The FCT High Court, presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello, on Monday adjourned till March 9, judgment in the alleged extra judicial killing of six Apo traders.
At the adjourned date on Monday for the judgment, both the defence and prosecuting counsel were in court and the new date was taken for the judgment.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Attorney General of the Federation in 2005 charged six police officers to court for the alleged killing of the traders, now popularly referred to as “Apo Six”.
The accused persons were arraigned on a 9-count charge of conspiracy and culpable homicide, which contravened the provisions of Sections 97 and 221 (a) of the Penal Code Law.
The police officers standing trial in the case were: Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalami , Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel and Sadiq Salami.
They were charged with culpable homicide over alleged killing of the traders: Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwodike and Augustina Arebun.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalami, now at large; Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel, and Sadiq Salami were alleged to have murdered the victims.
The Infra News has, however, learned that Ibrahim Danjuma, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) then in charge of presidential movement, who ordered the murders of the six Igbo youth, has been on medical bail for 12 years and has been spotted in social circles, living large and still drawing salary from the Nigerian Police Force.
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is accusing the police officers of killing Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Augustina Arebun.
The deceased, aged between 21 years and 25 years, were returning from a night party in 2005 when they were allegedly killed.
The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the allegations, making the trial to go through full stretch of adjudication from 2005 to date.
The date was June 7, 2005, when the popular “Apo six’’ unaware of the terrible fate that lay ahead set out for a night of fun and merry making.
The nation woke up to the horrific news of their deaths at the hands of the police who claimed the five men and woman, gunned down were armed robbers who opened fire first.
The case which came to be known as ‘Apo Six’ captured the attention of the public for a long time.
Following the deaths and the subsequent public outcry, an official panel of inquiry was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Five officers accused of the killings and eight other police witnesses eventually testified that the senior officer involved, Ibrahim allegedly ordered the killings.
The report of the panel held that the victims were at a nightclub located at Gimbiya Street, Area 11 in Abuja on the night of the incident.
The panel further had it on its record that the face-off between Ibrahim and the group allegedly started when the female victim (Augustina) turned down the senior police officer’s love advances at the club.
The testimonies of the witnesses that formed part of the panel’s report also said that Ibrahim’s pride and ego was bruised by late Augustina’s refusal to accept his love proposal and, therefore, set out for revenge.
The report also said Ibrahim had allegedly gone to a police checkpoint at the end of the street and told officers on duty that they were a group of armed robbers in the area.
According to the report which forms the bulk of the evidence in court, when the six young people came in their car, Ibrahim allegedly drove into them, blocking their way and ordered the police officers to shoot.
Four of the six died on the spot while Ifeanyi and Augustina had survived the initial onslaught.
The report had it that Ifeanyi had called his friends after surviving the burst of gunfire but that was the last they were to hear from him.
NAN reports that police officers had testified at the criminal trial that Ifeanyi and Augustina were taken to a piece of rough ground outside town where they were executed.
The officers had allegedly planted guns on the bodies of all six of the bodies and pictures were taken of them by a police photographer.
NAN reports that the photographer who took the pictures was later to raise an alarm and release the pictures.
In a curious twist, Mr Anthony Edem, one of the officers close to the case was poisoned after deciding to confess.
An autopsy report from the National Hospital Abuja confirmed he died of poisoning which also formed part of the numerous exhibits before the court.
BBC Report on the Killings in 2009…
|Will Nigeria’s ‘Apo Six’ ever get justice?|
In the fourth of a series of articles looking at policing in Nigeria, the BBC’s Andrew Walker asks what happened to the “Apo Six”, the most infamous case of extra-judicial killing in Nigeria’s history:
The pictures are truly gruesome – we cannot publish them.
Lawyer Amobi Nzelu spreads the glossy prints out on his desk, covering it with horror.
There is nowhere else to look except at the bodies.
There is a close-up of a face, gaping exit-wound at the temple.
Limbs and torsos covered in blood.
Dead eyes stare upward.
“This is a human being,” he says.
“Look what they did.”
The bodies belong to six young Nigerians killed by the police.
Ekene Isaac Mgbe, Ifeanyin Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Paulinus Ogbonna and Anthony and Augustina Arebu were killed on 7 and 8 June, 2005.
The police tried to say they were armed robbers who had opened fire first.
But a judicial panel of inquiry set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo rejected the police’s story and the government apologised on behalf of the police for their killings.
The government paid $20,300 (£13,800) compensation to each of the families.
It recommended the officers be arrested and face a criminal trial.
