…..as family of victims stage protest in Abuja
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA——The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Friday, said the Federal Government would review the high court judgment that discharged three out of the six policemen accused of complicity in the extra-judicial murder of six Igbo traders in 2005.
The AGF made the disclosure on a day families of the deceased victims staged a peaceful protest in Abuja, a procession that terminated at the Federal Ministry of Justice headquarters.
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Maitama had in a judgment on Thursday, sentenced two former Police officers, Emmanuel Baba and Ezekiel Achejene to death over the nocturnal murder of the six Igbo traders at the Apo mechanic village in Abuja, in 2005.
Chief Judge of the high court, Justice Ishaq Bello who gave the verdict after a trial that lasted for twelve years, found the convicts guilty of culpable homicide punishable under section 221(a) of the Penal Code.
The court however discharged and acquitted a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Danjuma and the other accused cops, Nicholas Zakaria and Sadiq Salam, on the absence of sufficient evidence linking them to the crime.
The victims, Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Tina Arebun, aged between 21 to 25 years, were motor spare parts dealers.
•Abubakar Malami, SAN agf
They were allegedly shot dead by a team of Police men stationed at Gimbiya Street, Garki Area 11 in Abuja, while returning from a night club on June 8, 2005, based on the order of the 1st defendant, DCP Danjuma, who was freed by the court.
FG had after its preliminary investigation into the matter, indicted the six police officers over the incident, alleging that they committed culpable homicide contrary to section 220(a) of the Penal Code.
Though all the six officers were arrested for prosecution, however, one of them who was the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, at Garki, Abdulsalam Othman, vanished when he was released to pray at a mosque at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, where all the accused persons were initially detained.
The defendants were docked on a nine-count charge that bordered on conspiracy and murder.
They were arraigned in court after the police, following a report by an investigative panel headed by a former Inspector General of Police, Chief Mike Okiro, okayed their dismissal from service.
The 4th and 5th defendants (Baba and Achejene), were specifically convicted for the murder of two of the deceased victims, Anthony and Tina, based on their own confessional statements.
The court noted that the two convicts admitted that they killed Anthony and Tina, who did not die immediately after the shooting incident, to death, based on “a directive” from DPO Othman who is at large.
According to the record of the court, there were evidence that Anthony was shot after residents at Gaduwa Estate in Abuja, found him with bullet wounds and handed him over to the police.
Justice Bello described the action of the convicted ex-policemen as “impunity of the highest order”, saying they showed no regard for the sanctity of human life.
The convicts had admitted that it was the DPO (Othman), after a meeting with the DCO, Danjuma, that directed them to shoot the victims.
While convicting the duo and discharging Danjuma and two others, Justice Bello held that being directed to commit a crime by a superior officer could never serve as a valid cover for the commission of a crime.
Meanwhile, dissatisfied with the verdict, families of the victims took to the streets on Friday to protest what they termed “gross miscarriage of Justice” by the trial court.
The protesters conducted their procession from premises of the high court to office of the AGF at the Ministry of Justice headquarters in Abuja.
According to leader of the aggrieved protesters, Chief Chimezie Ifeh who is also the Chairman of Apo Traders Association, “the real culprits of the gruesome omurder of the Apo-6 were left of the hook by the court”.
He said: “It was DCP Danjuma Ibrahim that orchestrated and executed our brothers and sister. But the same police officer and his cohorts were freed on Thursday by the court.
“We urge the AGF to appeal against the judgment and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.”
A brother to one of the deceased, Mr. Edwin Meniru told journalists that his brother’s death left the family devastated.
He disclosed that his father died owing to shock from the murder of Chinedu Meniru, who he said their parents loved so much.
The protesters carried various placards and banners with one of the inscriptions reading: “We want justice done in Apo Six killings, DCP Danjuma Ibrahim can’t go scot-free,”.
Addressing the protesters, the AGF who was represent by the Director of Legal Drafting at the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja, Mr. Tahir Hamzam, thanked the aggrieved families for the orderly manner in which they conducted the protest.
The AGF promised to look into the issue adding that FG would review the judgement.
“I can assure you that appropriate steps will be taken”, the AGF’s representative added.