By Kayode Ketefe
On Friday September 20, 2013, a dawn raid by soldiers and men and officers of the Department for State Security (DSS) on an uncompleted building situated behind Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja left in its trail tragic casualties with nine dead young men and a number of people injured.
The security operatives had reportedly acted on the intelligence that the building was being used as a hideout by some members of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists who were also alleged to have stockpiled some arms in the building.
Giving the strategic importance of Abuja as the nation capital and the seat of power, any kind of security threat to the city is, understandably, construed as a potential catastrophe to the nation. The fact that Abuja had witnessed at least three incidents of terrorism in the past must have reasonably accentuated the fear of the law enforcement agents but whether this could also justify their impulsive onslaught on the occupiers of the premises is another question.
The said prior acts of terrorism on the seat of power included the attack on the Police Headquarters on 16 June 2011, when a suicide bomber drove a car bomb onto the premises of the Louis Edet House and detonated it with disastrous result. There was also the bombing of the United Nations House on Friday, 26 August 2011 in the said capital in which at least 21 persons were killed and 60 wounded. Of course, the same violent group also bombed the ThisDay office in Abuja on April 26, 2012.
With this chronicle of woes serving as a threatening reminder of what the dreaded group is capable of doing even at a place so close to the seat of power, the law enforcers would appear faultless to have stage what appeared to be a neatly executed pre-emptive strike.
That was the thinking of millions of Nigerians who had initially hailed the assault as another breakthrough in the war against insurgency in the country. There was however a twist in the story. Reports started filtering in that those killed were no terrorists after all but innocent, albeit poverty-stricken vagabonds, who were unable to afford the high rent for accommodation in Abuja and had turned the uncompleted building into temporary abode.
The latest killings inspired a feeling of déjà vu concerning a similar incident in the same Apo area on June 8, 200 2005 when six innocent traders were murdered extra-judicially by the police who labeled them “armed robbers”.
The truth however eventually came out when the Federal Government set up the Justice Olasumbo Goodluck Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the killings. In its report, the commission indicted the police and recommended that the families of the six deceased persons be paid N3 million each as compensation.
It was even found out by the commission that the two locally made pistols which the police claimed they found in the deceased’ car were actually planted by the police themselves after the killings in a desperate bid to justify the concocted theory that the innocent traders were robbers!
There are many questions that arise on the latest incident. If the deceased were innocent homeless people, would the mere fact that the law enforcement agents were tipped off that they were terrorists have justified the impulsive and thoughtless carnage? Couldn’t these agents have mounted surveillance around the building to first of all ascertain the veracity of their theory?
What is the threshold of caution that the security operatives need to exercise in combating suspected insurgents? Is there no other operational methodology of a professional hue to round up the suspects instead of just opening fire? Is it true that most of the deceased were shot in the back in a manner suggestive of deliberate execution after arrest? There is indeed a lot to uncover on this incident.
It is commendable that the Senate, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), numerous human organisations and eminent Nigerians have already called on the government to probe the incident. We join our voice to these agitations and call on the Federal government to set up a judicial commission of inquiry in the mould of Justice Goodluck in the Apo six saga, which should do a painstaking, thorough and transparent investigation to get to the root of this matter. It would be an embarrassing scandal and national shame if eventually the slain people were not terrorists as the security operatives’ claimed.
It would mean that the nation which is still groping for solution to its security challenges posed by terrorists is unwittingly wasting the lives of innocent people to compound her woes.
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