THE APO SIX: A Sad Tale of Extrajudicial Killings in Nigeria

09 Jun, 2024

Did you know that among the police officers that were fingered in the killings of the Apo Six by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the incident, while two junior officers were condemned to death, and three others (including the alleged plotter) were discharged for lack of evidence, one other was never brought to court for trial?

On the night of June 7, 2005, five Igbo traders at Apo auto spare parts market, Abuja, and a lady Tina Arebu, a fiance to one of the traders, were murdered in cold blood by men of the Nigerian Police Force, NPF. Here is the story of the extrajudicial killings by members of the Force who were supposed to protect civilians but instead became the threat to the civil society. The sad case has also brought to the fore the need to police policemen on duty inorder to guarantee security of citizens as well as to revamp the security architecture im the country.

Close to two decades ago today (June 2024), five Igbo traders, along with their female friend were brutally murdered in cold blood by men of the Nigerian Police Force led by then Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Danjuma Ibrahim at a police checkpoint in Gimbiya street, area 11, Gariki, Abuja because the female victim turned down the sexual overtures of the senior police officer, Danjuma, at an evening gathering in the city.

The five Igbo traders names were: Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Anthony Nwokike, Paulinus Ogbonna, Ekene Isaac Mgbe, while the only female victim, Augustina Arebu, fiance to Ifeanyi Ozor.

A minor disagreement ensued between the guys and the officer immediately stormed out of the gathering to the nearby police checkpoint at Gimbiya street where he told the police men on duty that he had sighted a gang of armed robbers.

When the Apo Six drove to the checkpoint, officer Danjuma reportedly blocked them with his vehicle and ordered the junior police men on duty to open fire on them. The junior police men obeyed the last order and rained bullets on the innocent traders.

Four of the Apo Six were killed on the spot. The remaining two, the lady, Augustina and one of the five young men, were killed the following day. The lady, whose rejection of Danjuma's sexual invite caused the whole murder, was personally strangled to death according to the findings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo which was headed by Justice O. Goodluck.

Immediately after the killings, the Nigerian police went to work in a desperate bid to cover up this callous, despicable and inhumane crime.

First, officer Danjuma got arms from the Gariki police station and planted them inside the Peugeot 406 car of the victims and got their official photographer to take the picture with a view to creating a false narrative that the innocent traders were armed robbers killed by the Police in a gun battle.

However, both the Administrative panel of Inquiry set up by the Police and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Federal Government of Chief Obasanjo all established that DCP Danjuma led other officers and men in killing the six victims including strangling the only female amongst them and burying their bodies in shallow graves in what the Commission described as "a continuous single exercise of elimination to conceal facts"

The Commission established the following facts: 

[1] The Peugeot 406 being driven by one of the deceased persons had six occupants including the driver; five males and one female.

[2] The police atrociously buried the corpses of the six deceased persons in two shallow graves at Utako District of Abuja Fct under the supervision of DPO of Garki police, CSP Othman Abdusalam, who is still at large.

[3] At the first point of contact between the police and the deceased persons at Gimbiya Street, Abuja, Area 11 Garki Abuja, not all the deceased persons were killed there.

[4] No shooting came from the Peugeot 406 car being driven by one of the deceased. (The Peugeot 406 car was originally owned by a certain Adamawa politician who brought the car for spare parts repair to be picked by next morning).

[5] The only female occupant of the 406 car, Tina Arebu was strangled to death by DCP Danjuma Ibrahim and PC Dennis Asawa.

[6] The two locally made pistols, two live cartridges, two expended cartridges, cutlass and daggers allegedly found in the Peugeot 406 car were planted by the runaway DPO Garki police station, CSP Othman Abdusalam.

[7] From the ballistician's report, the two expended cartridges were never fired from any locally made pistols allegedly planted by the DPO Garki police station CSP Othman Abdusalam in the Peugeot 406 car.

[8] The two locally made pistols allegedly found in the Peugeot 406 car being driven by one of the deceased persons had not been fired in six months prior to the ballistician examination.

[9] That the two locally made pistols allegedly found in the Peugeot 406 car were in fact recovered from a hotel in Abuja called Rita Lori hotel, more than two weeks before the incident of the Apo six killing.

