By IKENNA EMEWU
When it is about the wrong incident, the managers know exactly what to do. They intentionally buy time, wait for so long to wear out the public outcry and it just dies a natural death.
That is the same game the police, prosecuting death of six persons the same police massacred in June 2005 and the court are playing over the matter. It is just some months before it clocks eight years the matter went on trial in Abuja and what Abuja Metro reliably got was that the prosecution had not been through with calling of witnesses to give evidence.
The matter must not have gone half-way into conclusion. Maybe, it would take another eight years before the judgment comes. Abuja Metro had a word with the champion of the cause of the six victims of police extrajudicial killing who they willingly dubbed robbers at the wake of the protest against the bloodshed.
Chief Amobi Nzelu has not lost the steam that made him start the fight, which led to unraveling the cause of the deaths. In a chat with him in his office, the fire still remained in his eyes as he went through the facts of the matter, but admitted he is not really aware of what stopped the trial from coming to an end as he is not part of it.
“My work stopped when the federal government issued a white paper on the investigation into the murder and hired two lawyers (Senior Advocates of Nigeria) to handle the prosecution.
So, I can’t say for sure the agency – between the police, the government lawyers and the court that caused this long delay. I only want to remind Nigerians that the accused persons have not got any sentence.
“It is good to remind you that the trial had started before that of Rev. King in Lagos. One year after commencement of King’s trial, he was sentenced to death. While the Apo 6 matter remains there, the Appeal Court has confirmed Rev. King’s sentence and he should be heading to the Supreme Court while Apo 6 remains where it is at the court of first instance. It is a big shame and not even good to remember that Nigerians have waited in vain all these years for the court to give verdict on the trial. Worst of all, the two matters are first degree murders.” He said the unusual delay is a shame and concern to the image of the judiciary and the police as it depicts a possible attempt to ensure the suspects, all policemen, escape.
God sent task
Nzelu still exhibits real passion for the task he took up on his own when the incident occurred a nd said it was God’s task to him, and he regrets nothing. “God proved He sent me to handle the assignment because he made it a success.
It was in a dream that I heard a voice call and tell me that the six victims were not robbers and that he wants me to go and tell the world and Nigerians that there were innocent persons. I asked the voice the evidence I have to take such step. It assured me the proof would be made known to me.
I again asked about my safety in embarking on that. The same voice assured me that not a strand of hair on my head or those of my family members would drop over the matter.
I took up the mandate and the fact was proven that there were innocent. To cap it up, the white paper report of that incident remains the only probe panel report ever implement in Nigeria since 1960 and compensation paid.
But when the battle was on, I faced threats, though I can’t say the source. Several calls came my way asking why I deliberately wanted to rubbish and smear the police. I said I never planned to do that, but only out to ensure justice and truth rule the day. That is why I still don’t understand why the trial will not end and justice done. Justice is a three-way process. Although the families of the victims were compensated, but the other aspect is the justice of letting the law dish out adequate punishment to the perpetrators.
Chief Nzelu still could not understand why one Dennis Asawa recommended for trial by the government panel is still free today. The white paper had listed some persons for trial including DCP Danjuma Ibrahim, DPO Abdusalam Othman who later escaped, Inspector Suleiman Audu, Ezekiel Echeneje, Sadiq Salami, Dennis Asawa, whom the authorities shielded, Emmanuel Baba and Nicholas Zachariah. “Even before the panel did its work, there had been reliable evidence against Dennis Asawa in the matter and how a photographer was taking shots of the dead bodies and the body of the only lady in the six moved.
The report is that she even spoke asking for water. But when the information was brought to Asawa, he simply pulled the body out of the caravan they had loaded them to and shot her again to finish her off. But today, he is the one not facing trial even when the probe indicted him of first degree murder.
The other person that is out of detention is Danjuma who was granted bail on health grounds. But the rest are still at the Kuje prisons, yet the trial is stalled, and in August this year, it will be eight years it started.”
Nzelu also displayed the autopsy report for the six bodies obtained at the National Hospital and signed by the chief medical director, Dr. Z. O. Ajuwon. The 15-page document indicated the six undoubtedly died of gunshot injuries inflicted on them by the policemen.
The Apo 6 were Anthony Nwokike, Chinedu Meniru, Ifeanyi Ozor, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna and Augustina Anedum, the only woman among them. Between June 7 and 8, at night, the six were rounded up and killed by the police around Area 11, Garki and branded robbers. The outcry was what turned back the hand of justice in their favour.
The fight put up by their compatriots at the Apo Mechanic Village who protested that the victims were not robbers, the action of Nzelu and other Nigerians including the Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo, Abuja forced the police to set up an inquiry headed by then DIG Mike Okiro.
But President Olusegun Obasanjo said no, dissolved the police panel and set up a presidential judicial inquiry that found that the six were just victims of police brutality.
Nzelu still expressed his appreciation to Chief Obasanjo for taking the leadership step that unraveled the killing as he said the intention of the police to set up inquiry against itself was possibly to cover their tracks in the murder. Another panel that reconciled the investigation sat and produced the white paper of the inquest and agreed with the judicial inquiry that the indicted persons face trial for culpable homicide.
While exonerating the six victims of robbery tag hung on them by blood-thirsty police, it was the report of the white paper whose members were Prof. A.B. Borishade, former Aviation Minister, Fidelis Tapgun, former Minister of Industries, O. O. Ogunpa, Amal Pepple, now Housing Minister and M.C Nweje sealed the fate of the killers. Although Nzelu still expresses bitter discouragement over the delay in the trial, he is assertive that he can’t regret embarking on the mission and promises that his experiences in the matter is a motivation to fight for the victimized next time and all his life.
However, to leave a lasting memory for the victims, the act and his efforts, Nzelu is about wrapping up a book he wrote on the incident and all the drama that went with it. He said what has been delaying the publication is the same delay in the verdict of the trial which he plans to make part of the book.