accordance with due process. They were denied fair trial and fair hearing.

All the foregoing take our minds back to the outrageous ‘Apo 6’ killing of 2006. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, in his report, said: ‘if the Apo 6 were an isolated incident it would be a tragedy and a case of a few bad apples within the police force. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients – the false labelling of people as armed robbers, the shooting, the fraudulent placement of weapons, the attempted extortion of the victims’ families, the contempt for post mortem procedures, the falsified death certificates, and the flight of an accused senior police officer – are all too familiar occurrences.’

He further said in his report:

‘While armed robbery does plague much of Nigeria, the label of “armed robber” is very often used to justify the jailing and/or extrajudicial execution of innocent individuals who have come to the attention of the police for reasons ranging from a refusal to pay a bribe to insulting or inconveniencing the police’.

Even the federal government of Nigeria admits that the police do indeed improperly identify some—possibly many—of their victims as “armed robbers.” On December 17, 2005, in the wake of the Apo Six murders, then Minister for Police Affairs Alaowei Broderick Bozimo placed paid announcements in major Nigerian newspapers which read, in part:

‘It will be recalled that between the 7th and the 8th of June, 2005, we recorded a most bizarre encounter between some officers of the Nigeria Police Force and six youths at Gimbiya Street, Abuja. The incident culminated in the brutal killing of six civilians by the Police. On behalf of the Nigeria Police, Ministry of Police Affairs, and Federal Government, I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the deceased for the unfortunate Apo Six incident. . . .

Government has resolved, inter alia, as follows:

(i) that contrary to the earlier misinformation that the Apo Six victims were armed robbers, incontrovertible evidence shows that they were NOT ARMED ROBBERS. Government, therefore, exonerates the victims and apologizes to their families and in fact all Nigerians through this medium.

(ii) The statement came more than six months after the incident in question and only after the Justice Goodluck Commission recommended the prosecution of all the officers involved.

The prosecution of the police officers responsible for the ‘Apo 6’ killing has since been stalled by deliberate acts of the police.

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