BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA — As more revelations emerge on how 12 Boko Haram kingpins took over an uncompleted building situated behind the Apo legislative quarters in Abuja, the Department of State Services, DSS, yesterday, urged the Federal Government not to accede to a N500 million compensation demand by surviving victims of the September 20, 2013 midnight shootings.
Addressing the investigative panel of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, the DSS said it was satisfied that most of the squatters in the uncompleted building were Boko Haram members, insisting that it was occupants of the building that initially opened fire on security agents that came for a search operation following a tip-off by an apprehended terror suspect.
Speaking through its senior lawyer, Mr. Clifford Osagie, the DSS, while imploring the Federal Government to, in the meantime, ignore demand by the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria, NATOMORAS, that families of the deceased and injured victims should be compensated, said there was need to firstly ascertain that the eight persons that lost their lives during the operation were innocent.
The DSS, which took the position shortly after the Nigerian Army tendered exhibits before the NHRC panel, further maintained that its investigations revealed that eight persons that were arrested at the building on the day of the incident were die-hard Boko Haram members who were planning to unleash mayhem within the Federal Capital Territory and its environs.
No to N500m compensation
According to Osagie, “The position of the DSS on the N500 million compensation demand is very clear.
“We need to first ascertain and determine whether those people that were killed were actually innocent. Until you reach that decision you cannot pay compensation.
“Moreover, eight of the people that were arrested at the building on that day were Boko Haram members. It will be difficult for anybody to conclude at this point until investigation is concluded.
“This is why we think that the NHRC has a big task on hand. We must first ascertain the culpability or otherwise of those that died as well as determine the nexus between the occupants of the building and Mallam Suleiman who is currently at large.
“We have submitted a written submission to this commission where we articulated that the speed and manner with which the corpse of people that died during the shoot-out where removed, hampered our investigation and made it difficult for us to link them. We would have carried out a post mortem test on the corpses.
We came under fire
“Like we have said here repeatedly, we came under fire and we responded. Now if the government is to give compensation, it must be determined that the deceased persons actually fell under the bullet of security agents and not from Boko Haram elements in the building.
“Unless there is a pre-conceived notion by this commission that the institution is responsible already for the deaths, then we can start talking about compensation. We have no problem if you have reached a conclusive decision that they died innocently and therefore deserve compensation.
“However, we insist that this panel must first prove that the institution was responsible.
“Some of those that were arrested in the building were released on bail while we detained others we think have connection with the Boko Haram sect. We came under fire and under the rules of engagement for the operation, we were entitled to return fire.”