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We are currently litigating five cases on a pro bono basis to assist disadvantaged young persons, families and communities to secure justice for injustices perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. We accept donations to enable us continue to litigate these cases. - SPACES FOR CHANGE (S4C)
Two Youth Corpers Murdered in Cold Blood while on National Service
By Simon Kolawole (posted on thisdaylive.com on April 2011)
Ukeoma Ikechukwu, on his facebook page, made a recommendation to his friends. He urged them to watch the video: “A Soldier's Silent Night”. In his words, it is a “very heart-wrenching video everyone should see”. It is the touching story of an American soldier observing Christmas in a lonely world far away from friends and family—in the service of his fatherland. Well, Ikechukwu is dead. He was murdered in cold blood by rioters who said they were protesting against the results of last Saturday’s presidential election. Ikechukwu was wasted in far-away Bauchi: lonely, terrified, kilometres away from friends and family—in the service of his fatherland as a youth corps member. It is a heart-wrenching story everyone should hear.
His last phone calls were described as coming from “someone in distress”. His last post on his facebook wall was on Sunday, April 17, a day after the election, at 6:48am, via mobile web. He wrote (unedited): "Na wao! This CPC supporters would hv (have) killed me yesterday, no see threat oooo. Even after forcing underaged voters on me they wanted me to give them the remaining ballot paper to thumb print. Thank God for the police and am happy i could stand for God and my nation. To all corps members who stood despite these threats esp. In the north bravo! Nigeria! Our change has come."
He was reported missing that day by friends and finally confirmed dead Friday, with thousands of tributes flowing across the social network sites.
He was not alone. Six other youth corps members were confirmed killed in Bauchi, where the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, polled 1,315,209 votes (or 81.69 per cent), defeating President Goodluck Jonathan (of the Peoples Democratic Party) who scored 258,404 votes and did not even hit the 25 per cent mark. The corps members were reportedly chased to a police station where they sought refuge. But the rioters, who were said to be chanting “Sai Buhari”, overran the station and killed the young Nigerians.
The story of Obinna Okpokiri is as heart-wrenching as Ikechukwu’s. The 27-year-old was butchered and burnt to ashes—in the service of his fatherland. Okpokiri’s own circumstances were as gruesome as they could be. He had reportedly run to the Corpers’ Lodge as the rampaging rioters targeted the youth corps members who were the polling officers recruited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the general election. As death loomed, the young Nigerians contemplated fleeing to the barracks, the only sanctuary in times of mob insanity. But they were not lucky enough. The rioters caught up with them, beat them up, slaughtered the ones they could and set them on fire. Human beings. Future leaders on the last lap of fulfilling statutory requirement before starting their careers. Slaughtered. Sliced. Soaked in petrol. Scorched. Reduced to ashes in the most callous fashion.
Okpokiri could have been in the United Kingdom savouring life some other way and living in the safety of a society that would go to any length to protect its citizens. He chose to return to his fatherland after acquiring a post-graduate degree in the UK. He chose to do the mandatory national youth service. He chose to obey the posting to Bauchi State, as against the mass hysteria of changing posting.
And, as it were, he chose to die.
The story of Ikechukwu and Okpokiri, mowed down in their infancies, is re-igniting calls for the scrapping of the NYSC—a body created in 1976 ironically to foster national unity. The corps members always appear to be the primary targets in ethno-religious riots in some parts of the country. There is now an online petition being mobilised to ask for the withdrawal of youth corps members from violent states, while some are calling for the outright scrapping of the scheme in the interest of safety and protection of the lives of the young graduates.
According to his profile, Ikechukwu worked at His Grace Network Limited as a manager, and studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka between 2006 and 2010. He did his secondary school at National High School, Aba, from 1997 to 2003. His favourite quote, according to him, was: “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost but when character is lost, all is lost.” His choice of music was “anything inspiring” and his favourite book was the Bible.
