Court sentenced a former police officer to death
The Bayelsa State High Court sitting in Yenagoa has sentenced a former policeman, Corporal Vincent Koluama-Owei to death by hanging for an extra-judicial killing of 17-year-old Innocent Kokorifa, The Nations reports.
Kokorifa, who was running an errand for his mother, was shot dead on 18 August, 2016 near the Air Force Base, Okaka, Yenagoa, by a patrol team of the police, who labeled him a bandit.
Koluama-Owei identified as the policeman, who fired the gunshot that killed the minor, has been standing trial for murder at the state high court 7 presided over by Justice Ineikade Eradiri.
Members of the civil society group, Chief Nengi James, Alagoa Morris and Aluzu Ebi Augustine, who brought the matter to the limelight, turned up on Friday to listen to the judgment.
Eradiri in his judgment that lasted for about two hours weighed the defence of the accused person against the evidence and witnesses of the prosecution lawyer and ruled that the prosecution proved his case beyond every reasonable doubt.
The judge punctured the claims of self defence relied upon by the accused person in line with Section 33(2b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
On Section 33(2b) of self defence relied upon by the accused person, Eradiri said for the provision to avail the accused person, there must be substantial evidence of reasonableness and necessity.
He said: “Human life is sacrosanct and as such a person can only deprive another only as a last and final resort. Only God Almighty created life and can take it away. Anyone who takes the life of another under circumstances not as permitted by law arrogates unto himself the driven power of the almighty and must answer here on earth and also in heaven”.
The judge cited judicial decisions in cases of Ibukunle vs the state 2007, Ola vs the state 2014; Garba vs State; Adegboye vs State 2017, among others and concluded that the provision of self-defence would not benefit the accused person.
He said: “In the circumstances of this case, section 33(2) of the 1999 Constitution does not avail the appellant. The firing of the gun at the back of the deceased to prevent him from escaping from a lawful arrest was not reasonable in the circumstance.
“Someone has made a report to the police saying that hoodlums suspected to be armed robbers were operating openly under a broad daylight in a residential area, the next thing that happen was that the police went there, cordoned off the area and shot someone, who was not even running but walking away.
“The police did not do any serious observation as to confirm the report which they received. There was also no evidence whatsoever that the armed robbers were actually in operation. There was also no evidence that any of the so-called armed robbers was arrested after the killing of the deceased.
“There was even evidence that after the deceased had been shot he stood up and walked to the accused demanding to know why the accused shot him. And shortly afterwards, he slumped to the ground and died. The fact that the deceased walked across the narrow street after he had been shot by the accused was not denied by the accused.
“That act of war courage displayed by the dying young man was certainly not the act of an armed robber who had just fired a shot at the policeman. Where did the reasonableness or necessity lie in the shooting of a person who was merely a suspect and walking away from the scene of a crime.
“Even if by one’s imagination, the deceased shot at the accused, the accused himself said that the bullet did not penetrate his body. Hence, he replied the deceased by shooting him with his AK47 riffle. If it was true that the deceased stood and shot at the accused, then he would have been facing the accused and not backing him.
“However, the autopsy report shows that that was not the case as the entry route was of the upper outer aspect of the back while the exit route was the ulterior shoulder joint area. This is consistent with the fact that the deceased might have been walking away before the accused shot him.
“From the evidence led by the prosecution, l hold that the prosecution proved his case beyond reasonable doubt and on the contrary there was serious doubt on the truth contained in the claims of the accused that he acted in self defence.
“I believe and reject the defence of the accused for being contradictory and unsatisfactory. I find the accused guilty as charged and he is hereby convicted of the murder of Innocent Kokorifa”.
The judge also faulted the claims by the defence lawyer, Stanley Damabide that the witnesses contradicted themselves and should be disregarded by the court.
Eradiri said: “There was no contradiction between what the PW2 said in exhibit one and the evidence he gave in the open court. If there was any omission at all, that cannot be counted as a contradiction rather it will fall on the side of discrepancies.
“Discrepancy between what the witness wrote in his extra-judicial statement and what he said in the witness box is often not fatal. The discrepancy as regard the evidence whether the PW1 was running or hiding at the time the accused shot the deceased is neither here nor there. There was no controversy over who shot the deceased.
“If the deceased bore arms and ammunition and fired at the accused as alleged then why all the contradictions to the statements as to the exact spot of recovery of the arms and ammunition”.
On the claims that unexpended ammunition and substances suspected to be Indian hemp were recovered from the deceased pocket by the mortuary attendant, the judge said evidence before him did not support such claims.
He said: “Was it that the deceased left the unexpended ammunition for weeks in the mortuary at the Federal Medical Centre before going to the Air Force base to shoot at the accused or that after he had been shot dead his ghost followed the corpse to the mortuary where he then planted the unexpended ammunition on itself for the mortuary attendants to recover.
“The accused did not for a fleeting moment tried to explain the contradiction existing between his extrajudicial statement to the police and his oral statement in court. If the contradiction remains unexplained, then it is likely that the items allegedly found on the deceased might just be planted on the corps in order to justify the killings. Things like these do sometimes occur”.