ECOWAS Court Reserves Judgment in Suit by Victims of Apo Shooting

  • Considers parallel national convention

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The ECOWAS Community Court has reserved judgment for May 10 in a suit filed by victims of September 20, 2013 shooting in an uncompleted building in Apo Legislative Quarter in Abuja by the officers and men of the Department State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Army.

The judgment date is contained in a hearing notice sent to the parties by ECOWAS Court inviting them to appear in court on May 10, 2016 for the judgment.

Eight tricycle riders were reported dead after the shooting while several others were injured.

The victims in search for succour had approached the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice for redress.

The court heard arguments on February 7, 2015 and November 30, 2015 and the case was adjourned for judgment.
The case has suffered several adjournments which has dampened the spirits of the victims who are anxious to get justice in the matter.

One of the surviving victims, Mall Ibrahim Mohammed, who is the 5th applicant in the case, an indigene of Zamfara State, said he suffered multiple fracture in his knees.

He told our correspondent that he hoped that the matter would be concluded soonest as they were tired of the adjournments.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had already ruled in favour of the victims and awarded damages against the perpetrators but the decision of the commission has yet to be ratified by an high court as stipulated by law.

The commission also faulted the action of the men of the DSS as it declared the killing of eight tricycle riders at the Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja on September 20, 2013 as unlawful.

In an 83-page report presented on the matter in Abuja by the then Chairman of the NHRC’s Governing Council, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, the commission also held that the sum of N135 million be paid as compensation to the relatives of the victims.
The council therefore awarded N10 million to each of the family of the eight tricycle operators during the attack and N5million to each of the 11 others that sustained injuries.

The council also directed that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation must lodge the evidence of payment with the commission’s office within 30 days.

It maintained that contrary to reports that the victims were Boko Haram members, the security agents did not even interview those injured in the attack to verify that claim.

NHRC said before the operation, security agents should have interrogated the owners of the property where the squatters were killed.

It also said that no arms and ammunition were shown to have been recovered from the property where the squatters were killed.
It also stated that the claim by security agents that the squatters were the first to open fire was not believable in the circumstance.

The council urged the military and the DSS to undertake a review and harmonisation the Rules of Engagement governing the operations of security agencies to bring them into compliance with the applicable rules of international humanitarian law governing non-international armed conflicts.

It also asked that the security agents should file a certified text of the harmonised and updated rules of engagement with the commission within two months.

The report stated: “Having investigated this complaint, heard all the parties and examined the relevant laws, the NHRC, exercising its powers under Sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act, 2010 (as amended), hereby determines and declares that:
“At the time of the lethal encounter giving rise to this complaint on or about September 20, 2013, there was a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) going on in north-eastern Nigeria involving the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the one hand and an organised armed group, Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad also known as “Boko Haram”, on the other. The theatre of active conflict extended to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

“With reference to the existence of a NIAC in Nigeria, the rules of international humanitarian law, including, in particular, common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, are applicable to the parties to the conflict. The rules of human rights law under the Nigerian constitution and other relevant laws supplement international humanitarian law in the theatres of conflict and remain applicable outside those theatres.

“There is no credible evidence to suggest or show that the victims in this case were members of the Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad (JALISWAJ) (also known as Boko Haram) or involved in direct participation in hostilities. They were, therefore, protected civilian non-combatants.

“The defence of self-defence asserted by the Respondents is not supported by the facts or evidence.
“Taking account of all the circumstances in this case, the application of lethal force was disproportionate and the killings of the eight deceased persons as well as the injuries to the eleven survivors were unlawful and “There is no basis in law for confining detainees freed by the respondents to internal banishment.

10.02 in consequence, the commission hereby orders and directs as follows:

“Awards the sum of N10 million as compensation for each of the deceased or eighty million Naira in respect of the eight deceased persons

“Awards to each of the injured survivors, the sum of N5 million or a total of N55 million against the Respondents
The Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is to ensure that evidence of payment of payment is lodged with the Registry of the NHRC within thirty days of the present decision.

“That the second and third respondents are restrained from the use of administrative banishment against any of the survivors; “That the respondents shall undertake a review and harmonisation the rules of engagement governing the operations of security agencies to bring them into compliance with the applicable rules of international humanitarian law governing non-international armed conflicts; and further requires that the Respondents shall file a certified text of the harmonised and updated Rules of Engagement with the Secretariat of the NHRC within two months of the present decision.

“In accordance with section 22(1) of the NHRC Act (as amended), the commission shall register this report and decision for enforcement with the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory.”