by Oke Efagene
A Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere yesterday has discharged and acquitted a policeman, Sunday Okafor, who was arraigned for manslaughter.
The presiding judge, Olabisi Akinlade, said that Okafor’s acquittal was due to the shoddy police investigation on the case.
The accused, who was alleged to have shot one Abubakar Sulieman to death on October 21, 2009, was attached to Access Bank Plc, Idi-Araba branch in Mushin, Lagos.
He was later arraigned before the court by the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions on a one-count charge of manslaughter 2011.
The trial judge, Justice Akinlade held that based on the shoddy police investigation, she had no other option in law but to discharge and acquit the defendant.
Akinlade expressed sadness over the shoddy nature of the investigation conducted by the police at the criminal investigation department, Panti, Lagos.
While reviewing the fact of the case, Justice Akinlade noted that the prosecution failed to prove the vital ingredients of manslaughter, which included the identity, the death of the deceased and the link between the death and the voluntary or negligent act of the defendant.
The court also noted that vital witnesses were not interrogated, adding that there was no evidence to prove the identity of the deceased and the cause of his death was tendered.
“In the totality of evidence before the court, nobody was able to identify the person that was allegedly killed. The gun allegedly recovered from the defendant and the ballistician report on the arm were also not tendered. PW2 (the second prosecution witness, who is the investigating police officer) failed in his duty.
“The investigation fell short of what is expected from a policeman investigating such crime; he should have been “professional, thorough and diligent,” she said.
The court added that the circumstances of the death of the deceased where it was alleged that rival groups of Odua People’s Congress had also fired shots when the incident happened, the ballistician report should have clarified doubts about whose bullet actually killed the deceased.
Justice Akinlade also held that the medical report which could ascertain the cause of death, the photograph which could show the identity of the deceased and the account of people in the neighbourhood which could have thrown more light on the incident, were absent in the case.
The Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions, through its counsel, Mrs. Abiola Adeyinka, had instituted the one-count charge of manslaughter against the accused in January 2011.
Okafor had pleaded not guilty to the charge. According to him, there had been fracas between two rival groups of OPC in the area two days before the day of the incident.
He admitted that he fired two shots into the air on the day to scare away suspected OPC members who were advancing towards the bank with machetes and cutlasses. He said it was much later that a mob came to attack him where he was eating at a canteen, alleging that he had killed somebody.
The defence counsel, Yemi Omodele, had argued that his client was innocent, stating that the allegation was a mere suspicion which could not amount to legal proof.