Posted by Reuters on
Nigeria has apologized to the families of six people who were shot dead by police and offered them 3 million naira ($22,600) each, setting a precedent in a country where police brutality is a fact of daily life.
ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria has apologized to the families of six people who were shot dead by police and offered them 3 million naira ($22,600) each, setting a precedent in a country where police brutality is a fact of daily life.
The five men and one woman were shot dead in the poor Apo neighborhood of the capital Abuja on June 8. Police initially said they were armed robbers caught in the act, but an inquiry established that they were unarmed.
"The government has resolved that contrary to the earlier misinformation that the Apo six were armed robbers, incontrovertible evidence shows that they were not armed robbers," Minister of Police Affairs Alaowei Broderick Bozimo said.
"Government, therefore, exonerates the six victims and apologizes to their families and in fact, all Nigerians," he added during a ceremony on Friday. Police spokesman Haz Iwendi confirmed the quotes on Saturday.
Three million naira represents a fortune for average Nigerian families.
The Apo killings came to national attention after enraged residents paraded the bodies of the six victims through the streets of the neighborhood and torched a police station and several squad cars.
The residents said the six were innocent party-goers on their way home who were killed because they fell into a dispute with police.
The government launched a public inquiry into the shootings and six policemen were charged with murder. They face the death penalty if convicted. Their trial is under way, though one of them is on the run after escaping from police custody.
The inquiry and the trial are an unprecedented attempt to hold policemen accountable for killing members of the public, according to human rights groups who say such killings are common in Africa's most populous country.
Rights activists say police, many of whom use illegal roadblocks to get bribes from drivers, frequently shoot civilians when arguments break out and later claim the victims were armed robbers.
The police published figures showing they killed 3,100 suspected armed robbers in 2003 alone.
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