He seemed to have a strong religious bent, listing among his interests Dr. Tunde Bakare whom he called “Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God”. (Ironically, Bakare is Buhari’s running mate.) He also listed House on The Rock (his church, it has turned out), Pastor Sunday Adelaja, The Experience Lagos (a yearly Christian music festival), Myles Munroe, and Pastor Bimbo Odukoya among his “interests”.
An anonymous writer wrote on Okpokiri in a blog on Friday: "Let's all give a moment of silence and think about the senseless loss of Obinna Okpokiri, 27 years of age, Estate Management graduate, Abia State University, butchered and burnt in Bauchi state. Can he be brought back? No, never, not ever! ...I did not know Obinna directly but we had mutual friends here in London. Until recently Obinna was here in the UK, at his family expense, to pick up a post graduate qualification. Obi, as I will call him for the rest of this write up, like every young man had dreams and hopes and one of such was to go back and complete the mandatory NYSC. As a result he packed his bags, paid his way back to Nigeria to serve his fatherland in Bauchi where he was posted to do his National Youth Service.”
For Ikechukwu and Okpokiri, it is silent night. It is a heart-wrenching story.
On the orders of the Nigerian Army, heavily-armed soldiers and mobile police officers invaded Gosa 1 village, located along the Airport Road, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and demolished homes, businesses, churches, mosques, schools, farmlands, crops, shrines and important cultural relics belonging to indigenous Gbagyi farmers and low-income residents. The Thursday, April 26, 2012 demolitions - carried out without prior notice, payment of compensation or provision of alternate shelter - left thousands homeless, including children, the youth, women and the aged people who had lived on the land from time immemorial.
The military officials claimed that the Federal Government has earmarked the demolished areas for the construction of a military barracks, and hence, they mounted a signpost after the violent demolitions, warning indigenes to keep off from the land. Ten days after the demolitions, scores of families continue to live near the ruins of their demolished homes because "they have no where else to go", and cannot afford the soaring rental costs in the city.
The soldiers used extreme force in carrying out the demolitions. Some local youth who attempted to protest or resist the demolitions were teargassed, arrested and detained. They were only released after the intervention of the village head, Chief Micah Waliki and the Local Government Chairman, Honourable H. Micah.
As Mama Hauwa Abdulahi, 78, said in Hausa language, (who was seen sleeping in the open with two of her grand-children), "I was born and raised in this community. I feel so much pained that i am now a refugee in my homeland".
|Homeless children cluster in Gosa 1 village, along Airport Road, Abuja|
|Properties of displaced families litter every corner in the community|
|Onyeka Ani, and her brother and sister have no where else to go. They continue to live in the open, near the debris of their former home 10 days after the demolition.|
|Onyeka's sister sleeps in the open|
|Like Onyeka Ani's family, Hussain's family: 2 wives and his aged mother also live in the open. They have no where else to go|
|A demolished home|
|This Primary School is the only structure left standing in the demolished portion of the community|
|Homeless families seek refuge in the Primary School at night. Defecating in and around the school premises is quite common, increasing the vulnerability of the 'refugees" to health hazards.|
|Community wears a forlorn look following the demolitions|
|The traditional ruler and his cabinet lament the demolitions|
Between July 24-27, 2011, human rights researcher and community engagement specialist, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri embarked on a four day fact-finding mission to Maiduguri, Borno State in order to gain first-hand knowledge of the root of the instability plaguing the State, and document the social, economic and human rights abuses arising from the Boko Haram insurgency in particular. The mission forms part of a broader organizational strategy to gather and present useful information that can aid intelligence gathering and robust decision-making relating to a more effective security provisioning and human rights protection in Nigeria.
The rising spate of insecurity and killings in Borno State has destroyed lives, businesses, deterred future investments, and frustrated important gains made in the realization of specific social and economic rights, especially the rights to housing, education, health, work and food in particular. The Joint Task Force (JTF) constituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria in June 2011 to 'restore order" in Maiduguri has also perpetrated massive human rights violations, by particularly launching direct attacks on civilians as prohibited under national and international law.
