By Onozure Dania
A prosecution witness, Mr. Steven Aji, has narrated to a Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere, of how a resident of Makoko Waterfront was shot dead by a trigger-happy Corporal, Pepple Boma, now dismissed.
He said before the incident occurred, they got a 24-hour notice from Lagos State government to leave the settlement.
Aji, who is the Baale (Head of Community) of the Makoko settlement, was led in evidence by Lagos State prosecuting counsel, Mr. Hafeez Owokoniran.
The witness told the court that after they received the notice, he and his chiefs went to see their lawyer, who advised them not to fight with the Lagos State government officials, but to plead for more time to enable them find another settlement.
He narrated to Justice Module Nicole-Clay that the officials and policemen, immediately after serving them the notice, started destroying their houses.
He said their children fell into the Lagoon and when they made attempt to rescue the children, they were beaten with horsewhips.
Aji said: “They came with electric saw blades and were cutting down the plank houses on the Lagoon and our belongings and little children fell into the Lagoon.
“While that was going on, people were calling me. When I got there, I saw eight policemen, who were shooting sporadically and were also beating the people that were trying to rescue the children.”
The witness also said he saw four policemen each on both sides of the Lagoon with boats, and he then told his chiefs and subjects not to fight with the government officials.
Aji, who was the second prosecution witness, also told the court that while they were trying to pacify the officials to give them more time to enable them leave the waterfront, he saw the defendant shoot the deceased, Timothy Hunpoyanwa, in the stomach.
His words: “The deceased started shouting ‘Baale my stomach, my stomach’. Then I saw the deceased in a pool of his blood in the canoe, while the other three policemen, who were with the defendant, started blaming him, saying they had warned him to stop shooting.
“My subjects wanted to start fighting, but I told them not to. I asked the policemen to transfer the deceased into their canoe, since they have succeeded in shooting one of my chiefs.
“So we transferred him into their boat and then went to the hospital.”
The witness, who said the deceased Hunpoyanwa was his second-in-command, told Justice Nicole-Clay that before they got to Gbagada some of his subjects and policemen were already there and by the time they arrived, the doctor confirmed that the deceased was dead on arrival.
He then took the corpse to the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, and then he went to make statement at a police station in Ikeja, but that he can’t remember the exact police station.
During cross-examination by the defendant’s counsel, Mr. Olowude Bashua, the witness told the court that they have been leaving in that settlement for a very long time, and 24 hours was not enough for them to pack out of the place.
The witness said the houses that were destroyed were 20, adding that they could no longer carry out the operation, after they killed the deceased.
When asked the number of days the demolition of the shanties took, he said two days.
Aji added: “They started demolishing the houses in the evening and when night caught up with them, they went back and came back the next day. It was on the next day that the defendant killed the deceased that they stopped coming.
“It was God that saved us because the defendant was already drunk when I transferred the corpse into their boat.
“If the defendant had not shot and killed my chief, they would have been able to demolish the shanties without any loss of life.
Sibling addresses court
Earlier, the deceased’s brother, Francis Hunpoyanwa, who was the first prosecution witness, told the court that he was at home when he heard that his elder brother was shot.
He said: “I was not there when he was shot. I was at home busy removing the roof of our house. It is only the Baale that can tell the court how he was shot.”
The Lagos State government had sometimes in 2013 arraigned a dismissed police Corporal Boma over allegation of manslaughter.
He was alleged to have unlawfully killed Hunpoyanwa.
The incident occurred on July 21, 2013, at about 1:20p.m., at Makoko, Yaba, Lagos.
According to the prosecution, the Makoko killing was contrary to Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.