"The signal being sent out there now is that Abuja is safe. It is not safe. And now we are doubting the authenticity of the claim by the security agencies."
That was Senator Ali Ndume speaking yesterday at plenary as the Senate detailed its committees on National Security, Intelligence and Judiciary to probe the controversial killing of 10 people by security operatives at an uncompleted building behind Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, last Friday.
Ndume continued: "I live in Apo Legislative Quarters and I know the area very well. I wonder why the security agents did not cordon off the place and investigate before reacting to the claim which is unsubstantiated."
Senate president David Mark asked the committees to secretly probe the incident involving the State Security Service (SSS) and the army, and, in the process, receive eyewitnesses' testimonies from survivors and witnesses. The panel is expected to report back.
"The hearing should not be in public please," Mark told the probe committees. "There are three issues here: first is terrorism which we condemn totally; secondly, extra-judicial killings which we also condemn totally; and the operational procedure which we don't know what happened. All we are saying here is speculation; we must keep sentiment away from the issue and face facts by setting up a committee to know the facts."
There was no mention of the recent killing of 159 people in two roadside attacks on Benisheik, Borno State, by suspected Boko Haram terrorists as well as the Nasarawa violence which has equally claimed scores of lives.
Senate leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) said these are difficult times for Nigeria, the global community and the security agencies. He played out a linkage of the Apo incident, the West Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Church bombing in Pakistan.
"It is a curious coincidence that this (Apo incident) is taking place after an alert that there will be terror attacks in some parts of the world. What we see in Apo could be a local issue but it may have deeper consequence," Ndoma-Egba stated.
In his lead debate, the motion sponsor, Senator Sahabi Ya' au (Zamfara, APC) in his lead debate said: "Eyewitness accounts claimed that the midnight operation went horribly wrong when eight of the squatters were shot dead by the combined team of SSS operatives and the army in an orgy of unrestrained shootings."
According to Ya 'au in the motion entitled "The Apo Killings: a Case of Extra-judicial Killing", the accounts and claims have raised serious issues of human rights and use of Nigeria's security services towards settling personal scores.
"The war on terror should not be converted to a platform for impunity, extra-judicial killings and violations of human rights," Ya 'au said.
Senator Sadiq Yar'Adua (Katsina, APC) said the laws of the country are constantly violated by those who are supposedly protecting the people. He said the fight against terrorism should not be used as a licence for extra-judicial killing of innocent citizens. "If we do not take action on this, one day some of our enemies will tell the police or SSS that there are terrorists in this chamber (Senate). We have the law against terrorism, but nobody has been prosecuted and brought to book. It is time for us to tell our security officials we give them support but enough is enough," he stated at plenary.
The SSS claimed that Boko Haram was behind the Abuja shooting. In a statement, it said security agents had gone to the uncompleted building where the shootout took place to recover arms and ammunition hidden in the ground when they came under fire.
We can't handle all the cases - doctor
A doctor at the Asokoro General Hospital, Abuja, where the Apo victims are currently being treated for varying degrees of injury, has admitted that the hospital couldn't handle some of the cases.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity yesterday, the doctor said one of the victims who died on Monday in the hospital received higher degree of injury to the abdomen which they couldn't handle.
He also disclosed that the hospital was making arrangement to transfer one of the victims yesterday to Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja, saying "the ones that need orthopaedic surgeon had to be referred out but others that we can handle are well taken care of here".
We're still treating 6 victims
The doctor added that there were 11 patients altogether that were brought in that Saturday morning but five of them had been transferred to other hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory, while the hospital was catering for the remaining six.
According to him, six victims were in stable condition and were receiving the best care. "They are being given the necessary attention, with free drugs and free food. Some of them are so eager to go home now. But some of them would soon be discharged."
Meanwhile, the chairman of commercial tricycles motorcycle owners and riders in Nigeria, Malam Isah Ibrahim, said that he was in the hospital to check his members' condition.
"They are getting better though. We had 11 members here initially. But yesterday, we lost one. They are taking some to other hospitals so that they can be well taken care of," he said. "I lost six of my members. Two of my members are being treated now in Asokoro General Hospital."
Also, the secretary, Garki Model Market Association, Murtala Abubakar, disclosed that six members of his association were presently receiving treatment, having lost three.
He said the minister of the FCT was providing free treatment for the victims.