Apo Six: Why judge freed three police officers, sentenced two to death

Apo six
Apo six

A trial that lasted almost 12 years reached a milestone on Thursday when Justice Ishaq Bello of the FCT High Court, Abuja, sentenced two police officers, Ezekiel Acheneje and Emmanuel Baba, to death ‎for killing two of the six Igbo traders in Abuja on June 8, 2005.

The two policemen were found guilty of killing Augustina Arebu ‎and Anthony Nwokike.

However, three other police officers, including a then deputy commissioner of police — Danjuma Ibrahim, Nicholas Zakaria, and Sadiq Salami — were set free, discharged and acquitted by the court for want of evidence.

A sixth accused police officer, Othman Abdulsalam, has been at large since the case started and had no legal representation.

Delivering judgement in a nine-count criminal charge brought by the federal government against the police officers, Mr. Bello said the court had no option than to convict the two men on account of their own confessional statements that they shot the two traders based on instruction from superior officers.

Mr. Bello said the action of the two police officers was callous and barbaric because by law, they were supposed to preserve the lives of innocent citizens.

The judge further said that their action was condemnable because there was no evidence that the two traders did anything to constitute threat to police at the time they were shot dead.

Justice Bello said that the killing of the two traders was particularly painful because they were arrested by members of the public alive and handed over to the police only for the same police, to take laws into their hands by summarily executing them.

The judge discountenanced the retraction of the confessional statements during the trial by the two convicts.

He described the retraction as an afterthought, because the statements by the convicted police officers were outright confessional.

THE KILLINGS

The case centred on the alleged extra-judicial killing of five young auto-spare parts dealers in Apo, a satellite town in Abuja, and a young woman, by police officers on the night of June 7, 2005.

The victims, Ekene Isaac Mgbe, Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike, and Augustina Arebu, were said to be returning from a night club when they were stopped at a police checkpoint.

The police had claimed that the victims, aged between 21 and 25 years, were members of an armed robbery gang that had opened fire on the officers when accosted at the checkpoint.

But a judicial panel of inquiry set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo found the police account to be false and recommended the trial of the six officers for extra-judicial killings.

The indicted officers are Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalami (now at large), Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel, and Sadiq Salami. The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

But 12 years later, the trial continued to drag on in court.

The five officers accused of the killings and eight other police witnesses eventually testified before the panel of inquiry that Danjuma Ibrahim, the most senior of the accused officers, had allegedly ordered the killings of the youth.

According to the report of the panel, the victims were at a nightclub located at Gimbiya Street, Area 11, in Abuja that night of June 7, 2005 when they had a face-off with Mr. Ibrahim after the only female among the victims, Augustina Arebu, allegedly turned down romantic advances of the senior police officer.

Mr. Ibrahim had allegedly stormed out of the night club to a police checkpoint at the end of the street and told the officers on duty that he had sited a group of armed robbers in the area.

According to the panel’s report, which formed the bulk of the evidence in court, when the six unwary young people later arrived at the checkpoint in their car, Mr. Ibrahim allegedly had the car blocked and ordered the officers to shoot at the occupants.

Four of the six died on the spot, but two of them, Mr. Nwokike and Ms. Arebu, survived the initial onslaught.

They were later killed by the two convicted police officers in the early hours of June 8 on the grounds that they attempted to escape.

THREE COPS FREED

The three other police officers involved, Danjuma Ibrahim, Nicholas Zakaria and Sadiq Salami, who were charged with conspiracy and culpable homicide, contrary to Section 97 and 221 of the penal code, were discharged and acquitted by the court for want of evidence.

Justice Bello said from the totality of the evidence placed before the court, the charge of conspiracy cannot be established against them because of the inability of the prosecution to convince the court that the men met and agreed to kill the six traders.

The judge said in the case of the Mr. Ibrahim, who was alleged to have seized an AK 47 and shot the traders in their Peugeot 406 on that fateful day, the allegation collapsed in the face of contradictions from two prosecution witnesses that Mr. Ibrahim never seized a gun or fired at the traders.

