In his closing arguments in the Lekki toll gate shooting trial on Monday, the prosecutor pointed out a question mark that lingered over the case for more than seven years: “how did four people die?”
The prosecutor, Akinyemi Akinniyi, began by recounting the story of how the killing occurred and recounted the interviews and physical evidence produced by witnesses who spoke of the massacre in the Lekki toll gate area on the morning of July 5, 2012.
“Why are we here if everyone here already know how the matter ended?” asked Mr. Akinniyi, arguing that, in the end, the answers to his question were obvious.
“The witnesses,” Mr. Akinniyi said, “could tell you that four people were killed.”
And on Friday, a cross-examination of Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai by the panel at the Federal High Court concluded with a stunned Sir Peter Carter, the lead counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, asking: “How did all these deaths happen?”
“It was night,” Governor El-Rufai answered.
Judge Justice Gabriel Kolawole gave the jury the option of finding out exactly how all the deaths happened or not to find out and to acquit the trial.
Mr. Akinniyi concluded by saying that the evidence pointed at “an ambush and massacre.”
The lawyer then alluded to the evidence of two Army officers who testified that they chased after the gunmen that killed the four people, whom they said ran away only to be shot later.
Though they were unable to pin a weapon to the men for proof, Mr. Akinniyi highlighted the previous statement by one of the soldiers that, in an effort to ensure that any of the dead would be identified, he tried to identify them with a mirror.
Four Defense Lawyers accused the government of showing favoritism in prosecuting a case in which their clients were none other than those involved in the killing of the four people.
The Prosecutor, Mr. Akinniyi, would not concede and reiterated the allegation that the Men – identifying the four as police officers – were not shot in a “peaceful exchange of fire.”
However, it was to these under-trial men that the Court and the Law can best refer, Mr. Akinniyi said.
“I do think that if you ask me, this is the only individual that is in the room that is not in the dock,” he said, “yet they have taken the view that the prosecution did not not follow the due process.”
In order to win a conviction of the two officers, Mr. Akinniyi said, the court must consider how many cases the witnesses had told.
The prosecuting Counsel went on to argue that they all told the same story and the prosecution needed to prove that, and this, he said, could not be done.
He also argued that, unlike the military officers, the soldiers did not follow the rules of engagement and that the prosecution had to prove that they were part of the shoot-out.
The Trial Date: Monday, March 5, 2018.
Editor’s note: Correction: This article originally referred to the killing of four individuals and stated that the Lekki toll gate shooting was the location. There was no further info to help clarify this point.