After a trial that spanned 12 years, an Abuja High Court yesterday sentenced two policemen – Ezekiel Acheneje and Emmanuel Baba – to death for their complicity in the killing of two of six Igbo traders in Abuja on June 8, 2005.
Acheneje and Baba were among the six policemen that face trial over the killing of the six traders 12 years ago.
Others are former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalam (at large), Nicholas Zakaria and Sadiq Salami.
Justice Bello, who is the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, while delivering judgment in the nine-count criminal charge brought against the six policemen by the federal government, said that the court had no option than to convict the two men on account of their own confessional statement that they shot the two traders upon instruction from superior officers.
Justice Bello in the judgment described the action of the two policemen as callous and barbaric, noting that by law, they were supposed to preserve the lives of innocent citizens.
The judge further described their actions as condemnable, adding that there was no evidence before him, that the two traders did anything to constitute a threat to the police at the time they were shot dead.
Justice Bello said that the killing of the two traders was particularly painful because they were arrested by members of the public alive and handed over to police only for the same police to take the law into their hands by summarily executing the six traders.
Also, the judge dismissed the retraction of the confessional statement of the two convicts during the trial on the grounds that it was an afterthought that could not hold water.
Three other policemen – former DCP Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdulsalam and Sadiq Salami – who were charged with conspiracy and culpable homicide were, however, discharged and acquitted by the court for want of evidence.
The court held that from the totality of the evidence placed before it, the charge of conspiracy could not be established against them because of the inability of the prosecution to convince the court that the men met and agreed to kill the six traders on June 7, 2005 while returning from a nightclub along Gimbiya Street in Abuja.
Regarding the first defendant, DCP Ibrahim, who was alleged to have seized an AK47 rifle and shot the traders in their Peugeot 406 car, the court said the allegation collapsed in the face of contradictions from two prosecution witnesses that Ibrahim never seized a gun or fired at the traders.
According to him, there was no dispute as to the fact that the DCP had a service pistol on him and he never fired any shot from the service pistol.
The judge went on to express displeasure over the manner the alleged killing was conducted, adding that if the fingerprint of the DCP had been taken, it could have been established whether he handled the AK47 rifle used in killing the traders on the day of the incident.
He said: “There is nothing to show from the ballistic report that the first defendant handled the weapon from which the gun was fired.
“If the fingerprint of the first defendant had been found on the weapon, it would have gone a long way to prove his culpability.”
On the other four shot to death, the judge said the issue remained ambiguous and vague because the prosecution was unable to establish those responsible for their murder.
He stated that while one witness told the court that DCP Ibrahim was responsible for the shooting of the four traders, another witness said it was the patrol teams invited to the scene that fired the vehicle of the traders when they allegedly refused to stop at a stop and search point mounted by the police to track down the suspected robbers that had allegedly robbed Crown Guest Inn at Gimbiya Street, Abuja.
Justice Bello added that in the face of the contradiction, it was particularly impossible to hold anyone responsible for the death of the traders.
Moreso when no name was mentioned among the patrol team invited to reinforce the ambush squad that was trailing the suspected robbers.
The judge, however, noted that the six traders created suspicion when they reversed at the checkpoint, inciting the policemen.
According to him, “It’s not in doubt that the occupants failed to stop. The decision not to stop, may have created suspicion.”
The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in 2005 arraigned the policemen on a nine-count charge of conspiracy and culpable homicide, contrary to Sections 97 and 221 (A) of the Penal Code.
They were alleged to have killed Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Tina Arebun, aged between 21 to 25 years, when they were returning from a night party in 2005.
Two victims, who were said to have survived among the six, were allegedly killed later.
One of the officers, Zakaria, denied that he had anything to do with the killings of the two remaining victims. He claimed that he was not allowed to use an AK47 rifle, but only a pistol.
The second defendant, Othman Abdulsalam, who remains at large, was not mentioned in the verdict of the court.
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