Two former policemen, Ezekiel Achejene and Emmanuel Baba were yesterday convicted and sentenced to death by an Abuja Federal High Court for the extra judicial killing of two of the six Nigerians, popularly known as the Apo six in 2005. Apo is a satellite settlement in Abuja
The six youths were Ekene Isaac Mgbe, Ifeanyin Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Paulinus Ogbonna and Anthony Nwokike, who were all car spare parts dealers, and Augustina Arebu.
They were all coming from an outing that fateful night when they came under a hail of bullets as they approached a police checkpoint in their car.
Four died on the spot and the other two were taken to a police station alive. The bodies of all six were found together later, along with weapons, which the panel heard had been planted by police.
The gruesome murder rattled the Federal Government and kept the country in suspense for a long time until the authorities pledged to investigate. Government yielded to pressure and constituted a judicial panel of enquiry into the killing.
In his ruling, the judge, Ishaq Bello, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, said the court had had no option but to convict Achejene and Baba after they had confessed to shooting two of the victims on the order of senior officers.
“The two defendants have no regard for the sanctity of human lives,” Judge Bello said, adding “They are not only over-zealous but also extremely reckless.”
While the trial lasted, Police initially tried but with negligible success to cover up the deaths, saying the victims were armed robbers who had opened fire first. But an earlier judicial panel of inquiry rejected that story.
Ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo under whose government period the killings took place later apologized on behalf of the police for the killings and paid N350,000 in compensation to each of the families.
However, a trial to determine which individuals were behind the killings was repeatedly delayed.
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. He is a fugitive from the law.
Mr Chris Uche, SAN, and dogged prosecutor of the case expressed happiness for the jugement. He said, “This will send a sound and clear message that extrajudicial killing is a crime which does not pay and must be rid from the country.”