An Ogun State High Court sitting at Isabo, Abeokuta, has awarded N21m damages against the police command in the state over a police officer, Sunkanmi Ogunbiyi, who killed his wife and four others sometime in 2014, over a ‘domestic conflict.’
Ogunbiyi later shot himself to death after he had killed his wife, Olutosin Faremi, who was a corporal attached to Obantoko Police Station; her landlady, Mujidat Wahab; Mujidat’s two children, Basirat and Taofik, and a commercial motorcycle operator.
He also wounded three others, but they survived.
He, however, did not shoot his children during the incident.
A suit No. AB/196/2014 was filed by Ibukunoluwa Oremodu for the claimants, Musiliu Wahab and Sikirulai Wahab.
In the judgement, Justice O. J. Bamgbose ruled that Ogunbiyi was an employee of the Ogun State Police Command and committed the crime with the weapon officially given to him, thus both the late Ogunbiyi and his employers were liable.
Justice Bamgbose, while reading the judgment, further noted that husband of the deceased landlady, Mr. Sikirulia Wahab, gave revealing evidence into the matter.
The judge said, “The uncontroverted evidence before me in line with the fact that policeman Olasunkanmi Ogunbiyi, willfully, without any just reason or legal authorisation, terminated the lives of his wife, and Mujidat, Basirat, Taofiq and Kaosara while he was in lawful possession of guns and ammunition of the police under the defendant.
“He also inflicted injury through gunshot on the second claimant, Mr. Sikirulai Wahab.
“The policeman was a serving police officer and on duty at the time of the incident and was in possession of gun and ammunition alleged to belong to his employer, the Nigerian Police Force.
“I am of opinion that even if it had been shown that Ogunbiyi was not on duty at the time of the incident, this would not have mattered much once his possession of the gun was not unlawful.
“This is because there is a provision that the Police Regulation which makes the time a police officer is off duty, to be a time that the employer would still be liable for his actions. This is contained in Section 351 of the regulation.”
Justice Bamgbose said the evidence before him was that lives of four innocent people, all members of one family, were terminated by a man “who, regrettably and cowardly, ran away from his due punishment by taking his (own) life after he had kept away his children for safe keeping with some other people.”
He further disclosed that the claimants, the husband of the deceased, Mr. Musiliu Wahab, had been amenable to discuss and settle their grievance out of court, but all efforts and ‘opportunity windows’ had been rebuffed by the defendant which made him bring the case to court.
The claimants had called two witnesses who testified in line with their statements on oath. He, however, said they were not cross-examined by the defendant.
He said the defendant stayed away from court and therefore did not give evidence or breathe any life into his pleadings.
Stating the evidence act, ”Where a party has pleaded certain facts in his pleadings but had failed, refused or neglected to give evidence in line with the said pleadings, the said party is deemed to have abandoned such pleadings that are regarded in law as of no moment in the proceedings (Olanrewaju V. Afribank 2001).”
Justice Bamgbose further said that having considered the entire proceedings with which Attorney-General of Ogun State and any right thinking person must have been appalled, that monetary compensation was the best that could be awarded to the claimants.
He ruled, “Against the backdrop of law and evidence in this case, the settled law on reward of damages, I award a total sum of N21m in favour of the Claimant against the Defendant.”
– Punch Newspaper