Godwin Tsa, Abuja
After a four-year impasse, the Federal Government, yesterday, ordered the payment of N135 million compensation to the families of those who were killed and wounded at an uncompleted building in Abuja, following a false tip-off that they were members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, who announced this yesterday, said the decision to compensate the victims was based on findings by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that they were not Boko Haram members as was alleged by security agencies.
A three-man investigative panel of the NHRC, led by Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, had, at the end of a public hearing it conducted after the incident that occurred on September 20, 2013, established that the victims were innocent.
The victims, who were squatting in the uncompleted building situated at the Apo District in Abuja, were discovered to be members of the FCT chapter of National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association.
In its report, which indicted the Department of State Service (DSS), the NHRC said there was no shred of evidence that the victims belonged to Boko Haram.
Consequently, the commission ordered government to pay N10 million compensation to each of the families of the eight deceased persons, as well as pay N5 million to each of the 11 injured survivors.
While handing over a cheque of N135 million to the families of the victims on Thursday, the AGF said his office had, after series of negotiations, persuaded the DSS to accept the verdict.
He said: “I am further glad to inform the public of this gesture (the first of its kind in Nigeria) coming from President Muhammadu Buhari, which is confirming his commitment to the rule of law, upholding justice and respect to human rights. This gesture also confirms his enduring legacy of ensuring that justice is seen to be done to every Nigerian.
“This gesture in no small measure has emphasised the role of the National Human Rights Commission as an independent organisation, which statutory duties involve the promotion and protection of human rights.
“It also serves as an extra-judicial mechanism for the enhancement of the enjoyment of human rights. The commission performs its statutory functions without interference from the Federal Government.
“I commend you all for believing in this government and I can assure you that the government will continue to have the interests of its people as its primary objective.”
Tracing the history of the case, the AGF noted that the DSS acted on the basis of an intelligence report that there was to be an attack on unspecified targets in Abuja.
Malami further said: “Acting on the intelligence report, the DSS arrested three persons who, under interrogation, disclosed that they had a leader in Abuja called Suleiman (R. Kelly), who was the arrowhead of a planned terror attack by Boko Haram.
“The three suspects claimed they could lead the DSS to Sulieman. One of the suspects also confessed that they had weapons buried in the cemetery in Gudu Apo, Abuja, FCT.
“On September 20, 2013, a joint security operation conducted by DSS, with the assistance of the Nigerian Army, shortly after midnight, along with two informants, went to the cemetery in Gudu but were unable to recover any weapon. The informants led the security agents to an uncompleted residential building where they claimed Sulieman (R. Kelly) resided.
“Seven men died during the operation from gunshot-related wounds, another died in the hospital for wounds sustained during the operation, and 11 other men were hospitalised.”
All the victims were aged between 18 and 25 years.”