Criminal Law

Manslaughter defendant narrates how police forced him to make statement

A 37-year-old driver, Elijah Shokoya accused of the involuntary manslaughter of Mr Olawale Akinmade, an officer of the Lagos Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) on Monday told an Ikeja High Court how the police forced him to append his signature to the statement an Investigation Police Officer(IPO) wrote on his behalf.

Shokoya told Justice Oyindamola Ogala that he was severally assaulted by police officers who obtained his statement.

Shokoya made the allegations during a trial-within-trial to determine whether his police statement was obtained under duress. The defendant faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Led in evidence by the defence counsel, Mrs Abiodun Kolawole, Shokoya testified in Yoruba Language and interpreted in English Language. He said that he gave his police statement in the morning of January 27, 2022 a day after he was apprehended by authorities.

He said: “My statement was obtained on Jan 27,2021 at about 7.10 am. They brought me out into a room. I was asked to write but I told them that I cannot write. They said I was telling a lie. They slapped me. The IPO slapped me. She started talking but I could not understand what she was saying. She took a paper and a biro and she started writing but I did not know what she wrote;

A policeman was there who took a stick and hit me on my arm, asking why I could not write. The IPO was hitting me as she wrote. When she finished, she asked me to sign what she wrote.

I told her I don’t understand what she wrote and I cannot read. She hit me again, and called another policeman. I asked them to do me a favour and oblige me with a cell phone so that I can call my people to get a lawyer for me. A lawyer had to be there before I signed the statement. She slapped me again. The other policeman also hit me in the arm with a stick. When the beating became unbearable, I took the document and signed it”

Under cross-examination by Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, the Lagos State Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) Shokoya said he is a native of Ogun and that he attended the Oworonshoki Primary School, Lagos.

“I still feel pain on my left arm from the beating. I informed my lawyer about the assault. There was no LASTMA officer present when my statement was taken,” he said.

Earlier, a policewoman, ASP Mercy Ibok narrated to the court how she obtained the driver’s statement. She described herself as a traffic officer serving at the Alapere Police Station.

Led in evidence by the DPP, Ibok said that after Shokoya was brought to the police station after the alleged manslaughter of the LASTMA officer, she was cordial and friendly towards him.

She said that her superior was in the office alongside two LASTMA officers when the defendant’s statement was taken.

“The office is an open office that contained five chairs and a table. The atmosphere was very calm. I conversed with him in English Language.

“The defendant asked me to write his statement and he went through it before signing it. The allegations that he was coerced into giving a statement is false. I did not beat him,” she said.

While being cross-examined by Kolawole, Ibok said that Shokoya never informed her that he did not understand English Language and that a lawyer was not present when his statement was taken.

On why she did not indicate the time the statement was taken according to standard police procedure, Ibok said that she had just received the bad news of Akinmade’s death.

“I did not indicate the time of the statement because she was in a state of shock and when I heard the bad news, I took him to the cell.

“I did not write the content of the statement as a result of bias”she said.

The prosecution alleges that the defendant caused the death of Akinmade at 7.20p.m. on Jan. 26, on the Ikorodu Expressway by Demurin Junction, Ketu, Lagos.

The DPP alleges that the defendant mowed down Akinmade with his Opel Car with registration number AAA 74 GG.

The offence contravened the provisions of Section 224 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015 and is punishable under Section 229 of the same law.

Justice Oyindamola Ogala adjourned the case until Dec.12 for adoption of written addresses in the trial-within-trial.

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