The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Monday declared that the killing of eight tricycle riders at the Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja on September 20, 2013 by security agents was unlawful.
In an 83-page report read for about two hours by the Chairman of the Governing Council of the commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, the commission awarded N135 million as compensation to the relatives of those killed.
The commission awarded N10 million to each of the family of the eight people killed during the attack and N5million to each the eleven that sustained injuries.
The commission also directed that the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation must lodge the evidence of payment with the commissionâ€™s office within 30 days.
It said contrary to reports that the people killed were members of Boko Haram, the security agents did not even interview those wounded in the operation to establish their connection or otherwise to the sect.
The commission said before the operation, security agents should have interrogated the owners of the property where the squatters were killed.
The commission also said no arms and ammunition were shown to have been recovered from the property where the squatters were killed.
It also stated that the claim by security agents that the squatters were the first to open fire was not believable in the circumstance.
The commission urged the military and the Department of State Security (DSS) to undertake a review and harmonisation 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.
It also requested that the security agents to file a certified text of the harmonised and updated Rules of Engagement with the commission within two months.
The report said: â€œHaving investigated this complaint, heard all the parties and examined the relevant laws, the NHRC, exercising its powers under Sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act, 2010 (as amended), hereby determines and declares that:
â€œAt the time of the lethal encounter giving rise to this complaint on or about September 20, 2013, there was a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) going on in North-eastern Nigeria involving the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the one hand and an organised armed group, Jamaâ€™atu ahlus sunnah lid daâ€™awati wal jihad also known as â€œBoko Haramâ€, on the other. The theatre of active conflict extended to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
â€œWith reference to the existence of a NIAC in Nigeria, the rules of international humanitarian law, including, in particular, common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, are applicable to the parties to the conflict. The rules of human rights law under the Nigerian constitution and other relevant laws supplement international humanitarian law in the theatres of conflict and remain applicable outside those theatres.
â€œThere is no credible evidence to suggest or show that the victims in this case were members of the Jamaâ€™atu ahlus sunnah lid daâ€™awati wal jihad (JALISWAJ) (also known as Boko Haram) or involved in direct participation in hostilities. They were, therefore, protected, civilian non-combatants.
â€œThe defence of self-defence asserted by the Respondents is not supported by the facts or evidence.
â€œTaking account of all the circumstances in this case, the application of lethal force was disproportionate and the killings of the eight deceased persons as well as the injuries to the eleven survivors were unlawful; and
â€œThere is no basis in law for confining detainees freed by the respondents to internal banishment. In consequence, the commission hereby orders and directs as follows: Awards the sum of N10 million as compensation for each of the deceased or N8 million in respect of the eight deceased persons;
â€œAwards to each of the injured survivors, the sum of N5 million or a total of N55 million against the respondents.â€
The council further noted that the ban of motorcycle and tricycle by the authorities of the FCT was not supported by any law and was therefore illegal.
It said that it amounted to discrimination on the part of the poor who survive by riding bicycle and tricycles to eke out a living.
The Nigerian Army said it would likely challenge the report on the grounds that it was not established that the shots that killed the victims were from its men. Mr. G.O. Amyalemechi who said this after the presentation of the report, said a decision would be taken after the authority had been briefed. Global Rights, a non governmental organisation (NGO) working for the advancement of human rights in Nigeria had initiated the complaint with the commission on the 20 September 2013 challenging the legality of the deaths in Apo.
Similarly, on 21 September, another NGO, the Human Rights Law Service (HURI-LAWS), lodged a separate complaint with the commission alleging that the killings referred to in the DSS release of 20 September were unlawful and that the persons killed were innocent squatters un-connected with the JALISWAJ.
to pray and work for peace using whatever platforms at our disposal, so that we can happily live, freely worship, associate and move around all parts of Nigeria as we should in our fundamental rights.â€