24 April 2014

Nigeria: Apo Killings - SSS Challenges NHRC Directive on Compensation for Victims

The Department of State Security, DSS, otherwise known as SSS, on Wednesday sent a one month pre-action notice to challenge the ruling of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, which indicted security operatives in the killing of eight squatters in Apo district of Abuja.

The squatters, killed by security operatives in a joint operation involving the SSS and the Nigerian Army, were alleged to be members of Boko Haram terrorists group.

The killing, which took place in an uncompleted building in Gudu, Apo district, also left 11 others injured.

The NHRC after months of investigation ruled that the victims were killed illegally without opportunity for trial. It ordered the payment of N10 million to families of each of the victims.

In the letter addressed to the Executive Secretary of the commission, Ben Angwe, the SSS stated its dissatisfaction with the ruling and recommendations of the NHRC on the killing of the squatters.

The SSS accused the rights' commission of bias and asked the court to quash its recommendations.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, the Chief Press Officer of the NHRC, Fatimah Mohammed, confirmed that the commission received a notice of an intention to challenge the NHRC's directive and recommendations on the Apo killing.

Ms. Mohammed said the commission is yet to act on the notice.

"Yes, the commission received a notice to that regards but no action has been taken on the notice," Ms. Mohammed said.

The NHRC, in an 83-page final report on its findings on the Apo killings, said its independent investigations could not support security claims that the security detachment which stormed the uncompleted building in the Apo/Gudu district of the Federal Capital Territory on September 20, 2013, was on operational target to flush out a Boko Haram sleeper cell.

The Army, DSS and the Attorney General's office were asked to pay N10 million to each of the deceased family and N 5million to the 11 injured youth.

Regarding the order to banish some of the youth from Abuja, the NHRC said the security forces had no legal backing to exclude or internally banish citizens.

The NHRC gave two months to the three agencies to review and harmonise rules of engagement governing the operations of security agencies and bring them into compliance with international standards governing armed conflict.

In an immediate reaction to the report, an Assistant Director of Legal Services at the Defence Headquarters, G.O. Anayalebechi, said the Nigerian Army is likely to challenge the directive of the NHRC.

Mr. Anayalebechi, a Colonel, stated the position at the premises of the NHRC where the commission presented its report on the Apo killings, but said he was only speaking as a lawyer and not for the Nigerian Army.

The Army has, however, not formally notified the NHRCof its decision to challenge the ruling.

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