Federal Government has paid N135 million compensation to the 19 victims of the September 20, 2013, shooting by men of the Department of State Services (DSS) in an uncompleted building behind the Apo Legislative quarters, Abuja.
The payment made yesterday by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, on behalf of the Federal Government, was in compliance with the award made in 2014 by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after it investigated the case.
A team of men of the Army and DSS had on September 20, 2013 invaded the uncompleted building behind the Apo Legislative quarters, Abuja and shot eight people dead and injured 11.
The Army and DSS had claimed that they shot and killed the squatters in self-defence. They further claimed that the security operatives carried out the early morning raid on the uncompleted building upon receiving intelligence reports that members of Boko Haram sect were hiding in the building preparatory to attacking government targets in Abuja.
Upon a petition by friends, family members and relatives of the victims, the NHRC conducted inquiry on the incident, following which it released a report of its findings and recommendations on April 7, 2014.
The NHRC, in its report, declared that the killing of the eight, who were later identified as tricycle riders, was “unlawful”.
The commission, in the 83-page report, awarded N135 million as compensation to the 19 victims of the incident, which included the award of N10 million each to families of the eight people killed and N5 million to each of the 11 that sustained injuries.
NHRC equally directed the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to lodge the evidence of payment with the commission’s office within 30 days.
The commission noted that contrary to claim by the security operatives that those killed were members of Boko Haram, they (security operatives) did not even interview those injured after the shooting to establish their connection or otherwise to the sect.
NHRC noted that before the operation, the security operatives ought to have interrogated the owners of the property where the squatters were killed.
It said contrary to claim by the security operatives that arms were hidden in the uncompleted building, no arms and ammunition were shown to have been recovered from the property, where the squatters were killed.
Malami, while presenting a cheque of N135 million to representatives of the victims in his office yesterday, said the eventual payment was a result of negotiations by parties.
He said: “I am glad to inform you that the NHRC has received the payment from the DSS and the process of payment of the money to the beneficiaries starts today.
“I am further glad to inform the public of this gesture, the first of its kind in Nigeria, coming from President Muhammadu Buhari, which is confirming his commitment to the rule of law, upholding justice and respect to human rights.
“This gesture also confirms his (President’s) enduring legacy of ensuring that justice is seen to be done to every Nigerian.”
In-coming Executive Secretary of the NHRC Tony Ojukwu said the final payment of the compensation was commendable.
He said NHRC ordered the DSS to pay the compensation in furtherance of its powers under the commission’s amended Act.
He added: “In fact, under Section 6(4) of the NHRC Act 1995 (as amended), it is now an offence punishable with imprisonment for six months or N100,000 to refuse to provide evidence, obstruct or do anything to prevent the commission from lawful exercise of its functions or refuse to comply with the lawful directives, determination, decision or findings of the commission.
“It is in fulfilment of its mandate that the commission exercised its powers to make a finding of gross human rights violation of the victims of this incident and accordingly awarded the present damages of N135 million against the DSS.”
Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter Chairman of the National Commercial Tricycle Owners and Riders Association (NACTOMORAD), Usman Buba Gwazo, who spoke for the beneficiaries of the compensation, hailed the NHRC for its efforts.