In this video recorded on Monday July 25, 2011, she visited Budum community located near the palace of the Shehu of Borno in Maiduguri where a major bomb blast had occurred about 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2011 and wounded three soldiers. In response to the attack, JTF personnel set shops numbering over 42 ablaze and shot directly at shop owners and residents while they were fleeing the scene of the blasts.
Alhaji Maina Kaigama, 35, informed that soldiers conducted a house-to-house search, forcing men suspected to be above 18 years out of their homes before shooting them. Six cars with registration numbers AA495 JRE, AA126KDQ, AM96AMG, AA415NGL, DA314FST, AE437 DKW were allegedly vandalized and burnt by the soldiers.
Although the Joint Task Force (JTF) authorities vehemently denied the arson and killings, the mission identified and visited the homes of one wounded victim and four persons allegedly killed by JTF soldiers: Late Mallam Goni Tijani,(55), Late Babakura Zakariya (18), Late Idris M, and the woman in whose shop the improvised explosive device (IED) was planted. In this video, Victoria Ohaeri joined the family, relatives and friends of Late Mallam Goni Tijani at a fidau (funeral) prayer held on Monday, July 25, 2011 in Budum, Maiduguri. She learned that soldiers invaded the home of Late Mallam Goni Tijani and could see the walls of his home riddled with bullets. They forced him out of his room and shot him to death right in front of his family members and children most of whom are below the age of six. His two shops were burnt leaving his two wives and 11 children with nothing to depend on.
Mohammed Zakariya, 20, and Mustapha Imam, elder brother and close friend of Late Babakura Zakariya who witnessed the shooting of Babakaru Zakariya wept uncontrollably as they shared the account of his brutal murder by JTF soldiers. The deceased's aged father tearfully told her how JTF soldiers dragged the deceased out of his mother's room onto the streets. He knelt down, and pleaded with the soldiers to spare his life. He died on the spot after he was shot on the head, chest and waist by the soldiers. Severely wounded Baba Sani Mohammed, shop owner at Budum Market is receiving treatment in his home following a life-threatening gunshot injury said to have been inflicted on him by JTF soldiers while he was fleeing from the burning market.
With its personnel increasingly accused of human rights violations and involvement in criminal activities such as arson, rape and brutal killings, the JTF is struggling with image problems and there are increasing calls for its withdrawal. In all the sub-urban communities: Gomari, London Chiki, Kaleri, Budum visited, residents unanimously clamored for the soldiers to return to their barracks.
Report Injustices: Apo Six And Justice Denied
Families of Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Tina Arebun, all between 21 and 25 years old who were brutally murdered in 2005 by policemen as they were returning from a night-out are still wondering if the killers will ever be brought to justice. The trial of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Danjuma Ibrahim; Assistant Superintendent of Police Othman Abdulsalami (still at large) and corporals Nicholas Zacharia, Emmanuel Baba, Emmanuel Acheneje and Sadiq Salami has been on at a Federal Capital Territory High Court presided over by Justice Isaq Bello since 18 January 2006. The trial has suffered many adjournments and followers of the case believe the court seems to be pandering too much to the wiles and subterfuges of the accused policemen to prolong the trial as long as possible in the hope of eventually evading justice.
Justice Isaq may not be unaware that all eyes are on him over the many adjournments he has granted which have been responsible for lack of progress in the prosecution of the police officers. “It is very sad that this case is going on like this. Though I know that I have good conscience over this case, we cannot ignore what the people are saying outside. This is not good for the image of the judiciary. I think this is the third time the fifth accused person is changing his lawyer. We cannot continue like this,” he said at one of the hearings early this year while reacting to information by Chief Chris Uche, the prosecution lawyer that Ezekiel Acheneje, the fifth accused person, has no lawyer for his defence and, therefore, the trial has to be adjourned. The lawyer had noted that in a murder trial, an accused person must either be represented or provided with a lawyer. But Acheneje seemed to have perfected a way of “hiring and firing” counsels to stall his trial.
