Eight people, described as unarmed by residents, were killed by security operatives.
A report of the Senate Joint Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Judiciary, and Human Rights and Legal Matters caused a division among senators during Wednesday’s plenary.
This followed the rejection of the report by Sani Saleh (APC- Kaduna) after its presentation by the Chairman of the joint committee, Mohammed Magoro (PDP-Kebbi).
The committee in its findings said that the death of the eight people and wounding of eleven others was not a case of extra-judicial killing but the outcome of hastily executed operation.
It also claimed that the operation at Apo was necessitated by electronic intercepts by the Department of State Services (DSS) which indicated plans to attack FCT on September 22.
It also found out that four arrested suspects in the custody of the DSS had confessed to be Boko Haram members.
The committee said that the security agencies had substantial and convincing intelligence to believe that some Boko Haram elements were embedded among residents of the said uncompleted building.
Mr. Saleh, who is a member of the committee, dissociated himself from the report on ground that the committee deviated from its terms of reference.
He said that the committee’s mandate was to ascertain whether the military engaged in extra-judicial killing during the operation or not.
Mr. Saleh faulted the military operation which led to the killing of eight persons for failure to conform with laid down standards of military tactics during such operations.
He argued that the report failed to state whether those persons killed were members of the Boko Haram or whether their killing was extra-judicial.
“I stand to dissociate myself from this report. This report from the outset digresses from the task given to us.”
“The operation that day was irresponsible. It did not take care of civilian safety and did not conform with any known military standard of operation,” he said.
Similarly, Sahabi Y’au (PDP- Zamfara) also accused the committee of shying away from the issue which was to find out whether those killed had any link to Boko Haram.
Mr. Y’au, who moved the motion for the Senate to investigate the killings, said that every effort must be made to ascertain whether the killings were extra-judicial.
“The crucial aspect of my motion has not been addressed which is whether the people killed are members of Boko Haram.”
“I would like to know the stand of this Senate on the eight people killed,” he said.
The Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma (PDP-Cross River), said Mr. Saleh should have made a written comment to the committee instead of making his views on the floor.
He said that the findings of the committee confirmed that there was reasonable cause for the security agencies to take action to prevent a potential threat of terrorist attack by insurgents.
“The conclusions reached by the committee can be justified by the findings of the committee.”
“As a member of the committee, Saleh should have availed us with a written document but what he did was to ambush the rest of us with his comments,’’ Mr. Ndoma-Egba added.
Sen. George Sekibo (PDP-Rivers) said that the committee’s findings revealed evidence of the existence of terrorist threat in Abuja.
He urged the Senate to encourage the security agencies in the fight to wipe out the activities of insurgents in the country.
“The fundamental thing is that there is evidence of insurgents in Abuja and we must therefore work hard to stop their activities in every part of the country.”
“The FCDA should be directed to pay attention to monitoring of uncompleted buildings to check any abuse of such properties by undesirable elements,’’ he said.
Olushola Adeyeye (APC-Osun) on his part defined extra-judicial killing as the killing of a person by government authorities without the sanctions of any judicial proceeding or legal process.
Mr. Adeyeye said that what happened on that day in Apo lacked any judicial process or proceeding and so it fits the description of extra-judicial killing.
He said that although terrorism was a scourge, no Nigerian deserved to be killed without due process.
Also speaking, James Manager (PDP-Delta) urged Nigerians to be fair in their criticism of the security personnel who work at grave risk to protect lives and property.
“This clamp down on insurgency is not an easy task. These lives of our security operatives should be valuable to us since they are humans too.”
“Their lives are endangered as they go about protecting the rest of the citizens. So, we must learn to value their lives,’’ he said.
Suleiman Adokwe (PDP- Nasarawa) frowned at Mr. Saleh for casting aspersions on the integrity of the committee thereby questioning their character as men of honour.
“Saleh was not at the final meeting of the committee but he sent a written contribution. I find it unfair for him (Saleh) to portray other members of the committee as irresponsible.”
“This accusation is a dent on our integrity and an attempt to paint the committee in bad light,’’ he said.
Hadi Sirika (APC-Katsina) suggested that the committee should be given time to rework the report and incorporate the observations raised before it was brought back.
The Senate unanimously approved all the five recommendations made by the committee.
One of which was to urge governments at all levels to tackle the problem of youth unemployment by creating programmes with focus on self employment.
It also encouraged the Federal Government to continue to do all within its powers to defeat the Boko Haram.
The Senate further called on the Federal Government to urge the security agencies to supervise more closely security operations at the tactical level.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary concluded that if 18 out of the 20 members of the committee agreed with the report, it showed that there was no bias in it.
Mr. Ekweremadu said that the Senate had always stood by what was right; justice and fairness to all concerned and its stand would not waiver over the Apo report.
“The issue of extra-judicial killing or not sounds to me as judgmental, only a court of competence jurisdiction or a quasi-judicial process can come to that kind of conclusion,’’ he said.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the killings on September 20; with residents of the area and witnesses insisting the victims were squatters in the uncompleted building. Many of them were homeless artisans and petty traders.
The killings were jointly carried out by the Army and the Department of State Security Service, SSS, both of whom later claimed the victims were suspected members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect and were armed.
Contrary to the norm with Nigerian security agencies, the alleged arms of the victims were never recovered or displayed. PREMIUM TIMES had on Sunday, three days after the incident, exclusively reported alleged plans by security officials to plants weapons near the building and later claim they were owned by the victims. The plan was shelved after PREMIUM TIMES’ report, our defence sources said.