This Day (Lagos)

24 April 2014

Nigeria: Rights Commission - Govt Does Not Authorise Extra-Judicial Killings

The federal government does not support the killing of innocent citizens by security agents, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has declared.

Speaking while receiving a petition from the Concerned Gboko Indigenes on the killing of eight young men at Dangote Cement Company in Gboko allegedly by soldiers, the Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Bem Angwe, said the federal government under the leadership of the president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan does not support the killing of innocent Nigerians.

While calling on security agents to exercise restraint while on civil duty, he said there was no protection for any security agents who killed people other than as allowed by the law.

Angwe said the president demonstrated his commitment to the human rights of the Nigerian by signing into law the NHRC (Amendment) Act of 2010 which gave the commission enormous power to investigate human rights violations in the country.

He advised the Concerned Gboko Indigenes to continue to maintain the peace and assured them that the commission would investigate the petition.

The petition gave a touching account of how the seven young men were killed allegedly by soldiers detailed to provide security to Dangote Cement Factory in Gboko, Benue State.

The petitioners, led by the Gboko Local Government Area's Deputy Chairman and the community's lawyer, Bem Nenge and Yandev Amaabai, respectively said the youths were killed on March 18 this year when the soldiers shot indiscriminately at unarmed members of the community, who were protesting the shooting of one of them -Terhile Jirbo - by a soldier. Amaabai, who spoke while presenting the petition, said Jirbo was shot in his mouth when he refused to eat his excrement, as allegedly directed by one of the soldiers stationed at the Gboko plant of Dangote Cement. He said the latest "unprovoked killing,' was one in a series of atrocities perpetrated against the community and other Tiv communities by soldiers.

"This particular instance is pure dehumanisation. It all began when one young man, Terhile Jirbo went to defecate in a bush around the company and one of the soldiers demanded he remove his faeces with the use of his mouth.

"It was the inability of the young man to comply with this obviously unlawful 'order' that infuriated the soldier, who shot him in the mouth with an AK 47 assault rifle. The victim is being attended to in a private hospital in Gboko.

"It was well after the severally wounded young man was taken to the hospital that aggrieved youths, who started protesting, were directly shot at by the soldiers attached to DIL, Gboko plant. Seven defenceless, unarmed youths, including a young lady, were cut down in their prime, while several others, with varying degrees of injuries are being treated in various hospitals in Gboko.

"While the community was thrown into deep mourning, grief and wailings, the soldiers put the corpses of the slain youths under a tree and cordoned off the area, while the company carried on with the business as if nothing untoward had happened.

"It was indeed another source of pain and anguish to parents and relatives of the young men when sponsored announcements over the air and newspaper reports by the company, described the youths, who were murdered in cold blood, as thieves.

"Even if they were thieves, one wonders whether they were supposed to be killed extra-judicially. But even the death of criminals is, at least, reported to their families and relatives. In our case, the company has maintained a heart-rending nonchalance and aloofness."

Members of the delegation, which included members of the Local Government's Legislative Council are demanding N20billion from the Federal Government as compensation to the families of those killed. They also urged the NHRC to investigate those who authorized the deployment of soldiers to protect a private company.

They asked that the soldiers be withdrawn to prevent a recurrence of such incident in future. Angwe accepted the petition and assured that the commission would investigate their allegation and would ensure that those found wanting are prosecuted.

"The commission will take up this case, investigate all the allegations and ensure that justice is done. He said the commission will begin its investigation by first, ascertaining who authorized the deployment of soldiers to a private company when there is no war and the reason behind such deployment.

Angwe, who commended the people for not resorting to self-help, said it was wrong for anybody, in a democracy, to resort to brute force and undemocratic means in dealing with others.

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