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Appeal Court upholds prayers in favour of slain “Ekwulobia four”

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The Court of Appeal, Lagos, has upheld prayers in favour of slain “Ekwulobia four” and set aside the decision of the lower court, which dismissed the right to file a suit on behalf of a 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, killed extra-judicially on July 1, 2001, by the police in Lagos.

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

Following the dastardly act, the plaintiffs/appellants then filed an action before the lower court against the Inspector General of Police, (IGP), Attorney General of the Federation, and four others, 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.
   
Aside from praying 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.

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In the ruling delivered on March 9, 2015, the lower court in deciding whether the appellants could maintain an action on behalf of the deceased 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 appealal court to determine whether the lower court was right to have denied the appellant redress under the fundamental rights (enforcement procedure) Rules.

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In the judgment delivered by Jamilu Yammama Tukur, JCA, he 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.
   
“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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