BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA — The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, said its investigations revealed that eight persons that were killed by a joint team of the Nigerian Army and operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, at an uncompleted building situated at the Apo District of the Federal Capital Territory on September 20, 2013, were not members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect as was alleged by security agencies.
In a report it released yesterday, the commission, which had earlier conducted a public hearing on the matter, said there was no shred of evidence to show that the deceased victims belonged to the dreaded Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad, also known as Boko Haram.
Consequently, the commission ordered the Federal Government to pay N10 million compensation to each of the families of the eight deceased persons as well as pay N5 million to each of the 11 injured survivors.
More so, the NHRC directed the Attorney‑General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, to ensure that evidence of payment of the compensation was lodged with the registry of the commission within 30 days from yesterday.
In an unanimous decision, the three‑man probe panel which was headed by the chairman of the governing council of the NHRC, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, ordered the Federal Government to forthwith, “undertake a review and harmonization the Rules of Engagement governing the operations of security agencies to bring them into compliance with the applicable rules of international humanitarian law governing non‑international armed conflicts.”
The panel directed that a certified text of the harmonized and updated Rules of Engagement should be filed at the secretariat of the NHRC within two months, saying it will in accordance with section 22(1) of the NHRC Act (as amended), register the report and decision it took yesterday for enforcement with the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory.
Other members of the NHRC investigating panel that endorsed the report yesterday were the Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr. Bem Angwe and Mrs. Saudatu Mahdi.
According to the panel, “This final report and decision by the NHRC stems from an internal security operation carried out by internal security agencies in the Apo/Gudu District in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on September 20, 2013 that resulted in at least eight persons killed and 11 persons injured.”
While acknowledging the current security challenges confronting the nation, the commission emphasized that the primary responsibility of civil protection lies with the Nigeria Police Force.
Army vows to challenge verdict
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army, yesterday, vowed to challenge the decision, insisting that there was also nothing to prove that the victims fell under the bullet of soldiers
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the report was issued yesterday, Director of Legal Services of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Yusuf Ibrahim, maintained that unless forensic examination was carried out, the army would not admit culpability for the September 20, 2013 midnight massacre.
It will be recalled that the NHRC commenced investigation into the matter sequel to two separate petitions that were forwarded to it by two non‑governmental organisations working for the advancement of human rights in Nigeria, Global Rights and the Human Rights Law Service, HURI‑LAWS.
Subsequently, the National Association of Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association, NATOMORAS, which claimed that most of the victims were its members, equally joined as complainants in the matter, even as they demanded a public apology from the government for branding the victims terrorists and the payment of N500 million as compensation families of the deceased persons.
The Commander, Brigade of Guards Nigeria Army, Major Gen. Emmanuel Atewe had on December 23, 2013, told the panel that the Apo incident was part of ongoing military operation to rid the FCT of Boko Haram elements, as well as, ensure peace and stability in the country.
He noted that the military acted on the basis of a report from the DSS which he said indicated plot by members of the sect to launch attacks in Abuja.