Following the case of the extrajudicial murder of six young civilians in June 2005, popularly christened ‘Apo Six’, two former police officers, Ezekiel Achejene and Emmanuel Baba were sentenced to death by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja.
The infamous ‘Apo Six’ incident involved five Igbo traders – Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paul Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and the girlfriend of one of them, Augustina Arebun, who were shot dead by the police in Area 11 Garki, Abuja, on June 7, 2005.
Police tried to cover up the crime claiming the victims were armed robbers who had opened fire first. But an earlier judicial panel of inquiry rejected the claim. The government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo also apologised on behalf of the police with a compensation of N2.7 million to each of the families.
During the court trial on Thursday, March 9, three former officers who denied involvement were acquitted for lack of evidence while a sixth suspect was never brought to trial.
All indicted police officers were charged on the nine counts of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide, except, CSP Abdusalam, the Divisional Police Officer of Garki, who mysteriously disappeared from his cell in the police headquarters and never appeared in court. He has been in hiding since then.
Other officers include Othman Abdulsalam (Chief Superintendent of Police), Nicholas Zakaria (Assistant Superintendent of Police), Ezekiel Acheneje (Police Constable), Emmanuel Baba (Police Constable) and Sadiq Salami (Police Constable).
Judge Ishaq Bello, said the court had no option but to convict Achejene and Baba after they had confessed to shooting two of the victims on the order of senior officers. The two men had tried to retract their confessions during the trial but the court rejected it.
In his verdict as quoted by AFP news agency, Bello said:
“The two defendants have no regard for the sanctity of human lives. They are not only over-zealous but also extremely reckless.”
Investigations carried out on the events that led to the killing of the victims revealed that they – all spare parts traders at the Apo Mechanic Village, and a girlfriend were driving home after a night out in Abuja on the said date when they encountered a team of policemen on patrol.
The victims allegedly had a scuffle with a senior officer, Danjuma Ibrahim, whose advances were turned down by Arebun, the only female among the six. Out of spite, Ibrahim allegedly informed the policemen at the checkpoint on Gimbiya street by Ahmadu Bello Way, Apo Abuja that a gang of armed robbers were heading their way.
As the traders approached in their Peugeot saloon car, they were stopped at the checkpoint where the Policemen opened fire at the six passengers. Four reportedly died on the spot, while two who were still alive were later shot dead in the early hours of the following morning under the guise that they tried to escape.
Their corpses were dumped together, along with weapons including two locally made pistols, two live cartridges, two expended cartridges, two daggers and one cutlass, which the panel heard had been planted by police.
Achejene and Baba were convicted by the court on the basis that they killed the two last victims who were taken to a police station alive. No one was convicted for the death of the first four victims who died on the spot.
After 12 years trial, the ‘Apo Six’ remain one out of many cases of extrajudicial killings by security personnel in Nigeria and thanks to the uproar by associates of the victims and panel set up to investigate the case, justice (if we can call it that) was served to the families of the victims.