But nearly four years since the night the Apo Six were killed, the trial has got nowhere.
The public has almost forgotten the case is still going on.
Danjuma Ibrahim, the senior police officer accused of ordering the killings, lives free on medical bail.
And the families of the dead have all but given up on justice.
Elvis Ozor is the younger brother of Ifeanyin Ozor.
Like his brother, he works as a spare car parts merchant in the Apo mechanics’ village, south of the capital, Abuja.
It is a kind of shanty-town of sea crates and workshops where five of the Apo Six worked.
This is a tight-knit community, mostly of ethnic Igbos from Nigeria’s south-east.
On 8 June 2005 the Apo mechanics found the police burying their friends in a cemetery that, by chance, was near their workshops.
“My friend was going to the bush, to go to the toilet, when he saw the police digging a hole and preparing to bury some people,” Elvis says.
“They recognised my brother. When the police said they were armed robbers, no-one believed them – they knew my brother was not like that.”
“When I arrived at work, word had spread, but I didn’t know. I arrived and everyone was looking at me,” he says.
The story was out, and an angry mob gathered.
There was a riot in Apo and the police shot two more people dead.
Unlike any other case of suspected extra-judicial killing in Nigeria, some of the police broke ranks and turned on the senior officer involved.
The other five officers accused of the murders and eight more police witnesses have testified that Danjuma Ibrahim ordered the killings.
During the judicial panel hearings, some Igbo police officers fed information to Mr Nzelu, who represented the families of the Apo Six.
The panel heard that the six were at a nightclub in Abuja’s Area 11 when Mr Ibrahim – then off duty – propositioned Augustina.
She turned him down, according to the testimony of Ifeanyin Ozor’s friends.
Mr Ibrahim went to a police checkpoint at the end of the street and told officers there were a group of armed robbers in the area.
When the six young people came in their car, he drove into them, blocking their way and ordered the police officers to shoot.
Danjuma Ibrahim was a high ranking police officer in the Nigerian Police
Ifeanyin called his friends after he survived the first burst of gunfire, they testified.
Who actually fired the shots is still disputed by Danjuma Ibrahim’s lawyers, but four of the six were killed there, the prosecution says.
Ifeanyin and Augustina were taken to a police station.
Officers called Augustina’s family to demand a 5,000 naira (then $43, £22) ransom to let her go, according to a report by the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial execution.
Her family could not raise the money.
They were taken to a piece of rough ground outside town where they were executed, police officers testified at the criminal trial.
Augustina was strangled.
Then the police planted guns on the bodies of all six of the bodies and pictures were taken of them in the grounds of a police station by a police photographer.
At the criminal trial, Mr Ibrahim’s lawyers maintained that the Apo Six fired first.
He says all of them were killed in the gun battle, and a “home made” pistol and a shotgun were found in the car.
His lawyer Hyeladzira Nganjiwa says the prosecution dropped charges against some police officers in return for them changing their testimony.
Mr Ibrahim is the fall guy in a government plot to sweep the incident under the carpet, he said.
“I could never have done what they are accusing me of,” Mr Ibrahim told the BBC outside the Abuja court where he is being tried.
He was released on medical bail in 2006, after his lawyer said he had a heart condition.
The five other accused – one of whom is now dying of Aids, according to his lawyer – remain in police custody.
That trial has been going on for almost three years.
After hearing the testimony of eight prosecution witnesses, the defence is now cross-examining the first.
Lawyers say the case is being stalled so it will eventually be forgotten, and the charges dismissed.
In this case people accepted the victims were not armed robbers because they came from a close community.
But in other less high-profile cases, the public turns a blind eye to police killing, human rights advocates say.
The reluctance to punish police officers “emboldens” other officers to kill, says Eric Guttschuss of Human Rights Watch.
But the police say a great deal has changed since Apo Six case.
“The police have a higher respect for human rights than before,” says spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu.
“I am not aware of any recent cases of extra-judicial killing.”
Mr Guttschuss of Human Rights Watch, which tracks alleged cases, disagrees.
“Extra-judicial killing in the police remains a shockingly common occurrence.”
He says the police lack the capacity to properly investigate crimes, and because of the pressure from society to deal with violent criminals, they simply dispose of suspects without the encumbrance of trials.
“[A] Nigerian’s guilt or innocence is immaterial,” he says.
Elvis Ozor says he has given up on the judicial system.
“When Danjuma was released, I forgot everything about the case.”
“The only way justice will be delivered is from God.”