Nigeria’s Army chief, Lt. Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, on Thursday told the House of Representatives that the seven men killed in an uncompleted building in Abuja last Friday, opened fire first at security personnel, a claim that has been disputed by witnesses. Ihejirika testified at the beginning of the investigation by the House Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The Senate has ordered a separate inquiry into the killings which sparked outrage. The scene following the shooting of eight people in Apo by men dressed in military uniforms. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>
The scene following the shooting of eight people in Apo by men dressed in military uniforms. The men, squatters in an uncompleted building in Apo, Abuja, were killed after security personnel opened fire in an early morning raid.
The State Security Service (SSS) said it carried out the operation jointly with the army to recover weapons buried by the men who they claimed were members of the Boko Haram sect.
They also claimed the security operatives came under “heavy fire” from the suspected insurgents as they approached the building that morning.
Witnesses, residents and survivors have rejected that claim, particularly because the SSS refused to admit there were deaths in a statement it released shortly after the killings.
They accused the army and the SSS of murdering innocent people and foisting on them the Boko Haram tag, a claim they said is not uncommon in the military’s fight against members of the sect.
Residents denied that the men belonged to the sect and also denied that anyone was armed at the time of the raid or fired at the armed soldiers.
The National Human Rights Commission said it has also opened investigation into the matter.
After the first hearing conducted behind closed doors on Thursday, Ihejirika said he had told the lawmakers at the House of Representatives that the soldiers indeed came under attack before they returned fire.
“I appeared before the House Committee on Public Safety and National Security on the joint operation conducted by the Directorate of State Security Services and a unit of the Nigeria Army,” he told journalists. “We briefed them and informed them of the mission which was to recover arms and weapons and make arrests. We also briefed them on the fact that on approach to the area, the security men were fired at and they had to return fire and also make arrests.”
He said the operation succeeded in “pre-empting planned attacks” on some parts of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
He, however did not explain why the army and the SSS have failed to produce the weapons they claimed were hidden. He also did not explain why the survivors of the attack, supposedly sympathisers of Boko Haram, were left unguarded at the hospitals.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, who also attended the hearing, said he was not consulted before the attack as the Chief Security Officer of the FCT, but said he took responsibility for it since it was about ensuring the security of Abuja. Asked if the building will be demolished, he said doing so will pre-empt investigations that were ongoing.
He however warned that illegal and uncompleted buildings in Abuja metropolis will be demolished.
“We will ensure that all buildings that have exceeded the two-year period approved for building are demolished. If we cannot demolish, we will make it a Police Post. This time around, we will take a definite action,” he said.