BY Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA— Three months after gunmen besieged an uncompleted building at Apo district of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and killed eight squatters on allegation that they were members of the Boko Haram sect, the Nigerian Army, yesterday, claimed responsibility.
Testifying before an investigative panel set up by the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, said the soldiers acted in self-defence after they were shot at.
Ihejrika, who was represented at the hearing by the Commander, Brigade of Guards Nigeria Army, Major-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, said the incident, which occurred on September 20, was an isolated case, saying the Army had acted with a view to averting mayhem in Abuja.
He said the Apo incident was part of ongoing military operation to rid the FCT of Boko Haram elements.He said the Military acted on a report from the Department of State Services, DSS, which indicated plots by members of the sect to launch attacks in Abuja.
He said: “Between September 18 and 19, two persons were arrested in Abuja and they made useful confessions that there were arms hidden at Apo Cemetery to be used in a planned attack.”
He said the military went to the cemetery to uncover the weapons, but that the suspects could not locate the spot as it was night.
The suspect then told the team that their leaders, one Suleiman, could tell were the arms were and that he lived at the Apo uncompleted building.
He said: “It was on that premise that the team cautiously moved to the uncompleted building to arrest Suleiman.
“As troops were deploying to cordon the building, the fire came; first it was a single shot, then rapid fire followed. The troops returned fire in self-defence.”
The Army, yesterday, insisted before the investigative panel, presided over by the Chairman of NHRC, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, that the DSS got cogent information on a planned attack, saying the September 20 raid on the uncompleted building was necessary to avert the plan.
Ihejirika said: “The military operating in FCT are well trained in handling arms and have exercised restraint in the discharge of their duties.“Apo is an isolated case and very unfortunate. The security agents acted pro-actively to prevent collateral damage that may have taken place in Abuja if the planned attack had taken place.”
The Army further decried that Suleiman was still at large and that the said cache of arms at the Apo cemetery was still undiscovered.