The families of the six victims of the June 2005 police extra-judicial killings in Abuja have reiterated their dissatisfaction with the March 9 judgement of the FCT High Court in the case and have vowed to pursue an appeal.
Twelve years after the killings that drew fury across Nigeria, the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Ishaq Bello, sentenced two officers, Emmanuel Baba and Ezekiel Acheneje, to death for the killings of two of the victims, Augustina Arebu and Anthony Nwokike.
The judge however, discharged and acquitted three other officers, including a then deputy commissioner of police, Danjuma Ibrahim; Nicholas Zakaria; and Sadiq Salami for want of evidence.
The five were among six officers arraigned over the killings of the traders on June 7, 2005. The police had claimed that the victims, who had just left a nearby night club, were armed robbers.
Othman Abdulsalam, the then Divisional Police Officer in Apo, and the sixth defendant on the charge sheet, is currently on the run.
One of the lawyers of the victims’ families, Kanayo Okafor, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, faulted the judgement of the high court and said the families were shocked by the acquittal of some of the accused officers.
“We are going to appeal the judgement because from our own view justice has not been delivered. The judge was on the frolic of his own. We placed before the court enough materials. We tendered about 31 exhibits, including the AK 47 used by the first accused person, Inspector Danjuma to shoot those innocent Nigerians at close range and killing four of them.
“His own pistol, a ‘Brownie’ was also tendered in evidence. We called about 13 witnesses – all of them are police witnesses who came to say that they received instructions from Danjuma to do what they did and if that is the truth why would the court allow him to go scot free?
“We have damning evidences against him which implicated him in the cause of trial. Danjuma and Othman had asked them (two sentenced officers) to shoot them (Augustina and Anthony) whenever they were caught. That admission proved to the court that Danjuma was involved.”
Mr. Okafor said the case lasted so long because it was a peculiar one as the police had to investigate itself.
“Most of our witnesses are policemen and the matter is against the police. You have to write to the IG (Inspector-General) to send signals to where a particular witness is being posted, and before you know it, it takes time. And we also suffered a lot of adjournments because the judges might go for national assignments which can take months.
“Thank God we have the appellate court, we have tasted the judgement of the court below and we are still aggrieved. We are still not satisfied with the decision and judgement of the high court so we want to take it further to the appeal court.
“We want to make sure that justice is served. These innocent Nigerians didn’t do anything, they were murdered in cold blood. We want to extend the judgement further to the other defendants to see the full wrath of the law.”
Mr. Okafor, however, could not disclose the date the matter would be filed at the appeal court as only the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami could order such appeal.
A DITHERING ATTORNEY GENERAL
Family members of the victims in March stormed the AGF’s office to register their displeasure over the judgment of the high court.
While protesting, the leader of the aggrieved families, Chimezie Ifeh, who is also the Chairman of Apo Traders Association, vehemently condemned the court’s decision on the matter.
Mr. Ifeh said “the real culprits of the gruesome murder of the Apo Six were let off the hook.”
According to him, “It was DCP Danjuma Ibrahim that orchestrated the execution of our brothers and sister. But the same police officer and his cohorts were freed by the court.
“We urge the AGF to appeal against the judgment and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
The attorney general rejected repeated request to seek his stance on the appeal and when it will be executed. Mr. Malami’s aides requested PREMIUM TIMES send a letter of our questions. About two weeks after the letter was delivered, his office is yet to reply and has ignored subsequent phone calls and text messages.
VICTIMS FAMILIES SPEAK
Speaking with our reporter, an anguished brother of one of the deceased, Elvis Ozor, lamented that his death left the family devastated.
He said the victim, Ifeanyi Ozor, was the bread winner of the family.
He dismissed the outcome of the case as the “highest injustice ever witnessed in this country.”
“Those that gave the orders for the shooting where freed while those who carried out the orders were sentenced to death. We cannot accept this judgement. As a matter of fact, we want our lawyer to further this appeal.”
Mr. Ozor recalled that his brother had just bought the Peugeot 406 car when it was shot at that fateful night of June 7. He described the police claims that the victims were criminals and that locally made guns were found in the car as lies because he saw the group before they left to catch fun that night.
He said that the only female victim, Augustina Arebu, was in a relationship with Ifeanyi and they were planning to get married. He said she had travelled from Benin to meet Ifeanyi in Abuja.
Mr. Ozor further urged the federal government to compensate the families of the victims.
“When this judgment was delivered, I was surprised that the judge did not say anything about compensation for the families. They gave us three million naira and said ‘go and bury these people and come back for the case.’
“After that, nobody is talking about compensation. You cannot give us three million naira for their burial and say it is compensation. If my brother was alive today, he would have made more than N100 million.”
Monica Arebu, the mother of the deceased Augustina, corroborated Mr. Ozor’s claim of marriage plans between Ifeanyi and her daughter.
Mrs. Arebu, who hails from Edo State, told PREMIUM TIMES that Augustina was her first daughter.
“How can six people commit a crime and they only sentenced two, leaving the main pillar of the case, Ibrahim Danjuma? We are appealing the judgement.”
On the issue of compensation, she said: “We were only given money for their burial. They didn’t compensate anybody, we want government to compensate us.”
THE APO 6 KILLING
The Apo Six case centered on the 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 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 five officers accused of the killings and eight other police witnesses testified before the panel of inquiry that Danjuma Ibrahim, the most senior of the accused officers, allegedly ordered the killings.
According to the report of the panel, the victims were at a nightclub located at Gimbiya Street, Area 11, in Abuja that night when they had a face-off with Mr. Ibrahim after the female victim, 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 occupants of the car died on the spot, but two of them, Mr. Nwokike and Ms. Arebu, survived the initial onslaught.
They were later murdered by the two convicted police officers in the early hours of June 8 on the grounds that they attempted to escape from custody.