The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has launched a probe into last Friday’s gun battle between security agents and suspected members of the outlawed Boko Haram terrorist group in Abuja.
In a raid by a combined team of soldiers and State Security Service (SSS) operatives on an uncompleted building in Abuja alleged by the security operatives to have been occupied by suspected terrorists, seven persons were said to have been killed, and at least 12 arrested and scores of others injured, stirring controversy, as some of the victims claimed they were not Boko Haram members but illegal occupants of the building.
The security agencies had claimed that they carried out the raid to recover hidden weapons but were shot at shortly after they began digging up the weapons, and had claimed those killed were Boko Haram insurgents plotting an attack on Abuja.
However, a report by Premium Times, yesterday, alleged moves by the military and the SSS to cover up the extra-judicial killing in Abuja by planting arms in the building to justify the official claim that it was a Boko Haram’s ammunition dump.
As part of the NHRC investigation into the controversial incident, one of its assistant directors, Dahiru Bobbo, is leading officials to interview witnesses and residents of the area, as citizens overwhelmed by the ordeals of the survivors, are now asking the security agencies to come clean about what “truly transpired” at the scene of the attack.
Another senior official at the commission, Tony Ojukwu, confirmed the probe in a telephone interview with Anadolu Agency at the weekend.
Residents interviewed by the agency said the army and the SSS were scheming to cover up their “atrocity after their personnel extra-judicially killed innocent men and wounded several others.”
They added that none of the victims was a Boko Haram militant but mere “victims of recklessness of the security officials.”
The residents said the uncompleted building where the attack took place was inhabited by homeless artisans and petty traders who could not afford the high rent in Abuja.
Most of the injured, shot in their backs, had since been admitted to the Asokoro General Hospital where they are being treated for gunshot wounds.
Ibrahim Danladi, a 20-year-old survivor at the hospital, said in a telephone interview facilitated by one of the residents that he sells sachet water.
He denied that anyone engaged the security agents in a shootout. Danladi, like other survivors, is in a stable condition.
“The tale about us being Boko Haram members is a fabrication to cover up the atrocity. I sell pure water and none of us is a Boko Haram member. The soldiers just arrived suddenly and started shooting at us,” he said.
Witnesses and residents disputed the official account, asking security officials to show the ammunition recovered and reveal the number of casualties the agents suffered since the secret police claimed that they only returned fire after they were attacked by Boko Haram operatives.
The residents insisted the victims were squatters who usually gather in scores to sleep on mats in the uncompleted building.
“The Keke-NAPEP (tricycle) men that stay in the house (where the shooting occurred) are almost 100,” said a middle-aged man who sought anonymity for fear of official retribution. He lives on the street next to the scene of the attack.
Premium Times also reported that in a bid to cover up the alleged extra-judicial killing, the army and the SSS were planning to plant weapons in the building as the purported evidence that it was used for terrorist activities.
The two security agencies that have come under condemnation for the killings are now plotting a cover-up to convince the world that the raid and the killings were done in the interest of national security.
Sources said the army and SSS had allegedly resolved to return to the building, plant weapons therein and then pretend to have dug out hidden weapons from there.
The weapons will then be displayed in front of the building with journalists in attendance, the sources alleged.
“Our people are really embarrassed by the way the issue of this killing is turning out. They are desperately planning a cover-up and some of us have resolved not to be part of it.
“They are going back to the building to plant weapons and then accuse the murdered men of having buried them there. It’s really sad but that’s what our people are planning,” a security source allegedly told Premium Times.
Another sources alleged the operatives that were being selected for the cover-up operation would be sworn to secrecy.
The army has however denied involvement in the attack, and dismissed claims that the incident may have been masterminded by a senior military official who owns a building in the area.
Residents claimed the unnamed official had given the squatters a week’s ultimatum to quit the residence before the deadly attack.
“The operation was an SSS-led operation. It had nothing to do with a military owner or whatever anyone is saying,” army spokesman, Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru, said.
Attahiru said further questions on the attack should be directed to the SSS, which he said led the “joint operation”. [ThisDay]