After 12 years of trial, an Abuja High Court has sentenced two police officers Ezekiel Acheneje and Emmanuel Baba to death for killing two of the six Igbo traders in Abuja on June 8, 2005.
The two policemen were found guilty of extra judicial killing of Agustina Arebun and Anthony Nwokike.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Ishaq Bello, said that the court had no option than to convict the two men on account of their confessional statement that they shot the two traders upon instruction from a superior officer.
Justice Bello said that the action of the two policemen was callous and barbaric because by law they were supposed to preserve the lives of innocent citizens.
Six Traders Killed
On June 8, 2005, six traders Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Agustina Arebun were killed by some policemen in Gimbiya Street, Abuja, on their way from a night party.
Following an outcry by Human Rights Groups and families of the deceased. The Federal Government set up a board of inquiry headed by a former Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro.
The report of that committee led to the filing of a nine count charge of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide against Deputy Commissioner of Police Danjuma Ibrahim, Ezekiel Acheneje, Emmanuel Baba, Othman Abdul Salami, Sadiq Salami and Nicholas Zakaria who is at large.
Out of the six policemen only two were convicted and sentenced to death, Justice Ishaq Bello said that their confessional statement proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were guilty as charged for the killing of two of the six traders, Miss Agustina Aregbun and Anthony Nwokike
The judge said that the action of the convicted policemen was condemnable because there was no evidence that the two traders committed any crime at the time they were killed.
Justice Bello said that their killing was particularly painful because they were arrested by members of the public alive and handed over to the policemen, only for the same police to take laws into their hands by summarily executing them.
However three other policemen including a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Danjuma Ibrahim, Othman Abdul Salami, and Sadiq Salami who were charged with conspiracy and culpable homicide contrary to section 97 and 221 of the Penal Code were discharged and acquitted by the court for want of evidence.
Justice Bello said from the totality of the evidence placed before the court, the charge of conspiracy cannot be established against the freed policemen, because of the inability of the prosecution to convince the court that the men met and agreed to kill the six traders on June 8, 2005 while returning from a night club along Gimbiya street, Abuja.
The judge expressed displeasure with the shoddy manner in which investigation into the alleged killing was conducted.
On the other four traders were killed in their vehicle, the judge said the issue remains ambiguous and vague because the prosecution was unable to establish those responsible for their murder following contradicting testimonies by two prosecution witnesses.
Justice Bello said in the face of the contradiction it was practically impossible to hold anybody responsible for the death of the remaining four traders.
Two questions begging for answers are, who killed the remaining four traders? And whether the Federal Government would appeal the judgment, since two of the six defendants were convicted.