Miss Anita Akapson drove out of her No. 8, Queen Elizabeth Street, Asokoro, Abuja, residence in a Honda Accord in the evening of Saturday, October 13, with a firm promise to her sister and in-law that she would soon be back. A staff of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who was in her 20s, she had gone to Katampe, an emerging elite zone in Abuja, to see a friend.
Her sister and in-law, whom she was staying with, had no reason to doubt her. But she did not keep her word. Rather than Anita, a niece of former Minister Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman, driving back to the warm embrace of her sister and in-law that evening, they got disconcerting news of her sudden death at the hands of a policeman.
“At about 11 p.m., we got a phone call informing us that she has been shot by a police officer and rushed to Gwarimpa General Hospital,” her in-law said amid tears. The tyre of her car was ripped open with a bullet before she was shot.
The atmosphere in the house showed the depth of sorrow in the family. The sister could not raise her face despite several moves by the reporter to get her attention. But while her face was concealed, tears flowed from her eyes.
“Please, leave her, leave her, she is not in a state to speak,” her husband said. As he spoke, mourners were trooping into the house, wailing in agony.
The sympathisers comprised friends, family and her colleagues at NEMA.
Anita’s death further swelled the long list of innocent Nigerians whose lives have been cut short by the bullets of trigger-happy policemen. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has ordered the arrest of Anita’s killer. But the order has not comforted the family. Members of the family are pained, not just that Anita was tragically killed but that the police account of the cause of the death was far from the truth.
At their house, family members said they have not been asked to speak to the public about the incident. “We do not have the mandate of the family yet to speak to the press or public on the matter,” one of them who pleaded anonymity explained.
However, he said they could not understand why policemen would raise their rifles against innocent citizens with whose tax they are being paid. The family member accused the police of falsehood in their account of what transpired that Saturday evening when the sad incident happened.
He said: “The police claimed Anita was shot in error but that was not true. It was deliberate recklessness of the police, especially against innocent Nigerians. How could you justify the claim by the police that Anita, well dressed in her Honda Accord car, with identity card, could be suspected as a hoodlum? She only visited her friend in Katampe district of Abuja and was driving out of the apartment when she was double crossed (barricaded) by these policemen that cut short her life.
“It was few minutes to 11 p.m. that we received a call that Anita was hospitalised in Gwarimpa Hospital. Before we could get there, she was pronounced dead. A witness told us it took the police over an hour to convey her to the hospital. That, obviously, contributed to her death.
“Some of the private security men attached to houses at the location narrated what happened. Their account corresponded with what we gathered in our own private investigation. Police obviously presented false information to the public and there is need for Nigerians to know the truth. Anita never struggled with them and she was neither found with any implicating item that could warrant such barbaric act against her. We demand that justice be done.”
A police source, however, told Daily Sun: “What happened was that there was a reported case of armed robbery and they responded to a distress situation. There was a robbery in the area; some people were trying to steal a car around that area so the policemen responded. They got to the area and arrested two of the suspects, while the other one was trying to escape.
“This whole thing happened at a robbery scene, so it is actually an incident of stray bullet. That is what truly happened and you can make your inquiries about that. The police were able to arrest two of the suspects but, you know, in Nigeria, we give different narratives and the policeman is a vulnerable species.
“It is not like the policeman went after the lady as it is being speculated but the officer has been arrested. It was just an unfortunate issue because the target was actually not her; it was just an operational error. I think while the police patrol team was there, there was a movement that triggered the whole thing. She was in a car so the movement of the car, the way the car zoomed into the scene created suspicion so that was what happened.”
The police account has been roundly dismissed by family, staff, activists and friends of Anita. Labour leader in NEMA, Hafsat Shuaib, condemned the act and described Anita as a dedicated staff, who would be greatly missed.
She declared that they would soon storm the streets of Abuja in protest to register their anger over the recklessness of the police against innocent Nigerians.
She said: “We will take our protest to the National Assembly, the police headquarters and other critical government offices to demand an end to this unending killing of Nigerians by the some reckless policemen.”
Victor Giwa, national coordinator of Advocate for People’s Rights and Justice, said: “The police called it a case of mistaken identity. There is always a mistake everywhere in the world. But when it comes to the Nigeria Police, they have a history of abuse of human rights. They have a history of recklessness and other things, which cannot happen in other parts of the world.
“In Nigeria, we have policemen who are challenged psychologically. The system has no way of checking the excesses of some of these people. These frequent acts of policemen are highly condemnable. The family of the girl should be compensated and the policemen involved should be brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“This killing is one too many. The family of the girl has been thrown into mourning right now. And the only explanation the police are offering is that it was a case of a mistaken identify. If it was a case of a mistaken identify, why did the police not chain or arrest her?
“Why should the police shoot? Was she armed? Was she on the run? Did you declare her wanted and she refused to turn up? The action should be investigated and the police should do more instead of telling us that it was a case of a mistaken identity.”