The accused has actually changed six counsels since the trial commenced in 2005, including one Olu Otitoju provided to defend him by the Legal Aid Council. He fired Otitoju in January 2011. But some observers of the proceedings have also accused the judge of providing a sort of enabling environment for Acheneje with the bail he granted him in 2006. Normally, accused persons standing trial for offences which carry capital punishment are legally not entitled to bail. But Justice Isaq had based his decision on a claim that Acheneje was suffering from the HIV syndrome and granted him bail, alongside the first accused person, Danjuma in 2006. Danjuma’s lawyer had asked for bail for his client on the excuse that the accused police officer was suffering from diabetes, ulcer and heart problem. Danjuma, who was a television cameraman but got recruited into the Police due to the influence of a former Vice President, had ‘fainted’ twice to convince the judge of his ill-health in court before he was granted bail. Isaq argued that the bail he was granting Danjuma would enable him seek adequate medical treatment. He added that he was allowing Acheneje leave the prison confinement so that he would not afflict other inmates with ailments associated with HIV/AIDS.
In granting bail to the two accused person, the trial judge had acknowledged that the provisions of Section 341 and 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC do not allow bail for an accused person being tried for a capital offence punishable with death. He, however, noted that the issue of ill-health constitute a special and exceptional circumstance for the granting of bail to a person being tried for capital offence punishable with death: “I will not allow sentiment to serve as a control tower in this judicial exercise or anyone at that,” he added.
The bails were widely condemned, especially given the fact that one of the principal suspects, Othman Abdulsalam, the Divisional Police Officer of Garki Police Station at the time the crime was committed escaped from the police detention facility and is still on the run. “When Danjuma was released, I forgot everything about the case. The only way justice will be delivered is from God,” Elvis Ozor, a younger brother of one of the deceased, told the British Broadcasting Corporation two years ago. “A murder trial of this nature involving six innocent youths should not linger for four years. This is one case that has exposed the poor administration of the nation’s criminal justice,” Amobi Nzelu, counsel to the slain men also commented two years ago. Chris Uche, a senior advocate who is the prosecution counsel, noted that the trial was moving smoothly and speedily until the defence lawyers introduced the issue of bail.
The two accused have since been living as free men and it is, therefore, understandable if Acheneje will do everything possible to delay the trial which may lead to his conviction and confinement to prison. Though this magazine cannot confirm if Danjuma is still on the payroll of the Police as many are speculating, it was confirmed that the accused is living at the posh officers’ housing estate located in Wuse 2, Abuja. Lawyer to the other accused person had in obvious frustrations at the antics of Acheneje had at the resumed hearing of the matter in April asked the judge to try him separately from the others. However, Malam Isa Ibrahim appeared as a lawyer for Acheneje at the resumed hearing of the matter on 17 May. But this also led to another adjournment as the lawyer requested for time to enable him get the record of proceedings and exhibits as he was just coming into the matter. The lawyer also said he needed time to meet with his client. “Once we resume in July, the matter must continue until it reaches its logical conclusion this year. So all counsels in this matter must take note,” Isaq had warned when granting the request of the counsel to Acheneje. Few weeks to the end of 2011, it is doubtful if the promise of ending the case before the end of the year can be fulfilled.
In, perhaps, the most sensational extra-judicial killings to come to public knowledge, the country was thrown into agony five years ago as information of how men of the Abuja command of the Nigeria police had, in the early morning of 8 June 2005 ended the hopes and aspirations of the five young men and a lady. The murdered men were later tagged tagged the “Apo Six”, a reference to the area of the FCT where the young men were selling spare parts before they were killed. The sequence of events that led to the unfortunate incident later revealed that Ozor had driven his visiting girlfriend, Augustina and his four other friends to a relaxation spot at Gambiya Street, Area 11, Abuja on the night of 7 June 2005. The policemen claimed that the deceased were robbers who fell to their superior firepower during gun confrontation.
