The NHRC ver­dict over Apo killings

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

on­trary to the long stand­ing neg­a­tive pub­lic per­cep­tion of the ju­di­ciary and law en­force­ment agencies in­clud­ing anti-graft out­fits, the Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (NHRC) earned for it­self the con­fi­dence of Nige­ri­ans through its re­cent ver­dict over the wrong­ful killing, last year, of eight mi­grant work­ers in Abuja.

In the 83-page fi­nal re­port on the killings fol­low­ing six months of in­ves­ti­ga­tions and pub­lic tes­ti­monies, Chair­man of the Gov­ern­ing Board of the NHRC Pro­fes­sor Chidi Odinkalu stated that there was “no cred­i­ble ev­i­dence” to prove that the vic­tims who be­longed to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Commercial Tri­cy­cle and Mo­tor­cy­cle Own­ers and Rid­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NATOMORAS) were mem­bers of the Boko Haram sect. the re­port also added that the claim by the SSS on self de­fense did not have “any fact or ev­i­dence” to kill the vic­tims. In­stead, the vic­tims ac­cord­ing to the re­port were non-com­bat­ant civil­ians. The re­port thus ob­served that the ap­pli­ca­tion of lethal force was dis­pro­por­tion­ate and the killing of the eight de­ceased per­sons as well as in­juries caused to the eleven other sur­vivors were un­law­ful; adding that there is “no ba­sis in law for con­fin­ing de­tainees freed by the Re­spon­dents to in­ter­nal ban­ish­ment”.

The NHRC in the pop­u­lar ver­dict in­dicted the Nige­rian Army (NA) and the State Se­cu­rity Ser­vice (SSS) for their role in the un­law­ful killing of eight and the wound­ing of twelve oth­ers who were tak­ing shel­ter in an un­com­pleted build­ing in the Apo area of Abuja city. Most of those ar­rested dur­ing the oper­a­tion have been re­leased while oth­ers have been ban­ished from Abuja for two years and warned not to talk to the press; a de­ci­sion widely con­demned.

A com­bined team of the army and the SSS in the early hours of Septem­ber 20, 2013 stormed an un­com­pleted build­ing where sev­eral mi­grant work­ers (many of them Keke-NAPEP oper­a­tors and wheel bar­row push­ers) were squat­ting. The se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives claimed they had an in­tel­li­gence re­port that oc­cu­pants of the un­com­pleted build­ing were Boko Haram in­sur­gents who were us­ing the place as a hide-out. The se­cu­rity forces in the course of de­fend­ing their ac­tion also ar­gued that they came un­der fire and thus re­sponded in self-de­fense. Pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that the build­ing be­longed to an army of­fi­cer who wanted the il­le­gal squat­ters out of the place; and thus, chose to la­bel them as Boko Haram mem­bers. The mere fact that other sus­pected Boko Haram hide-outs were de­mol­ished and the land­lord of the un­com­pleted property was nei­ther pros­e­cuted nor his ed­i­fice pulled down gives room to sus­pect a con­spir­acy be­tween the army and the SSS.

It be­came glar­ing af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions that the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent was a pure case of pro­fil­ing de­signed to serve the in­ter­est of the owner of the un­com­pleted property. We call on se­cu­rity agencies to de­sist from pro­fil­ing poor and un­em­ployed Mus­lims as Boko Haram mem­bers in or­der to jus­tify their killing. The SSS, for in­stance, is not by its statu­tory du­ties known to be a com­bat or killer squad. Rather, it is pro­fes­sion­ally an in­tel­li­gence out­fit; and should work to­wards per­fect­ing that func­tion.

The NHRC in its ver­dict awards the sum of ten mil­lion naira as com­pen­sa­tion for each of the de­ceased to be paid by the Govern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion. The AGF is to en­sure that ev­i­dence of pay­ment is lodged with the Registry of the NHRC within thirty days of this de­ci­sion. The sec­ond and third Re­spon­dents are re­strained from the use of ad­min­is­tra­tive ban­ish­ment against any of the sur­vivors.

One cru­cial as­pect of the NHRC re­port is that part of the re­port which re­quires the Re­spon­dents to un­der­take a re­view and har­mo­niza­tion of 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. In or­der to show re­spect for the rule of law, the Re­spon­dents are en­cour­aged, as re­quested by the NHRC, to file a cer­ti­fied text of the harmonized and up­dated Rules of En­gage­ment with the NHRC within the time frame of two months given by the NHRC.

While sec­tion 22(1) of the NHRC Act (as amended) re­quires it to reg­is­ter the re­port and de­ci­sion for en­force­ment with the Federal High Court in the Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory, we call on all in­dicted par­ties to re­spect the judg­ment.

Daily Trust

com­mends the NHRC for car­ry­ing out a de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion in to the mat­ter and giv­ing a fair judg­ment. This sin­gu­lar ver­dict is a tes­ti­mony that in spite of the deep-seated cor­rup­tion in the Nige­rian sys­tem, in­di­vid­u­als as heads of or­ga­ni­za­tions like the cur­rent Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of the NHRC can make a lot of dif­fer­ence if given the op­por­tu­nity.

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