The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Monday faulted the action of the men of the Department of State Security (DSS) as it declared the killing of eight tricycle riders at the Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja on September 20, 2013 as unlawful.
In an 83-page report presented on the matter in Abuja by the Chairman of the NHRC’s Governing Council, Dr Chidi Odinkalu, the commission also asked that the sum of N135 million be paid as compensation to the relatives of the victims.
The council therefore awarded N10 million to each of the family of the eight people tricycle operators during the attack and N5million to each the 11 others that sustained injuries.
The council also directed that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation must lodge the evidence of payment ?with the commission’s office within 30 days.
It maintained that contrary to reports that the victims were Boko Haram members, the security agents did not even interview those injured in the attack to verify their claim.
NHRC said before the operation, security agents should have interrogated the owners of the property where the squatters were killed.
It also said that 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 council urged the military and the Department of State Security 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 asked that the security agents should file a certified text of the harmonised and updated Rules of Engagement with the ?commission within two months.
The report stated : “Having investigated this complaint, heard all the parties and examined the relevant laws, the National Human Rights Commission, exercising its powers under Sections 5 and 6 of the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2010 (as
amended), hereby determines and declares that:
“At 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, Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad also known as “Boko Haram”, on the other. The theatre of active conflict extended to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
“With 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.
“There is no credible evidence to suggest or show that the victims in this case were members of the Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad (JALISWAJ) (also known as Boko Haram) or involved in direct participation in hostilities. They were, therefore, protected, civilian non-combatants.
“The defence of self-defence asserted by the Respondents is not supported by the facts or evidence.
“Taking 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 “There is no basis in law for confining detainees freed by the Respondents to internal banishment.
10.02 In consequence, the Commission hereby orders and directs as follows:
“Awards the sum of ten million Naira as compensation for each of the deceased or eighty million Naira in respect of the eight deceased persons
“Awards to each of the injured survivors, the sum of five million Naira or a total of fifty-five million Naira against the Respondents
The Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is to ensure that evidence of payment of payment is lodged with the Registry of the National Human Rights Commission within thirty days of the present decision.
“That the second and third Respondents are restrained from the use of administrative banishment against any of the survivors;
“That the Respondents shall 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; and further requires that the Respondents shall file a certified text of the harmonised and updated Rules of Engagement with the Secretariat of the National Human Rights Commission within two months of the present decision.
“In accordance with section 22(1) of the National Human Rights Commission Act (as amended), the Commission shall register this report and decision for enforcement with the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory.
While acknowledging the challenges inherent in the security situation in Nigeria currently, the Commission emphasises that the primary responsibility of civil protecting law and civil lies with the Nigeria Police Force.”
The council further noted that the ban of motor cycle and tricycle by the authorities of the Federal Capital Territory 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.
In its reaction,however, the Nigerian Army said it may challenge the report on the ground 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 that 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 September 21 , 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 September 20 were unlawful and that the persons killed were innocent squatters un-connected with the Boko Haram insurgency.