On Tuesday, it clocked exactly 16 years after five young traders at the Apo auto-parts market in Abuja and a fiancee of one of the traders were extrajudicially murdered by armed police officers in the federal capital territory, FCT.
The victims, who were said to be between 21 and 25 years of age, were Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Anthony Nwokike, Paulinus Ogbonna, Ekene Isaac Mgbe and, Augustina Arebu. They were later popularly referred to as “Apo Six.”
For the umpteenth time, members of the victims’ families, their friends and business partners, once again, gathered at the scene of the dastardly act on Tuesday to honour the memory of the deceased and reiterate their fresh demands for justice and compensation.
Candles were lit, prayers were said and placards with various inscriptions, which emphasise the quests for justice, were carried.
Speaking at the event, Edwin Meniru, the elder brother to one of the victims- late Mr Meniru, said the families would not rest until justice was served and the families were duly compensated.
He said they were moved by the agony that befell the families as a result of the incident and the eventual pronouncement of the innocence of the victims after a protracted court case.
“Due to shock, our father developed a cardiac issue, which eventually led to stroke and he died,” the elder Meniru lamented.
Similarly, Elvis Ozor, younger brother to another victim – late Ifeanyi Ozor, said monetary compensations could not fill the “holes left in our hearts but it would go a long way to soothe the pains we have been going through.”
He noted that the five deceased young traders were in their prime when their lives were cut short.
He said the N200 million demand as compensation for each of the families of the deceased as raised by their lawyer, Amobi Nzelu, cannot replace the lost souls. He said the victims were all breadwinners of their families.
The Apo Six
The five young men and a female were murdered in Apo, a satellite town in Abuja, by police officers on the night of June 7, and the morning of June 8, 2005.
They were reportedly at a lounge at Grand Mirage Hotel on Port Harcourt street when the then Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Danjuma Ibrahim, allegedly made romantic advances to Ms Arebu, who was a fiancee to one of the victims.
The police had reportedly claimed that the victims were members of an armed robbery gang that allegedly opened fire on the officers when accosted at the Gimbiya 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 five officers involved in the killings.
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The indicted six officers were, Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalami, Nicholas Zakaria, Ezekiel Acheneje, Baba Emmanuel, and Sadiq Salami.
In March, Mr Nzelu demanded fresh compensation for the families of the deceased before an 11-man judicial panel of inquiry and restitution for victims of SARS related abuses at the FCT.
The lawyer told the panel, which is led by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, that the government was yet to comply with the N500 000 burial expenses recommended to be paid to each of the families by the panel set up by President Obasanjo’s administration.
Mr Nzelu also pleaded with the panel to make an order compelling the federal government “to upgrade the N3 million compensation already paid and received by the affected families to N200 million per family.”
The lawyer said the N3 million was grossly inadequate “to assuage the pains suffered by families of these young men because none of the victims was above 25 years of age when their lives were cut short by the police.”
But the lead counsel for the Nigerian Police, James Idachaba argued that “the matter had been comprehensively laid to rest by both the then judicial panel of inquiry and the FCT High Court presided over by the immediate past Chief Judge of FCT High Court, Ishaq Bello.”
He said the only option left for the complainants was to appeal the judgement of the FCT High Court.
After listening to both sides, the panel had fixed April 15 to make a decision based on the documents submitted by the complainants but the case has once again been stalled due to the ongoing strike by judiciary workers.