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March 1, 2021

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Dismissed SARS officer sentenced to death over extra-judicial killing

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A State High Court in Benin City, Edo Sate, on Friday, sentenced a police constable, Joseph Omotosho, to death for conspiring with four other constables, said to be at large, to kill a car dealer in 2015.

The slain car dealer, Benson Obodeh, was suspected by the police to belong to a criminal gang.

Mr Omotosho, who was dismissed from the Nigerian police after the incident, served with the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit that was notorious for its brutality and other forms of human rights abuses.

The four other dismissed constables were also convicted but not sentenced because they were not present in the court.

They were identified as Adeleke Adedeji, Abena John, Oniyo Musa, and Henry Shobowole.

The four were said to have escaped while on trial from one of the Medium Security Correctional Centres in Benin City during the October, 2020 jailbreaks.

The judge, Ohimai Ovbiagele, found all the accused persons guilty on an eight-count charge, which included conspiracy to steal and murder.

From the court proceedings, the slain Mr Obodeh, 26, a Benin-based car dealer, was listed as a member of a criminal gang who allegedly stole a Peugeot car in Lagos.

He was said to have been arrested at his home in Benin City on May 21, 2015 and tortured to death the same day by the five police officers.

His corpse was dumped at the Specialist Hospital in Benin City, with a different name by one of the officers that killed him.

Mr Obodeh’s family wrote a petition to the inspector-general of police where they demanded an investigation, after searching for several weeks without finding him.

ALSO READ: How stray police bullet hit my son’s genital during #EndSARS – Woman

The police, it was learnt, tried at several times to frustrate the family from discovering details of the murder, but for the intervention of Solomon Arase, who was the inspector-general of police at the time.

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After an orderly room trial by the police authorities, the five officers were found liable and dismissed from the service to face court trial.

Judgement

The judge, Mr Ovbiagele, said the testimonies against the accused were firm and almost unchallenged.

Mr Ovbiagele pointed out that the accused could not substantiate counter evidence against charges leveled against them.

“The fifth defendant, Joseph Omotosho, is sentenced to death by hanging or with chemical infusion as an alternative on conspiracy to commit murder,” he said.

Mr Omotosho was also sentenced to seven years imprisonment for his role in the stealing of the deceased money from his bank accounts.

The #EndSARS protest, which rocked several Nigerian cities last year, was a reaction to decades of police brutality, as police officers in the country are rarely brought to justice for their crimes against citizens.

The death sentence against the dismissed police constable may, therefore, offer a glimpse of hope to Nigerians who have been clamouring for reforms in the country’s criminal justice system.

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