rmy chief told lawmakers the soldiers acted in self defence.
The Nigerian army on Thursday backed the fiercely contested claim by
the State Security Service, SSS, that soldiers and other operatives who
fired and killed at least seven squatters in an unfinished building in
Apo, Abuja, last Friday, were first shot at, by the men they claim were
members of the extremist sect, Boko Haram.
Army Chief, Azubuike Ihejirika, told a House of Representatives
committee that soldiers merely returned fire after coming under attack, a
claim that has been roundly rejected by witnesses and survivors of the
attack, and residents of the area.
The House committee on Public Safety and National Security opened an
investigation into the killing on Thursday, ahead of a separate probe
planned by the Senate.
The men, many of them artisans, operators of Keke tricycle, and
hawkers, were killed in an early Friday morning raid on the building
near a sprawling quarters where members of the National Assembly live.
The SSS had earlier claimed that the joint operation with the Army
followed a tipoff that cache of arms was buried in the building, and
security personnel sought to “dig” them out.
The service claimed security personnel arrived the building under a
hail of bullets from the men they succeeded in killing. Its first
statement after the attack did not admit that operation ended in
But several witnesses, survivors and residents of the area have long
contested those claims in interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, accusing the
military personnel of executing unarmed and innocent men.
Worse, the SSS and the army have yet to produce the weapons recovered
from the building. Security sources told PREMIUM TIMES there had been
plans to plant weapons in the building; a plan that was put paid to
after the report was published.
Lawmakers have warned that regardless of the men’s membership of the
violent sect, they should have been arrested and prosecuted, and not
killed in a manner many believe was an extrajudicial murder of innocent
“We could not sleep that night and we were even scared to come out
the following morning. It is not acceptable for the SSS to shoot people
whether they are Boko Haram or Keke NAPEP (tricycle) operators. They
should first be arrested and investigated,” said Clever Ikisikpo
(PDP-Bayelsa), whose block in Zone E of the Legislators Quarters is
about 100m from the scene of the incident.
The army has faced several allegations of killing innocent people and
deploying scorched-earth tactics in its pursuit of the Boko Haram
Thursday’s hearing at the House of Reps was conducted behind closed
doors, and the senate has made clear it would also carry out a secret
Mr. Ihejirika told journalists after the meeting that the operation
was a success as it pre-empted attack in parts of Abuja. He also
affirmed earlier position that the security men were first attacked by
the suspects before they were shot dead.
“I appeared before the House Committee on Public Safety and National
Security on the joint operation conducted by the Directorate of State
Security Services and a unit of the Nigeria Army,” he told reporters.
“We briefed them and informed them of the mission which was to
recover arms and weapons and make arrests. We also briefed them on the
fact that on approach to the area, the security men were fired at and
they had to return fire and also make arrests.”
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, said he
was not informed about the operation as the Chief Security Officer of
the city. He however said he took responsibility for it.
He said there was no decision yet to demolish the building as the
outcome of the investigation should be awaited. He however said
buildings that were not developed within stipulated time will no longer
be tolerated within the city.
“We will ensure that all buildings that have exceeded the two-year
period, approved for building, are demolished. If we cannot demolish, we
will make it a Police Post. This time around, we will take a definite
action,” he said.
Source: Premium Times