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Apo Six: 17 Years Later

Seventeen years after some police officers killed six innocent traders in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the gory memories of the murder remain with their family members.

Elvis Ozor currently drives a Peugeot car. Each time he enters the car in the morning, he is reminded that his older brother was killed in a similar vehicle 17 years ago. Not much has changed since that murder.

He was killed alongside five of his friends on June 7, 2005, by a team of police officers on patrol, as they drove home from a nightclub. All six friends had been spare parts dealers at the Apo auto spare parts market, and they had gone to the nightclub to unwind. They were Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Anthony Nwokike, Paulinus Ogbonna, Ekene Isaac Mgbe, and Arebu Augustina, the only female victim.

Danjuma Ibrahim, then Deputy Commissioner of Police, had made advances at Augustina at the nightclub, but she had turned him down, according to reports. Ibrahim would later leave the club to falsely alert the police officers at a checkpoint at Gimbiya street that he had sighted a gang of armed robbers.

When the victims arrived at the checkpoint on their way back home, the police officers stopped the car, and opened fire on the Peugeot saloon, reportedly on the orders of Ibrahim. Four of them died on the spot.

Ifeanyi and Augustina didn’t die immediately. Ifeanyi was able to call his relatives to tell them about the incident, but that was the last they were to hear from him. The police officers, rather than take the injured victims to the hospital, took the two of them to the police station, where they kept them till they died, Elvis told HumAngle.

The scene where the Apo six were killed. Photo: Family members.

The police officers who perpetrated the killings later buried the victims in two shallow graves in the Utako area of Abuja.

Long walk to justice 

The killings, which later became popular as ‘Apo six’ triggered public outrage, forcing the then President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the horrific incident. 

The panel ordered the victims to be exhumed to enable an autopsy. The autopsy found that they were shot at close range, contrary to police claims that they were armed robbers “whom they engaged in a gun battle at a distance.”

The panel findings also revealed that the police officers, after killing them, planted guns on the victims’ bodies.  A police photographer took the pictures. The photographer had released the images to the panel upon interrogation.

A police officer, Anthony Edem, who was part of the killer squad and had earlier testified against the police, died mysteriously. Edem was to testify the second time when he died. An autopsy report from the National Hospital Abuja confirmed he died of poisoning, HumAngle learnt.

Months later, the panel indicted six police officers — Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalami, Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel and Sadiq Salami. It recommended that they (officers) be arrested and face a criminal trial. 

The Nigerian government apologised and paid N3 million as compensation to each family of the victims. 

Nigeria’s unproductive justice system 

The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation later filed a nine-count charge of conspiracy and culpable homicide against the six police officers. Their actions contravened the provisions of sections 97 and 221 (a) of the penal code law.

Five police officers accused of the killings and eight other police witnesses testified that Ibrahim, the senior police officer among them, instructed them to kill the traders. 

The case dragged on for a long time. “The matter dragged on for so long that some family members of others killed during the incident were giving up already, but I stood because I want justice served,” Elvis, a younger brother of late Ifeanyi and a representative of the six victims’ families told HumAngle.  

Twelve years after the incident, Ishaq Bello, the presiding judge, on March 9, 2017, held that there were contradictions in witness testimonies and that Ibrahim’s fingerprint was not taken after arrest, making it impossible to establish his guilt.

The police officers accused of killing Apo six. Photo: Family members 

In his controversial judgement, Bello sentenced two policemen, Ezekiel Acheneje and Baba Emmanuel, to death, while three others were discharged.

After he was controversially acquitted in 2017, Ibrahim was reinstated and promoted to commissioner of police, with his salary arrears between 2005 and 2017 paid. 

In Dec. 2018, he was promoted and decorated to the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police (AIG). A few days later, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, decorated Danjuma with his current Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) rank.

Ibrahim Danjuma, police boss, allegedly ordered the killing of Apo six. Photo: The Guardian. 

Elvis said he perceived the promotion of Ibrahim by the police authorities as an injustice to the Apo six. 

“After all the facts from the panel of inquiry indicting this same man, at the end of the day, justice was not delivered, and as if that is not enough, this man was reinstated and even promoted to the rank of AIG. It shows there is nothing like one Nigeria,” he protested. 

But Elvis says he resolved to keep pushing and continue to cry foul about the injustice done to his brother and friends.

Appeal controversy

HumAngle understands that the 2017 judgement by the FCT High Court on the matter can be appealed. Still, only Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, can either appeal the ruling or issue an ‘extended fiat’ to another lawyer to go ahead with the request.

“The families have no right to go on appeal since the office of the attorney-general of the federation was the prosecutor in the matter,” Adeniji Abdulazeez, a lawyer, told HumAngle. 

As of the time of filing this report, AGF Malami has not appealed the judgement despite the victims’ families’ insistence. He did not respond to HumAngle’s enquiries when contacted for details. 

Elvis, who represents other families, said he wouldn’t relent until the matter reached a logical conclusion. 

They sought a review of the monetary compensation paid to them months after the killings. Their case was heard at the Abuja judicial panel established to probe the brutality and human rights abuses of the disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) in March 2021.

Amobi Nzelu, counsel representing the petitioners, told the court that the panel of inquiry set up by ex-President Obasanjo’s administration to unravel the incident had awarded N3 million compensation in favour of each of the victims, and it was paid. 

He, however, argued that the N500,000, which was awarded as burial cost, was never paid to the bereaved families.

The counsel told the panel that the families are now seeking N200 million compensation, but the commission only approved the N500,000 that wasn’t paid years ago to the families, and they have been paid. 

Elvis thought of revenge

Elvis told HumAngle that the death of his brother, Ifeanyi, affected the entire family because he was their breadwinner. 

“Ifeanyi was a philanthropist fully into automobiles, and he had the dream of making the nation great,” Elvis said soberly. 

“My mum has since the time of the incident been going to the hospital, and I don’t even go home again because she cries when she sees me. I look exactly like my brother and remind her of him.” 

Elvis Ozor in his car. Photo: Adejumo Kabir/HumAngle.

He added he could not also complete his tertiary education at the University of Abuja because Ifeanyi, his sponsor, died. 

Elvis also said that some youths in Apo reached out to him after the brutal killing that they wanted revenge and “I should give them go ahead but I didn’t because I don’t want a reprisal that I won’t be able to curb. I want God to take charge.”

He is, however, considering a non-profit organisation to remember his brother and others. 

“Ifeanyi told me from time to time when he was alive that we must give back to society. This is why we want to launch the NGO to help victims of police brutality and also promote sports talents.”

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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