‘‘APO 6’’: Nigerian Justice System an Apology – by Emmanuel Ajibulu
Once again the trial of DCP Danjuma Ibrahim, ASP Othman Abdulsalami (still at large), Nicholas Zackaria, Emmanuel Baba, Ezekiel Acheneje and Sadiq Salami who are standing trial for the alleged murder of six traders in Abuja has suffered another setback.
This followed the absence of Mr. Olu Otitoju who is the counsel representing the fifth accused person, Ezekiel Acheneje. Disappointed by the absence of Mr. Otitoju, Justice Ishaq Bello ordered the legal practitioner to appear before him at the next adjourned date to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for stalling the trial of the six police men accused of extra judicial killing since 2005.
Justice Ishaq Bello subsequently adjourned the suit to the fourteenth of October (2009) for continuation of hearing. The unfortunate ordeal started precisely June 8, 2005. Some policemen in the Federal Capital Territory conspired to gruesomely murder six able-bodied Nigerians (five boys, all motor spare parts traders at the Apo Mechanic Village and a lady) without any reason whatsoever. Having worked so hard in the day to earn a decent living, the victims, ostensibly, had taken some time off that night clubbing. On their way back, they ran into a road block mounted by the police, who are supposed to be their friends, but who as always turned out to be their worst enemies. That was the beginning of the sad escapades that transfixed the nation and appalled all decent minds the world over.
So callous were the wild animals in police uniform that they reportedly drove a six-inch nail through the nose of the only female victim, Augustina Arebum before finally twisting her neck and strangulating her. The six young people were summarily executed in cold blood. That won't be the first time policemen would, criminally, waste innocent lives in this country. Thereafter the victims were labeled dead armed robbers. It took the intervention of the Igbo community in Abuja to arouse the conscience of fellow citizens to this heinous crime and the nation was wheedled into action. So evil was the crime that the Police High Command indicted its officers after probing the case and finding them culpable. The indictment was unprecedented. So remorseful were the police that they had to foot the burial expenses of the six victims.
The Federal Government also set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Olasunbo Goodluck, which duly completed its work and could not help but agree with the police panel that the accused were guilty as charged. But being a commission of inquiry, it had no powers to sanction, but the report was so damning that the accused were charged to court. A year and two months after this welter of incontrovertible evidence was gathered, two of the accused, Deputy Commissioner of Police Ibrahim Danjuma and Police Constable Emmanuel Acheneje were granted bail by Justice Isaq Bello of Abuja High Court.
That was on Wednesday, August 2, 2006. The two were admitted to bail on medical ground. While Danjuma was said to be suffering from diabetes, ulcer and heart problem, Acheneje was said to have contracted the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and in the Justice's opinion, granting Bello bail would enable him seek adequate medical treatment while that of Acheneje was predicated on the excuse that he could afflict other inmates with other ailments, which come with HIV/AIDS. And you would have thought that if for any reason whatsoever, such a man standing trial for so dreadful a crime was to be granted bail, the conditions would be so stringent, particularly bearing in mind that Danjuma had made several attempts in the past to escape from detention and also the fact that one of the principal suspects, Othman Abdulsalam, the DPO of Garki Police Station at the time the crime was committed escaped from the police detention facility and is still on the run. Apart from his N2 million bail condition, Danjuma was only expected to produce two sureties in like sum, one of them being a former Inspector General of Police and a director in the civil service in the case of Acheneje. What did Danjuma do to achieve this stunning feat? He pulled the collapsing stunt twice in court.
The trial judge knew what the reaction of Nigerians to the ruling would be hence his acknowledgement of the fact that the provisions of Section 341 and 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) do not allow bail for any accused person who is being tried for capital offence punishable with death. Yet he took a judicial shelter under a Supreme Court canopy. Hear him: "The law is an agent of civilization. It is not primitive. It is on account of its civilized posture that the Supreme Court takes seriously issue of ill health as constituting a special and exceptional circumstance for the grant of bail to a person being tried for capital offence punishable with death." And the subtle blackmail; "I will not allow sentiment to serve as a control tower in this judicial exercise or anyone at that." I am most certain that when the Supreme Court was making the judicial pronouncement under which the court hid to grant Danjuma bail, the Justices couldn't have imagined some people who call themselves human beings could commit the crime the accused police officers committed. If ours is a country where the wheel of justice rolls without any encumbrance, Danjuma and his co-travelers on the devil's boulevard would have had their comeuppance long before their bail.
The court said the only right that cannot be derogated is the right of an individual to life. Of course, that is given. But when that right is being sought by soulless men like Danjuma who would have no qualms whimsically denying others of the same right in a most callous manner and for no just cause, it raises a moral and ethical dilemma. Granted, the law is an agent of civilization and is not primitive. But does that apply too to those who rather behave like men in the state of nature. Even wild animals have some qualms when dealing with their own. Yet, here are people who call themselves human beings committing crimes against humanity that would even make wild beasts shudder.
Not a few Nigerians believed that inspite of the hue and cry, which attended the crime when it was committed; nothing would come out of it. Yet, here is a country where people who committed less grievous offences that don't attract capital punishment are routinely refused bail. Over 4 years now, the question remains where is DCP Danjuma? Is he now a free man? If the answer to this question is yes, what then is the 'rule of law' of our dear President? An integral part of his cardinal 7-point agenda. What then is the Minister of Justice doing, the Inspector General, Director of SSS and other stakeholders in the security matters in Nigeria? Human life is sacred and as such Nigerian government should ensure that justice is brought to bear at all cost, this is too long a time.