The Commander of the elite Brigade of Guards, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, on Monday described the killing of eight squatters in an uncompleted building in the Apo District of Abuja during a covert joint operation by the Nigerian Army and the Department of Security Service as unfortunate but an isolated incident.
Atewe made this known in his testimony at a public hearing organised by the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC into the September 20th incident which generated uproar on the possibility of extra-judicial killings by Nigeria’s security agencies.
Troops of the Brigade of Guards, who are saddled with ensuring the security of the seat of power, Abuja, were involved in the raid on the uncompleted building, although the operation was coordinated by the SSS.
Uncertainty over the true identity of the victims, who the security agencies said were members of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, was the basis of a public hearing, which was instituted after there were indications that they were tricycle (Keke NAPEP) operators.
Responding to questions after making a presentation at the public hearing which was presided over by the Chairman of the Governing Council of the NHRC, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, the army chief also noted that it was possible that some of the victims were innocent civilians, even though he admitted that Boko Haram members were civilians, who most times use human beings as shields.
Atewe stated that the loss of lives was unfortunate because the army had not recorded such casualties in previous, similar covert operations, but insisted that the uncompleted building was occupied by some members of Boko Haram, who instigated the killings by opening fire first on the troops.
“The Apo incident was unfortunate. The security agents acted proactively to prevent an incident which would have caused panic in Abuja.
“Our troops have no reason to kill anybody in covert operations; we always exercise restraint. The Apo incident was an isolated incident. Evidence abound that there were terrorists in the building”, he added.