The court witnessed a strange and unexpected judgement, after a rigorous and painstaking assessment of the crime committed by the dishonourable policemen. The pronouncement triggered divergent reactions amidst mixed feelings by those present.
“The two defendants have no regard for the sanctity of human lives. They are not only over-zealous but also extremely reckless,” he added.
The offence of culpable homicide was “punishable with death”, he told the court.
Judge Ishaq Bello said he was “compelled to convict” Ezekiel Acheneche and Emmanuel Baba “for the extrajudicial killing of innocent people”.
Six police officers were initially charged with conspiracy and culpable homicide after six ethnic Igbo traders were killed in the Apo area of Abuja in June 2005.
The killings caused a public outcry and led to the intervention of the president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, who set up a judicial panel to investigate.
Nigerian police officers have long been accused of carrying out summary and extrajudicial killings, as well as arbitrary arrests and torture in custody. But prosecutions are rare.
The officers, who denied the charges, claimed that the traders — dubbed the Apo Six — were armed robbers who had refused to stop their car at a security check.
Four were shot and killed instantly but two others — a young man and a young woman — were wounded but then taken outside the city and executed, the court was told.
Bello said four officers standing trial for the death of the first four traders were acquitted because of a lack of evidence.
Acheneche and Baba were found guilty of killing the injured pair.
Prosecutors said the six victims were returning from a nightclub at the time and were not involved in any criminal activity.
“There was nothing in the form of evidence to show that the two, a boy and a girl, did anything that constituted a threat to the defendants,” Bello said.