The police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Thursday, responded to allegations that its officers extra-judicially killed two detained kidnap suspects.
In a counter affidavit filed before Justice Yetunde Idowu of the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, the police said that the suspects died of gunshot wounds after their gang members opened fire on them as the police tried to raid their den.
Mrs. Idowu had fixed June 6 to rule on whether to jail Umar Manko, the Lagos State Police Commissioner, and two other officers for disobeying a court order directing them to produce Philip Tomi and Joel Wolomo.
The court had, last February, ordered Mr. Manko; Officer in Charge of SARS, Jerry, a Superintendent of Police; and the Investigating Police Officer, Eric Akinmuyisitan, to bring the suspects to court after their lawyer filed a suit seeking their release.
The duo was arrested by the police on September 13, 2012, at Cynergy Hotel, Ibeju Lekki, for allegedly kidnapping a 46-year-old man, Abayomi Alaka.
Three days later, the duo was allegedly taken into police custody at the SARS office, Ikeja, from where they were paraded before journalists.
On Thursday, Friday Igbinosa, the police counsel, appearing for the first time in the suit filed a motion urging the court to vacate the order it made in February. He also prayed the court to set aside the order compelling the state’s police commissioner and his colleagues to appear before it.
Killed in crossfire
Since the court began sitting in January, no lawyer had ever represented the police.
In his statement, Mr. Akinmuyisitan, a Police Sergeant, said that the suspects were arrested at about 10.30 p.m. after a GSM call informed the police at Akodo Division that a gang of three suspected kidnappers were lodging at the hotel.
Mr. Akinmuyisitan said that after the three, including one Raymond Urueshe, were arrested, they confessed to being armed robbers and kidnappers.
“Philip Tomi confessed to have taken part in series of armed robbery and kidnapping of people while armed with AK 47 rifles and thereafter collect huge sums of monies from their victims,” the police sergeant said.
The suspects admitted to kidnapping Mr. Alaka and another Indian national and collecting N5 million and N3 million from them respectively, according to the police.
The police said that following the suspects’ confessions, they travelled to Sapele and Warri in Delta State where one Austine Asinomo, also a gang member, was arrested while the others escaped.
Mr. Akinmuyisitan said that the suspects agreed to take the police to their hideout at the Eleko Beach area to apprehend their leaders named: Gabilo, Million French, and other gang members.
“The gang members on sighting us, ambushed and immediately opened fire on their members and the police, in a bid to rescue them from the custody of the police, before they swiftly jumped into a waiting speed boat and escaped through the waterways,” he said.
The police said that the arrested suspects tried to seize the opportunity of the crossfire to escape but were re-arrested with gunshot wounds “sustained from the incoming bullets of their colleagues.”
“The 1st and 2nd applicants (Messrs Tomi and Wolomo) and their two other gang members were immediately rushed to the hospital for treatment, but gave up the ghost on their way to the hospital,” Mr. Akinmuyisitan said. “The medical officer on duty certified them dead, while their corpses were deposited in the mortuary.”
On the police officers’ failure to appear in court, Mr. Akinmuyisitan stated in his counter affidavit that they had been on “special duty” since January 1, 2013, in Maiduguri, Borno State. He added that he was “forced to return back to base” last month because of the suit.
Seliwei Baidi, counsel to the dead suspects, who said that he suspected that his clients were dead when they instituted the court process last December, insisted that the men were killed extra-judicially.“It is sad to note that extra-judicial killings are still being carried out by the police in our emerging democracy,” said Mr. Baidi.