They then proceeded to bury the corpses later that morning at a bush in the same Apo district where the murdered men had their shops. However, one of the colleagues of the dead traders who was in the bush to relieve himself at the same time saw the policemen and recognised the bodies they were getting ready to dump in the shallow graves and raised an alarm. The police insisted that the six were robbers, but their colleagues denied. The killings sparked two days riots in Abuja and government was forced to set up a commission of enquiry to investigate the matter. The then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun was forced to set up a special investigation panel headed by Mike Okiro, a retired Inspector-General of Police on the matter.
The federal government also in August 2005 set up the Justice Goodluck Olasumbo judicial commission of enquiry with the mandate of examining all issues connected with the killings. During the commission’s sittings, the other five officers accused of the murders currently on trial and eight other police witnesses were emphatic that Danjuma ordered the killings. A Police armourer who appeared before the commission admitted that weapons were planted on bodies just as the Police photographer also confessed that guns were planted on the corpses of the six deceased and pictures taken of them in the grounds of Garki police station to solidify the lies that they were killed during gun battles. According to him, the Police gave him two local pistols, two daggers and one machete to put by the side of the victims, to portray them as armed robbers.
The Okiro panel also presented a 31-page report to the judicial commission of enquiry in which it indicted Danjuma and nine other police officers of complicity in the murder. The panel also stated emphatically that the men were not armed robbers as claimed by the police and that the locally-made pistols and other exhibits allegedly recovered from the deceased persons were actually brought out to frame the victims on the instruction of the DCP by the Garki Village station armourer, Inspector Ishaya Nyaiwak. The panel added in the report that the pistol and two unexpended cartridges were used to frame the deceased persons and added that the ammunition were items recovered by the police a week earlier at the Rita Lori Hotel, located at Garki Village, Abuja.
The commission, in the course of its sittings ordered the exhumation and post-mortem examination of the bodies of the deceased men to determine the cause of their death and as a further confirmation of the testimonies it has heard from witnesses. The report of the autopsy confirmed that the six victims died of injuries due to “high velocity missile,” consistent with the AK 47 rifle. It asserted that five of the victims were shot to death instantly. The sixth victim and only female among the deceased, according to the commission was killed to ensure that there was no living witness of the atrocities committed by the policemen. The commission, therefore, found the policemen guilty and affirmed that the robbery allegation the indicted policemen had tried to hang on the neck of their victims was false. The Obasanjo administration accepted the commission’s report and issued a draft White Paper on it. Each of the families was paid N3 million as compensation by the government. The police also apologised and provided ambulances for the bodies to be carried to their hometowns for a proper re-burial.
“The full weight of the law will be brought to bear on all who are found to have been involved in the perpetration of this heinous crime,” former president, Obasanjo said in August 2005 when commenting on the cold-blooded murder. Over six years after, it appears that promise may never be fulfilled.
Report Injustices: NIGERIAN POLICE EXECUTE KIDNAP SUSPECTS IN COLD BLOOD!
Police in Akwa Ibom state killed seven alleged kidnappers and displayed their dead bodies at their premises for residents interested to look at…
Investigations by SaharaReporters indicate that the suspected kidnappers were executed by the police in cold blood, raising concerns about the legal powers of the police to act as investigators, prosecutors, judges and implementers of judgments.
Two police sources in Eket confirmed the incident, and said that the men died in a routine operation against kidnappers.
But a police informant told our correspondent that, contrary to the official police version, the suspects were assembled from different locations and executed in Eket Police Division.
Warning…very graphic…if you have the stomach, then continue to see the photos..