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Tension in Yenagoa as lawyer protests murder case dismissal

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By Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa

The counsel to the family of Innocent Kokorifa, a 17-year-old son of a Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), official, attached to the Port Harcourt, Rivers State Command, Barr. Ebikebuna Augustine Aluzu, has described as absurd the position of the counsel to the police, calling for the dismissal of the petition before the Bayelsa State Judicial panel of Inquiry on police brutality and extra judicial killings.

Recall that Innocent Kokorifa was allegedly killed by men of the Anti-Vice unit of the Bayelsa State Police command in August, 2016, along the Air Force road area of Okaka-Epie, Yenagoa local government area.

Kokorifa had, in a November 4, 2020 petition, through his counsel, Aluzu, said his 17-year-old son was shot from behind at about 11.30 a.m. by one Police Corporal Vincent Koiamaowei without provocation.

However, the counsel to the police, Z. Gwegwe, on Wednesday, informed the panel that they had been served notice of preliminary objections by the petitioner’s counsel and she, therefore, tendered her response as follows: “That the subject matter of the petitioner’s petition was not within the confines, boundaries and scope of jurisdiction of the Bayelsa State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and Other Related Matters, on the ground that the matter upon which the petitioner’s preliminary objection is based, was already determined on October 5th, 2018 and the defendant was sentenced to death by hanging.

“That by section 32, sub section 6 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, as amended, the petitioner’s petition amounted to double jeopardy for the ex-convict by the decision of the Court. She, therefore, prayed the Panel to dismiss the petitioner’s petition for lack of jurisdiction.”

Aluzu, however, argued that the panel was well clothed with the competence and jurisdiction to hear, entertain, investigate and make its reports regarding the petitioner’s petition.

Referring to the rules of proceedings of the panel, section 12, paragraph A, B, and C, he submitted that the end result of the panel was not to pass judgement or find anybody guilty but to make recommendations, and this was contained in section 12, paragraph C of the Rules of Proceedings of the Panel.

He further submitted that there were sufficient particulars in the petition that brings this petition within the competence of the judicial panel of inquiry. They referred the panel to the petitioner’s petition, page 6, paragraphs 29, 30, 31, 32 and 34 and prayed the panel to dismiss and discountenance the respondents’ preliminary objections.

He added, “Today’s matter was adjourned for the respondent to file their response to the petition of my client, but instead they brought a notice of preliminary objection which was quickly responded to orally and the panel adjourned till the 17th day of February 2021 for ruling.

“They challenged the jurisdiction of the panel to hear and entertain the petition which we find absurd because the panel is not to sentence anybody; they even mentioned that if the panel heard the matter it would amount to double jeopardy because the person who killed my client’s son has been convicted by court.

“The petition is not against the convict but against the Police Service Commission which is an institution. It doesn’t matter if the IGP has been removed, or the convicted person is now dead because they were only joined as co-respondents because they have a case to answer in the petition.

“The matter is not opened for further investigations, because there’s already a judicial pronouncement on the matter, but the issue we are raising is: why did police the keep extorting money from my client to the point that he had to pay to get authority to bury his son, a grieving father?”

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