Justice Denied: Remembering Apo Six victims 13 years after
With his usual sense of urgency, Ifeanyi woke up around 7 a.m. in his self-contained apartment at Plot 10, Gimbiya Street, Area 11 in Abuja were he lived with his younger brother, Elvis.
The date was June 7, 2005 and Ifeanyi Ozor was dressed in his normal blue jean and black T-shirt. The future was bright, he must have thought, as he left the house after rounds of laughter with his brother, Elvis, who narrated the incident to PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday.
“As we were about closing shop in the evening of that day, the then honorable member Adamawa State House of Assembly brought a metallic ash 406 Peugeot vehicle so we can change some parts of the car…,” a teary Elvis said.
Ifeanyi would use that 406 to hang out with his four age-long friends and his new girlfriend later that night and an encounter with police officers would lead to their untimely death which is now remembered today.
The “Apo Six,” as the youthful victims have come to be remembered in and outside Nigeria, had set out for fun and merry-making that ill-fated night 13 years ago.
But Nigerians would later be riveted with the horrific news of their deaths in the hands of the police.
To the public, it was another sad case of extra-judicial killing. But life, as it was, for the families and loved ones of the victims – Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Augustina Arebu, Anthony Nwokike, Paulinus Ogbonna and Ekene Isaac Mgbe, would never be the same.
The crude reality has been tears. The night marked the beginning of month-long meetings, court appearances and adjournments, negligence, physical and emotional exhaustion, nightmares and more deaths.
Worst still, families of the victims say justice is not yet served 13 years after.
Ifeanyi Ozor – the eldest of his five siblings – hails from Eziagu in Enugu State, South-east Nigeria, though the family was raised in Zamfara State, North-west Nigeria.
In 1999, Ifeanyi left Zamfara to serve and learn motor parts trade in Abuja, a common process for young male Nigerians of Igbo descent who did not complete their formal education.
After years of apprenticeship, Ifeanyi and his four friends in their early twenties had become car parts merchants in the Apo mechanics’ village, south of the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Elvis Ozor, Ifeanyi’s younger brother who narrated the incident.
Ifeanyi owned two shops before June 7 – one at Garki model market, the other at Apo mechanics’ village. Both shops were fully stocked, his brother said.
The politician had deposited N150,000 as part payment for repairs to be done on the 406 car he brought that evening.
“When the politician left, Ifeanyi instructed me to thoroughly search the vehicle as politicians are in the habit of keeping illegal and implicating items in their vehicle,” Elvis, who was then learning the trade under his elder brother said.
“After I searched and found nothing, he drove of with car and that was the last time I saw him alive.”
Ifeanyi and his friends had a close-knit relationship. They were all Igbos from the South-eastern part of the country.
They all met and became friends in Abuja. When Augustina, Ifeanyi’s new girlfriend, arrived Abuja from Benin that evening, they all decided to go have some fun.
“My brother’s relationship with Augustina was new, I had never heard him talk about her but I know something was up because he had the vibe of excitement and expectancy that evening.”
There are several theories about what happened that night; precise details are sketchy.
The APO SIX CASE
The Apo Six case centered on the extra-judicial killing of five young male auto-spare parts dealers in Apo, a satellite town in Abuja, and a young woman, by police officers on the night of June 7, 2005.
The police had claimed that the victims, aged between 21 and 25 years, were members of an armed robbery gang that had opened fire on the officers when accosted at the checkpoint.
But a judicial panel of inquiry set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo found the police account to be false and recommended the trial of the six officers for extra-judicial killings.
The indicted officers are: Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalami, Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel, and Sadiq Salami.
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 testified that Danjuma Ibrahim, the most senior officer ordered the killings.
According to the report of the panel of inquiry, the victims were at a nightclub located at Gimbiya Street, Area 11, in Abuja that night when they had a face-off with Mr Ibrahim after the female victim, Ms Arebu (Ifeanyi’s girlfriend), allegedly turned down romantic advances of the police officer.
Mr Ibrahim had allegedly stormed out of the night club to a police checkpoint at the end of the street and told the officers on duty that he had “sighted a group of armed robbers in the area”.
According to the report, which formed part of the evidence in court, when the six unwary young persons later arrived at the checkpoint in the 406 car, Mr Ibrahim allegedly had the car blocked and ordered the officers to shoot at the occupants after an argument.
Four of the occupants of the car died on the spot, but two of them, Mr Nwokike and Ms Arebu, survived the onslaught.
They were later killed on June 8 by two police officers who said “they attempted to escape from custody.” Ms Arebu was strangled, evidence showed. The two officers were last year convicted by the court.
Indicted Officer Feted
Twelve years later, two of the officers were convicted and sentenced to death, but the FCT High Court presiding judge, Ishaq Bello, said there was no evidence to convict Mr Danjuma and two others. One other officer remains at large.
The families who saw the judgement as the height of injustice began moves to go for an appeal but they have met a brick wall.
Ibrahim Danjuma, the senior officer who allegedly ordered the shooting
The March 9 judgement by the FCT High Court on the matter can be appealed, but it is only the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, that can either appeal the ruling or issue an ‘extended fiat’ to another lawyer to go ahead with the appeal.
Over a year later, Mr Malami has refused to do either.
A day after judgement was given, family members of the victims stormed the AGF’s office to register their displeasure over the judgment of the high court.
Mr Malami rejected repeated requests from the reporter who sought to know his stance on the appeal and when it will likely be executed.
However, in November, 2017, the police confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Danjuma had been reinstated. It said the reinstatement was approved by the Police Service Commission which relied on the judgement of the FCT High Court that freed him after finding him not culpable.
Mr Danjuma’s rank was restored, his accumulated salaries from June 2005, were also paid with plans to send him on a refresher course, a police memo published by Sahara Reporters showed.
In December, he was promoted from the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) to the rank of Commissioner of Police.
Not done yet, a few months ago, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris decorated Mr Danjuma with his new rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), according to a Daily Trust Newspaper report.
Meanwhile Families Remain In Anguish
Family members of the deceased persons up till now are protesting because of the perceived injustice.
“Since two people have been sentenced in the March 9 judgement of the FCT court, it means the law and the government has admitted that they killed my brother so why will Danjuma, who is the arrowhead be reinstated and promoted and even paid all his salaries accrued for 12 years,” Edwin Meniru – an anguished elder brother to deceased Chinedu Meniru queried.
The families took turns to recount how their losses negatively impacted their lives.
“Even up till now, whenever I visit my mother she will start shedding tears. seeing me reminds her of my late brother because we look alike. She has not recovered from the shock,” said Elvis Ozor.
Pictures of the mangled bodies of the victims cannot be published due to their gruesome state then.
The police hurriedly buried them at the back of their station to cover up their tracts but the panel of Inquiry ordered that they be exhumed months later so as to run an autopsy.
The autopsy found that they were shot at close range contrary to police claim that they were armed robbers, who they engaged in a gun battle at a distance.
Mr Meniru, who survived the first onslaught quickly called his elder brother, Edwin, to inform him what was happening but life was also snuffed out of him by the rampaging cops.
He was shot at close range in the mouth.
“There is nowhere else to look except at the bodies. There is a close-up of a face, gaping exit-wound at the temple,” Amobi Nzelu, the then lawyer to the victims’ families, was quoted in a BBC article of May 5 2009.
“Limbs and torsos covered in blood. Dead eyes stare upward. This is a human being, look what they did.”
Source: Premium Times