The family of late Ekene Akabike, a student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) Awka, Anambra State, allegedly murdered by Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives in 2004, have approached the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in the state for justice.
State governments across the country set up judicial panels to hear complaints of police brutality and human rights violations, particularly ones perpetrated by the SARS, as part of its response to the #EndSARS protests.
The protests which rocked the country for weeks witnessed demonstrations from Nigerian youth across major cities.
As a result, the federal government disbanded the notorious police unit with promises to serve justice to victims of police brutality in the form of compensation and prosecution of killer-cops.
Amongst the 114 petitions received by the Justice Veronica Umeh-led panel in Anambra State is that of late Ekene’s relatives, dated October 28.
According to a copy of the Akabike’s petition made available to Newsmen, Ekene, 24 years old at the time, was arrested and killed on June 3, 2004.
The petition was filed by Abdul Mahmud of the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), an attorney to the petitioners; Obiora Akabike, D’ Lawrence Akabike, Ikechukwu Akabike, and Uzochukwu Akabike.
In the petition, it was stated that Ekene rented a room in one Mr Okoye’s family house at Umubelu Village, Awka, Anambra State, after gaining admission into UNIZIK.
After spending two years in the house, a member of Mr Okoye’s family, identified as Chinedu, told the deceased to vacate the room because it was rented out in his absence.
Two weeks before his arrest, he got a new accommodation and was planning to move his belongings out until the incident happened, the family stated.
Narrating how it happened, a representative of the family said: “It was a quiet period in the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka and on the fateful day, Wednesday, 2 June 2004 Ekene and two of his friends, Osita Odife and Nnamdi Obidigbo, from my town, spent the night preparing for their assessment the following day.
“At about 1.00 am now Thursday 3 June 2004, the landlord’s son ‘Chinedu’ knocked and requested to pass the night with his girlfriend as his people were already asleep. Being a young boy of almost the same age, Ekene allowed him in, with the hope that in two days he would conclude plans to pack to a new accommodation.”
He stated that about 5:30 am on Thursday, personnel of SARS from Awkuzu Station, Anambra State raided the house, killed Chinedu and arrested Ekene.
“Eyewitnesses confirmed that the SARS operatives entered the compound shouting “Chinedu”, the name of the son of the landlord, knocking on all the doors in the house. The boy who was then sleeping in Ekene’s room with his girlfriend then went out and immediately the SARS operatives shot him dead.
“They then arrested Ekene, one of his friends Osita Odife, and the girlfriend of Chinedu. The trio were then taken out from the yard, including the lifeless body of Chinedu to SARS Awkuzu.”
He added that the information of the arrest of Ekene got to the family at about 1 p.m. the same day but the SARS personnel didn’t allow any relative to see him.
“This persisted up to the third day when SARS granted his friend, Osita Odife, bail. It was his friend that told the family that SARS executed him. He recounted that soon after they arrived SARS Awkuzu, they were separated for interrogation by the OC SARS, CSP James Nwafor. He later heard sounds of gunshots. He also explained that until he was released, he never saw Ekene again.”
According to the petition, upon hearing the testimony of Mr Odife, D’Lawrence went to the SARS Awkuzu and insisted on seeing Ekene whom they had held for about four days.
“The OC SARS, CSP James Nwafor told him that he will appear in the court at Awka on 10 June 2004. While waiting for this date, my ailing mother who had known that he was arrested by SARS could not hold her apprehension and insisted that she must visit SARS with food for her son after being held for about four days now.
“Even when she went there, they assured him that he will be brought to the court so she should be in the court on the said date. Unfortunately, 10 June 2004 came and passed without sight of my younger brother in any court at Awka.”
“D’Lawrence went back to SARS Awkuzu on Friday 11 June 2004 where CSP Nwafor told him pointblank that he has been wasting his time, that his brother was killed since 3 June, the day of arrest. He subsequently threatened D’Lawrence that he has his address and that of all the members of the family and will stop at nothing to finish all and nothing will happen.
“D’Lawrence went to Dunukofia Police Division to report the matter and they advised him to take it as the will of God as nobody questions SARS operations.”
The trauma of Ekene’s death and threats from the SARS operatives worsened his mum’s health, who died five years after, the family claims.
“Ekene’s mother eventually died few years afterwards in 2009 due to the complications arising from the heartbreak and frustrating episode. The family has been living with the huge burden of not even putting a fight for justice for this young boy whose life was snuffed out by the men who were supposed to protect him,” the petition read.
The family further argued that the extra-judicial killing of Ekene is an infringement on his right to life, amongst other rights.
Consequently, they demanded that N100 million should be paid to the family as compensation and that the killer-cops be made to face the wrath of the law.
“The sum of One Hundred Million Naira (N100,000,000.00) being compensation for the unlawful arrest, detention and subsequent extrajudicial and unlawful killing of EKENE AUGUSTINE AKABIKE, pursuant to Section 36 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;
“b. A written public apology from the Nigeria Police Force for the unlawful arrest and detention and subsequent extrajudicial and unlawful killing of EKENE AUGUSTINE AKABIKE;
“c. The Petitioners demand the prosecution of Retired CSP James Oshim Nwafor for the extrajudicial and unlawful killing of EKENE AUGUSTINE AKABIKE,” the family listed as remedies.