For the Apo Six, Justice Remains Elusive

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Executive Briefing

The decision of the Senate to investigate reports of the reinstatement into the police of a Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Danjuma Ibrahim, who was charged alongside others with the murder of six ‎Igbo traders in Abuja in 2005, despite an appeal against the High Court judgement that acquitted him, is a welcome development, writes Davidson Iriekpen

The Senate penultimate week put smiles on the faces of the families of six Igbo traders popularly called Apo Six who were murdered by some police officers in Abuja in 2005 when it directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate reports of the reinstatement into the police force of a Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Danjuma Ibrahim, who was charged with the murder of the traders.
Raising a point of order, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji noted that the reinstatement was despite appeal against Ibrahim’s acquittal at the Court of Appeal.

The Apo traders, also known as Apo Six, were five male auto spare part dealers and a woman who were murdered in June 2005, allegedly by Ibrahim and four other officers, who claimed the victims were armed robbers. A panel of enquiry set up by the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, however, indicted the police officers and recommended that they be tried for murder.

Following 12 years of trial, an An Abuja High Court sentenced two of the police officers to death, but discharged Ibrahim and two others. However the families of the deceased were not satisfied. They felt that justice was not served. According to them, Ibrahim, who was the most senior officer among the officers and who allegedly ordered the shooting should not have been freed.

Consequently, the filed an appeal challenging the decision to exonerate Ibrahim. But despite pending appeal, Ibrahim was reinstated into the police force. Senator Sonni Ogbuoji (Ebonyi PDP) speaking at plenary queried how the court could have cleared Ibrahim who was the head of the unit that murdered the traders. He argued that the development would create a lot of tension for the families whose children were murdered in cold blood.

“Also, one of them, Othman Abdulsalami, is at large till date. But the court on October 12, sentenced two of the policemen to death for murder. One is worried that the commander of that particular patrol unit that killed what is now known as Apo six has been reinstated by the police whereas the police have found others who were under his command culpable. How come one of the police officers is at large and the police is unable to trace his whereabouts till today, almost 12 years after, and then the one who was charged but acquitted, the police is now saying thank you to him for killing those young people by reinstating and re-absorbing him in the police force,” the lawmaker added.

To many Nigerians, nothing captures the criminal entity the country has since become better than the case of the six Igbo traders killed in Apo, a satellite town in Abuja on June 2005. According to the proceedings at the trial, the Apo Six – Ekene Isaac Mgbe, Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony and Augustina Arebu – were at a nightclub somewhere in Area 11 when, Ibrahim, Deputy Police Commissioner made sexual advances at Augustina who returned a negative response. Feeling slighted, he was said to have drove to a nearby police checkpoint where he told policemen there to be battle-ready to confront a group of armed robbers in the area.

When the Apo Six got to the police checkpoint in their car, Ibrahim was said to have drove into them and ordered his men to shoot.

Four of the Apo Six died on the spot while Ifeanyi and Augustina were taken to Garki police station where Othman served. The next day, the duo of Ifeanyi and Augustina were taken to some place outside town where they were executed. The lady was strangled by Ibrahim, according to the testimony of the police witnesses at the criminal trial.
After killing them, the police latter planted weapons on the bodies of these Igbo traders and brought a photographer to take their pictures which they (the police) displayed for all to see with intent to convince the public that the Apo Six were armed robbers.

Following public outcry and demonstration by Igbo traders in Apo, the then government of President Obasanjo ordered a public hearing into this heinous crime. It was during the hearing that some police officers broke ranks and told the panel how Ibrahim allegedly masterminded the killing.

The Garki police station chief armourer equally confessed that the weapons found on the accused were planted. Two of the accused policemen equally admitted shooting two of the Apo Six on the orders of Ibrahim.

When the matter went on trial, the chief culprit, Ibrahim who ordered the shooting and even strangled Augustina for rejecting his advances at the nightclub, was released on what the court called “exceptional and special medical bail” in August 2006, less than one year into the trial.

The DPO at the Garki police station, Othman who supervised the deadly act, disappeared from the fifth floor of Force Headquarters where he was detained. According to the testimony of the police, officer Othman went for prayers and never came back till today.

While delivering his judgment, Justice Ishaq Bello of Abuja High Court discharged and acquitted Ibrahim who ordered the killings and Othman who supervised it all and even planted weapons on the deceased as the DPO Garki police station, according to the testimony of police officers who testified at the criminal trial. The reason the judge gave was that there was no sufficient evidence that the duo were guilty in the killing of the Apo Six.

But the judge convicted the two junior officers who admitted in their statement that they shot two of the Apo Six on the orders of senior officer Ibrahim who fed them the information that the Apo Six were armed robbers after the only lady among them have turned down his advances.

After the judgment, the families of the deceased victims staged a peaceful protest in Abuja, a procession that terminated at the Federal Ministry of Justice headquarters. 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 murder of the Apo-6 were left of the hook by the court.”

He said: “It was Ibrahim that orchestrated and executed 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.”

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, whom he said their parents loved so much.

Following the protest, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) promised that the federal government would review the court judgment that discharged three out of the six policemen accused of complicity in the extra-judicial murder. The AGF who was represented by the Director of Legal Drafting at the Federal Ministry of Justice, promised to look into the issue, adding that the federal government would review the judgment. “I can assure you that appropriate steps will be taken,” the AGF’s representative added.

Despite the assurance by the AGF, nothing has been heard from him other than the news making the rounds that Danjuma Ibrahim has secretly been reinstated into the police force to the consternation of many Nigerians who have anxiously waiting for justice to be served on the case. Those who spoke with THISDAY wondered if those that were murdered were from the North and murdered by a southerner, if they would have been set free or reinstated?

This is why a public affairs analyst, Charles Ogbu, has appealed to the Senate not to sweep the issue under the carpet again.

“We want the issue not to be swept under the carpet again. Nothing captures the criminal entity that Nigeria has since become better than the Apo Six case. Quite frankly, I am finding it increasingly difficult and almost impossible to retain my sanity here. How do some of you look at grave injustices such as this one and just move on as though it is nothing? How do you people do it? How do you retain allegiance, loyalty and patriotism to a murderous entity that is not only deaf, dumb and blind to the sanctity of the lives of the human person but seemingly derive some sort of orgasm in killing the same citizens it exists solely to protect?

“How do you people smile at a police force that murders her own citizens and even plants weapon on them to cover up the crime simply because a lady said ‘No’ to the advances of a randy senior police officer? Of what use is the law when it is to be enforced by an organised criminal gang such as the Nigerian Police which delight in killing the same people they are meant to protect over such a flimsy excuse as saying ‘No’ to a sex request from a police officer?

“If there is something that grieves me beyond words, it is sharing not just the same human trait but the same geographical space as this set of people. Being born a Nigerian and having to live in Nigeria is among the worst thing that could happen to anyone,” he said.

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Despite the assurance by the AGF, nothing has been heard from him other than the news making the rounds that Danjuma Ibrahim has secretly been reinstated into the police force