The judge added that if the fingerprint of the deputy police commissioner had been taken, it could have been established whether he handled the AK 47 used in killing the traders on the day of the incident.

On the other four victims shot to death, the judge said the issue remained ambiguous and vague because the prosecution was unable to establish those responsible for their murder.

The judge said although a witness told the court that Mr. Ibrahim was responsible for the shooting of the four traders, another witness said it was a patrol team invited to the scene of the robbery incident that fired at the vehicle of the traders ‎when they allegedly refused to stop at a stop and search point mounted by the police to track down the suspected robbers that had allegedly robbed Crown Guest Inn at Gimbiya Street.

Justice Bello added that in the face of the contradiction, it was particularly impossible to hold anyone responsible for the death of the traders. More so when no name was mentioned of the members of the patrol team invited to reinforce the ambush squad that was trailing the suspected robbers.

Mr. Bello also said the six traders created suspicion when they reversed at the checkpoint, inciting the police officers.

The judge said he was not in doubt that the occupants failed to stop when asked to, and that the decision not to stop may have created suspicion.


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  • Ajayi Ifayemi

    The police just got away with murder. I do not believe any patrol team that was called to the scene. All made up and the judge fell for it. Bad! The prosecution may have even intentionally messed up the case. How can they present witnesses that say different things?

  • Rommel

    The nature of criminal justice is such that ridiculous judgements could sometimes be given which defies all rationality,a case in point was the conviction on second degree murder of the south African para olympian Oscar Pistorius for killing his girlfriend by judge Thokozile Masipa, this one should also be added to the list of infamous judgements,it does not make sense that Danjuma Ibrahim who is said to be the architect of the murderous spree would be left off the hook to continue killing innocent people simply because the AK 47 was not tested for his fingerprints,this miscarriage of justice should make all of us to search our conscience

  • 1MASK01

    Well this is surprising, I was even thinking that the Danjuma guy will be the one sentenced to death and the rest receive lesser sentences. But that is something only the court could do and there was no enough evidence before the Judge. I blame the prosecution for failing in their job of getting witnesses.
    so the guilty ones were those that carried out the second killings only. SMH

    • paul irumundomon

      He has a God father, that is all you need in nigeria.

  • Eze

    shameful jeudgement. the ultimate judge is waiting for the judge and the senior police officer and other acquinted. God will surely console the family of the deceased and grant the deceased eternal rest.

    • ebong

      Very shameful! The JUDGE of the whole universe will judge all of them.

  • ebong

    The whole thing is a script.The prosecuting team only presented what they were asked to present so that the judge would be able to rule on what he was asked to rule. If you don’t believe this,why should Danjuma walked out of the court room a free man? Oh what a country! What a shame!

  • wazobia monk !!!!!!

    ” they shot the two traders based on instruction from superior officers.”

    who were the officers? whay happened to them?

    nigerian “justice”, never fails to disappoint ………………….hope the prosecution would appeal asap ……..

  • PolyGon2013

    Wrong judgment. All of them should have been sent to the hangman. The families of the victims should also be compensated!

  • paul irumundomon

    This is the type of justice, Nigerians know and this is how law and judgement work in nigeria. No one else can help nigerians change their barbaric systems, only Nigerians must do that job thrmselves.

  • Riseup Nigeria

    Terrible, if they escape the judgement of Nigerian high court,can they escape the judgement of God who created both the wasted souls and the waster.
    When they stand before the ultimate judge ,there shall be no need for human evidence for there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed. Even the highest level conspiracies that saw the chief culprit discharged shall come to light.
    Sleep on boys for there is hope for you on the day of resurrection.

  • emmanuel

    Ishaq Bello need to be reported at the NJC for investigation and disciplinary action. There is no way Danjuma Ibrahim can escape justice. He need to be put on a separate trial.
    Ishaq Bello has done a jankara judgement. Which kind of water passed under the bridge?