BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—A lucky survivor of the midnight massacre of squatters in an uncompleted building situated at the Apo district of the Federal Capital Territory on allegation that they were members of the Boko Haram sect, Mallam Gambo Idris, yesterday, narrated before a panel of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, how some masked gun men besieged the building and slaughtered the sleeping occupants like helpless goats.
Idris who was close to tears as he gave a blow-by-blow account of what transpired between them and their assailants on the wee-hours of September 20, which culminated to the instant death of eight persons, said he escaped death by the whiskers, “because after shooting sporadically inside the building for a long time, three of the armed men wearing black cloths, went inside each of the rooms to confirm that the occupants were dead”.
Insisting that none of the victims were Boko Haram members but mostly Keke-NAPEP, Taxi drivers and Shoe makers, Idris said he was fast asleep on that fateful day when at midnight, gunfire suddenly erupted from various sides of the building. “We all woke up in panic, some of us were shot at the back or the fore head while running for safety.
“We were up to 100 persons living in two separate one-storey building inside the compound. As the people were trying to run away to save their lives, the bullets were killing them. Our attackers barricaded the house; we didn’t even know where the bullets were coming from because it was dark.
“So I and some others quickly ran back inside the house and hid in one of the dark rooms. Thank God there was no light. It was while we were inside the room that we saw three masked men in black overall, carrying guns. When they were entering the house, they met one of the squatters who hid by the door and shot him dead. After that, they inspected most of the rooms; luckily for us, they passed the room we were hiding in, if not, they would have killed all of us,” he added.
Besides, Idris, told the investigative panel of the NHRC led by its Chairman, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, that the one hour bloodbath lasted from 12a.m to 1a.m. “We came out after the shooting and saw one of our colleagues who was also a Keke-NAPEP rider that was shot in the stomach and his intestines were gushing out.
“We quickly carried him and others who were injured and ran to a hill (Gwari-hill) which is close to the building. It was still dark then. About 30 minutes later, we saw people flashing torch lights at the hill, shouting that they were police men and that we should come down because they have come to our aid.
“Though the police men were not seeing us, at that point, we decided to climb down and face our fate. As we were climbing down, we saw two corpses; one of them was also shot on his fore head. After identifying the corpses as members of the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Riders Association otherwise known as NACOMORA, the police also discovered three other corpses.
“At that point, the police men advised us to go back to our hiding places for fear that our assailants may come back. Immediately the police men left and we quickly ran back to the hill where we stayed till it was time for the morning prayers. When we came back to the building, we counted eight dead bodies though I can’t categorically tell you now the number of people that were injured…”
“I can however tell this commission that none of the occupants of the building belonged to Boko Haram. I had stayed in that building for over two years before that incident. We all go out in the morning to find our daily bread and return in the evening to lay down our heads. We never met the landlord, he never issued us any quit notice and we refused to vacate the building.”
Asked how they got to live in the building, Idris, told the panel that they had an arrangement with a security man in charge of the compound who he simply identified as Joseph. He said prior to the attack, the security man, collected N200 from each of them every week, adding that they paid N30 to use the restroom and N50 to take their bath.
He said they were surprised that a day before the incident, the said security man, took his family and ran away from the building.
“I have lived there for 2 years; I have never seen a gun in the building apart from that of the security man. There was nobody with even a knife”, he insisted, saying they usually surrender their personal belongings to the security man to keep while they go out in the morning to look for their daily bread.
Meantime, Chairman of Keke-Riders Association in Abuja, Mr Usman Buba Gwoza, yesterday, told the NHRC panel which also had representatives from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Defence Headquarters and National Security Adviser in attendance, that they have concluded plans to mobilize their members across the federation, to storm Abuja to protest against the way the federal government has handled the issue so far.
Gwoza, who maintained that the association has over ten million members nationwide and about 100, 000 members in the FCT, said they would equally embark on strike should the government fail to expose those that perpetrated the dastardly act.
Among demands he said FG should meet within 72-hours from yesterday, included, issuing a public declaration that the victims were not members of Boko Haram, paying the sum of N500m to families of the victims and unconditional release of some of the residents of the building still under detention. As well as, exposing and prosecuting those that were behind the mayhem.
“We shall not sleep until justice is done” he declared, regretting that since the incident occurred, no security agency had come out with any report that indicted any of the victims.
He further alleged that some of the residents of the building were released by the Department of State Services, DSS, and deported to their various states with a stern warning never to return to Abuja.
Meanwhile, though the NHRC earlier summoned both the DSS and the Inspector General of Police to appear before it yesterday, none of them honoured the invitation.