Families of six young Nigerians extra-judicially killed in June 2005 by some police officers in Abuja, have asked for fresh N200 million compensation each.
Amobi Nzelu, a lawyer representing two complainants – Elvis Ozor and Edwin Meniru – who are acting on behalf of the families of Ifeanyi Ozor and five others killed by the police over 15 years ago, made the case for a fresh compensation before the panel investigating police brutality in Abuja on Wednesday.
The panel was constituted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in the aftermath of last year’s #EndSARS protests by Nigerian youths demanding an end to police brutality perpetrated by men of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units.
Mr Nzelu, on Wednesday, informed the 11-man panel led by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, that the Federal Government had paid N3 million to each of the families of the deceased persons in compliance with the recommendation of a panel set up by then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
The panel then headed by Olasunbo Goodluck, who was then a chief magistrate of Lagos State, but now a judge of the FCT High Court, had indicted some police officers for the killing.
It had also recommended the exhumation of the bodies of the deceased for a befitting burial.
Mr Nzelu, however, told Mr Galadima-led panel that the recommendation of the old panel that N500,000 be paid to each of the deceased persons’ families for burial expenses had not been complied with by the Federal Government.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria therefore pleaded with the panel to make an order compelling the Federal Government “to upgrade the N3 millilon compensation already paid and received by the affected families to N200 million per family.”
Mr Nzelu stated that the N3 million was grossly inadequate “to assuage the pains suffered by families of these young men because none of the victims was above 25 years of age when their lives were cut short by the police”.
“The deceased, while they lived, were the breadwinners of their various families” he added.
The lawyer, who was also counsel for the deceased’s families at the inquiry conducted by the Ms Goodluck-led panel, conceded that the Federal Government prosecuted some police officers who were indicted by the panel. He noted that two of the accused were convicted at the end of a 13-year trial, while the rest were discharged and acquitted.
The convicts were Emmanuel Baba and Ezekiel Acheneje.
The respondents to the fresh petition include, Danjuma Ibrahim, a former deputy commissioner of police at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police command, who was tried along with Messrs Baba and Acheneje, but was discharged and acquitted.
The rest of the respondents are police officers also from the FCT police command: Suleiman Audu, an inspector; Haruna Marmot, Ibrahim Garba, Yakubu Philibus, as well as the Commissioner of Police in charge of the FCT command and the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
Meanwhile, the lead counsel for the Nigerian Police, James Idachaba, said Mr Galadima-led panel lacked the power to hear the fresh petition by the victims’ families.
He said the panel was set up by the Federal Government to investigate live issues “and not matters already decided by competent authorities.”
According to Mr Idachaba, “the matter has been comprehensively laid to rest by both the then judicial panel of inquiry and the FCT High Court presided over by the immediate past Chief Judge of FCT High Court, Ishaq Bello.”
Mr Idachaba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), further stated that bringing the complainants before the panel amounted to “asking the current panel to review the decision of Olasunbo Goodluck’s panel and the judgement of the FCT High Court” which he noted was not the position of the law.
He said the only option left for the complainants was to appeal the judgement of the FCT High Court.
Besides, he told the panel that the petitioners’ counsel did not show any proof that the N500,000 for the burial expenses of the deceased was not paid to each of the deceased persons’ families as claimed.
Panel reserves ruling
After listening to both sides, the panel fixed April 15 to take a decision based on the documents submitted by the complainants.
The documents among others include the judgment of the FCT High Court on the matter and the white paper on the Goodluck panel referred to by the complainants.
Apo Six killing
Five young Nigerians dealing in auto-spare parts in Apo, a satellite town of Abuja, and a young lady, were extra-judicially killed 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.
Four of the six died on the spot where they were initially attacked by the police, but two of them, Mr Nwokike and Ms Arebu, survived but were later killed by the two convicted police officers in the early hours of June 8, 2005.
The police had claimed that the victims, aged between 21 and 25, were members of an armed robbery gang who had opened fire on the officers when flagged down at the checkpoint.
But a judicial panel of inquiry set up the Goodluck panel rejected the claim by the police and recommended the trial of the six officers it indicted for the killing.
The indicted officers are Danjuma Ibrahim, (a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) at the time) who was said to have ordered the shooting of the victims, Othman Abdulsalami (said to be at large), Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel, and Sadiq Salami.
But only Mr Acheneje and Mr Emmanuel were convicted for the killing in a judgment delivered by the FCT High Court on March 9, 2017.
The court set Mr Danjuma and two others free for lack of evidence indicting them in the killing.
Families in anguish
Meanwhile the families of the victims remain in anguish.
Every June 7, PREMIUM TIMES chronicles the tragic killing of the “Apo Six”.
Families of the victims also gather at the Gimbiya junction in area 11, Abuja, the area where their loved ones were gunned down, in memory of the deceased.
Elvis Ozor, the younger brother to Ifeanyi Ozoro, one of the Apo Six victims, told PREMIUM TIMES, in October last year, that the families were going to file a fresh complaint to the NHRC for the Apo Six case to be revisited.
He said they deserved to be duly compensated since the court declared their loved ones innocent.
“Once again, we will intensify efforts to get justice for our loved ones especially now that cases of police brutality and extra-judicial killings is (are) on the front burner,” Mr Ozor had said.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...