By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Former Minister of Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, on yesterday, approached the Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and other Units of the Nigeria Police Force, sitting in Abuja, to seek redress for the extra-judicial murder of her niece, Miss Anita Akapson, by a trigger-happy police officer in 2018.
31-year old Miss Akapson was shot at close range by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Godwin Wagozie, on October 13, 2018.
The Police initially claimed that the deceased who had just returned to Nigeria after her graduation from Kent University in the United Kingdom, was killed in a case of mistaken identity. It stated that an officer shot her because he thought she was an armed robber that was escaping from the scene of a crime.
However, in several petitions, copies of which were forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Security Adviser and the Chairman, Police Service Commission, the family of Akapson and the former Minister of Finance, maintained that the deceased was “trailed, targeted, intercepted, her vehicle brushed, blocked and shot at close range by a police officer while she was sitting in her vehicle (An Honda Accord Salon) at Katampe District, Abuja”.
The family insisted that “circumstances of the trailing, tracking and gruesome murder of the deceased who had a strong affinity with Senator Nenadi Usman, a member of the leading opposition political party in Nigeria, and who is presently facing continuous prosecutions from the States, unleashed with inattentive executive sanctions, calls for thorough and comprehensive investigation”.
Meanwhile, though the police officer that pulled the trigger, DSP Wagozie, had since been prosecuted and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. However, family of the deceased and Senator Usman, in the joint petition they filed before the Abuja Investigative Panel, are demanding a compensation of N5billion from the Nigerian Police Force.
Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the petition marked 2020/IIP/SARS/ABJ/192, are the killer cop, Wagozie, who served at the Gwarinpa Division of the FCT Police Command, the Commissioner of Police FCT, as well as the Inspector General of Police.
Led in evidence by their lawyer, Mr. Obinna Ugwu, mother of the deceased, Mrs. Esther Akapson, said her late daughter was “an asset to the family”.
She said: “I am the mother of the deceased, a civil servant and Chief Accountant with the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
“On October 13, 2018, we got a call from my elder daughter that Anita was shot and she died as a result of the shot. The Police blocked her car.
“The late Anita was a graduate of Kent University in the UK. She could have stayed back to get job there, but she chose to come to Nigeria.
“We have been traumatized. It has not been easy for me. No amount of money can bring her back. We are before this panel to seek compensation to assuage the trauma the family has passed through. Anita was an asset for the family but her life was cut short because they f carelessness of a Policeman”, she added.
She further decried that since the incident, “there has not been any delegation of the Police to console the family”.
Police lawyer, Mr. James Idachaba however urged the panel headed by a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, to take cognizance of the fact that the officer involved in the extra-judicial murder had since been convicted and already serving prison term.
Idachaba argued that it was wrong to address Wagozie as a DSP in the petition since he had since been dismissed from the police force.
Chairman of the panel, Justice Sulieman subsequently adjourned the matter sine-die (indefinitely), even as he directed Police to organize a “high-powered delegation” to visit and commiserate with the family of the deceased before the resumption of proceedings in the case.
In a related development, the panel, fixed April 8 for adoption of final address in the case of a National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, member that was murdered by an Inspector of Police, a day to her passing out parade.
The panel had earlier heard how the deceased, Linda Igwetu, was shot below her breast on July 3, 2018, by one Inspector Benjamin Peters of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Police Command, Area 11, Abuja.
The late Miss Igwetu who was 23 years old, was said to had gone out after work with some of her colleagues to celebrate her passing out from NYSC the next day, when she met her death.
Meanwhile, following a summon that was issued by the panel, the Medical Director of Garki General Hospital, Mr. Adamu Onu, where the deceased was allegedly denied treatment before her death, appeared as a witness in the matter.
Testifying as the first defence witness, DW-1, Mr. Onu said it was not true that the hospital declined to treat the deceased until the family deposited N50, 000.
“I am here to state that the allegation against Garki Hospital is patently false, misleading and a misrepresentation.
“The hospital did not demand for any money from family of the deceased. Infact, it has been the policy of the Hospital since 2007 that anybody involved in accident or that have such emergency is not required to make any payment before treatment is commenced. The case of the deceased was not different.
“It is also completely false that the Hospital asked sister to the deceased to go and look for blood as it does not accept blood donation from women”.
He said the sister of the deceased, Chinenye Igwetu had admitted during a hearing Senate conducted on the matter, that it was DPO that told her to go and look for blood.
The witness went ahead and the tendered an internal memo that was signed in 2007 by former CMD of the Hospital, Dr. Dickson Bada, forbidding immediate collection of money at the accident and emergency unit.
He said the Hospital had called for CCTV footages of what transpired at the Accident and Emergency Unit, on June 4, 2018, the day Linda Igwetu died.
“She got infusion of blood from the blood bank. I can’t recall the exact time but she got blood when she needed to get the blood”, the witness added.
Counsel to the hospital, Mr. Nekabari Anah, said he had a list of 17 exhibits to tender before the panel.
He further accused the family of the deceased of engaging in forum shopping, stressing that the National Human Rights Commission, the Senate and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Investigative Panel, have all probed and exonerated Garki Hospital of any complicity in the case.
Similarly, the DW-2, Dr. Enejo Abdu, who is the Assistant Registrar of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, represented the Registrar, told the panel that ithe matter was investigated and concluded in 2019.
“We do not investigate hospitals, but we investigate medical practitioners. This matter was reported to us and after our investigation, no prima facie case was established against any medical personnel at Garki Hospital”, he added.