[10] That the two locally made pistols on request by DPO Garki police station CSP Othman Abdusalam were brought from the armoury of the Garki police station by the armourer by name inspector Ishaya Nyaiwak and given to him who in turn planted them inside the Peugeot 406 car being driven by one of the six deceased persons.

[11] That the deceased persons were NOT armed robbers since no gun(s) were found on them nor did they shoot at the police at the check point in Gimbiya street Area 11 Garki Abuja.

[12] The only escapee from the gruesome killings by the police both at the Gimbiya street Area 11 Garki and beside Prince and Princess Estate Gaduwa Abuja was arrested and killed by 7:30am on the 9th of June, 2005 by the Nigeria Police Force.

[13] That the autopsy report showed conclusively that the deceased were killed by high velocity missiles consistent with bullet shots.

[14] That inspector Suleiman Audu, the head of the police patrol team at Gimbiya street Area 11 Garki refused to shoot at the Peugeot 406 car.

[15] That the policeman (late PC Anthony Edem) who mysteriously died a day before he was to testify before the Police Administrative Board of inquiry was poisoned according to the autopsy report.

On the basis of the incontrovertible evidence adduced before the Judicial Commission of inquiry, the commission held that they were not left in doubt about the complicity of the following persons in the unlawfully killings of the Six deceased, namely; DCP Danjuma Ibrahim (The plotter), DPO Othman Abdusalam, Inspector Suleiman Audu, Ezekiel Acheneje, PC Sadiq Salami, PC Dennis Asawa, Emmanuel Baba, and ASP Nicholas Zachariah.

The commission went on to recommend that they should all be tried in accordance with the appropriate law. The Federal Government accepted this recommendations and issued a White Paper. The police force was instructed to take the necessary disciplinary action against the 8 persons including DCP Danjuma and the DPO of APO police station who supplied the weapon planted in the car of the traders, Othman, and ensure they were all charged for murder.

President Obasanjo tendered apology to the families of the victims and even paid compensation.

Quickly, the number 15 in the list of the recommendation of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which is to the effect that a police constable, Anthony Edem, who was part of the killer squad and had earlier testified against the police and was scheduled to testify again the coming Monday, died on a Sunday night after going out to drink with some of his fellow policemen the previous Saturday. An autopsy report from Abuja national hospital found out Edem was poisoned to death.

The NPF, after killing six innocent traders simply because the love overtures one of her philandering officers was turned down, went as far as poisoning one of its own just to cover up her crime.

In a cell, right inside the Police Headquarters (Louis Edet House) in Abuja where the DPO Othman was kept pending his day in court, he left his cell one morning purportedly to go pray and simply disappeared. Till date, that killer officer, Othman was never made to face the law.

Almost 12 years after the incident, precisely on March 2017, Justice Ishaq Bello of the FCT High Court, Abuja, sentenced two junior policemen, Ezekiel Achejene and Emmanuel Baba, who were convicted of murdering two of the Apo Six. Three other former officers on trial at the High Court in Abuja, who all denied involvement, were acquitted for lack of evidence while a sixth suspect was never brought to trial. 

The two junior policemen sentenced to death had earlier confessed to killing the Apo Six on the orders of DCP Danjuma but the same court said there was no ample evidence to convict the senior officer, Danjuma, who the convicted officers and even the Police panel of inquiry as well as the judicial commission of Inquiry all fingered as the one who plotted, ordered and supervised the whole killings.

DCP Danjuma Ibrahim has since been officially re-instated into the NPF via a Police Wireless Message intercepted by Sahara-Reporters. He has been paid all arrears of salaries and other entitlements dating back to 2005 and sent on a refresher course. Danjuma has been promoted to an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG).

Meanwhile, according to legal experts, 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) that can either appeal the ruling or issue an 'extended fiat' to another lawyer to go ahead with the appeal. Years later, nothing has been done.

On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, the families of the Apo Six petitioned the FCT Judicial Panel to review the monetary compensation paid to them. On Thursday, December 23, 2021, the National Human Rights Commission, NUHRC, announced the payment of N146 million to 27 victims of police brutalities (including families of the Apo Six) based on the recommendations of the Independent Investigative Panel on Violations of Human Rights by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and other police units set up by the Commission.

19 years after (June 2024), the endless search for justice of The Apo Six victims lingers on. 

SOURCES: Igbo History & Facts | BBC | TheCable

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